Accelerated Programs

Hello everyone. I'm back, trying to find a way to get up in the air in something powered and steerable.

The latest AOPA Pilot magazine had ads for some accelerated flight training programs. One is conveniently located about 20 minutes from my big sister's house, so I could stay with her for three weeks (yes, she's cool with this) while I go for my flight training. 

I've already done ground school and can easily get the written out of the way. I'm just waiting for my medical.

Any thoughts on the accelerated programs? My final goal is to be a CFI and help get people into flying. I figure once I get the private pilot ticket managed, I can work with a local school for my instrument, commercial, and CFI ratings. It's the initial private pilot that seems to be the thing that causes the most trouble for people.


8 Replies

@Glyn Gowing
My daughter did a 2-week accelerated Private Pilot course in California. It's designed to get you the ticket fast and at less expense than you might otherwise have over a longer period of time - maybe. It's good in that you fly a lot but It can overload you with too much information too fast, which results in you not really learning important concepts. Good learning introduces new concepts and techniques in smaller chunks with time to understand them thoroughly and practice them. In my daughter's case she had to pay for the course, the Cessna 172 rental and the instructor's lodging and meals since it wasn't his home airport. That's a lot of money in a short time. Weather delays and aircraft maintenance extended the promised 2 weeks to about 4 so it was a lot more expensive than originally promised. You also have to pay for the DPE's time and fee, which is not cheap if the airport is some distance from the DPE. My daughter had to pay for the DPE twice because of a weather delay on the first attempt, although she completed the ground part of the check ride the first time.

I went the other way and spent a year getting my Private Pilot on weekends while I was working full time. There are pros and cons with both methods. The accelerated course gets you flying more in a shorter time, which is always good. But it can overload you and tire you out quickly. I think flying twice a week with the same airplane and instructor is the way to go. You take more time to do it but the learning is absorbed better and you will be a safer pilot at the end. The key is to find a good instructor. Ideally, the airplane is one that you own or lease on a longer term basis so that you can become thoroughly familiar with it. Joining a flying club might help with both.

1669 Posts

@Andrew Meranda

It depends on the student, and the student's commitment to both the training and flying a bunch right after the training is complete.

First, the training is incredibly intense.  Most of my students say they were surprised by the level of intensity -- 8-9 hours a day, 10 days in a row, plus an hour or more of homework every night.  If you do this on vacation, make sure you're off work for 14 consecutive days, because you'll probably need the other four days at the end to recover before going back to work.

Second, that which is quickly learned is as quickly forgotten unless as quickly exercised. In order to "fix" the newly/quickly learned material in your brain, you must fly one or two IFR hops a week for four to six weeks starting immediately after the practical test.  If you don't, within a month, you'll be as though you never took the course (well, not quite that bad, but you certainly won't be ready to launch solo into the IFR system in real IMC).

Third, you'd better be proficient in the plane in which you will take your training.  No trading your 172 on a Bonanza two weeks before the IR course, getting five hours transition training from your local CFI, and expecting the IR course to go well.  This is especially true for lower-time pilots with no experience in anything but the simple trainer in which they got their 50 XC PIC who then bought something heavy and/or complicated and/or really different, and immediately try to get their IR in it.  If you only fly 30 hours a year, and they're the same 30 hours year after year, you probably need a quick proficiency cram course (a commercial pilot flight maneuvers program would be about right) prior to the IR course.

Fourth, you'd better know the nuts and bolts of any IFR GPS or autopilot you have in the plane. While I can teach you how to fly GPS approaches in the normal course of training, the 10-day curriculum doesn't have enough time in it to teach you a Garmin 430 from scratch, no less one of the older, harder-to-use units.  If all you know is "direct, enter, enter," it will add at least a day to the program.  Add to PIC's daily rate your instructor's expenses for a day, and it's a whole lot cheaper to spend $150 or so and 8-12 hours on your computer with one of the good GPS training courses from Sun Flight Avionics or the like, and then try out your new knowledge on the free Garmin simulator [B]before[/B] I get there. For the autopilot, knowing the manual on it is important, including its capabilities and limitations, and any required preflight operational check.

Fifth, you must be academically prepared.  If your only IR ground training before the 10-day course is one of those 2-day written test cram courses, you won't know anything but the answers to the written test, and you will not be able to finish the IR flight course in ten days -- figure two to four days extra to learn all the material that would otherwise be learned in a real IR ground training course.  I recommend any or all of the following, choice based on your own learning style (and whether or not you can sit still for Martha King):

  • Formal IR ground school of 40 hours or so classroom plus home assignments (like those offered by many flight schools and community colleges)
  • Self-paced computer based training course like Jeppesen's FliteSchool
  • DVD course like King or others
  • Book learning, using a good training manual like Bob Gardner's Complete Advanced Pilot or Bill Kersher's Instrument Flight Manual


In addition, you should study the following books:

  • Current FAR/AIM (especially the ASA version with the list of recommended FAR's and AIM sections for IR/CFII)
  • FAA AC 00-6B Aviation Weather
  • FAA AC 00-45H Aviation Weather Products


Finally, you must dedicate yourself entirely to the program.  Don't just turn off your Blackberry -- leave it in the office. Explain to your family that this isn't a vacation, this isn't even work -- they can't expect you to participate in anything other than your training for the duration.  Forget about catching up on your reading (other than IR training books) or email or internet chat.  You will eat, sleep, and breathe instrument flying for 10 days, and if you clutter your mind with, or spend your time on, anything else, it won't happen on schedule.

With this preparation, you will find a program like PIC's productive and useful.  You'll get real IR training, including sim training (which is highly useful in making the flight time more productive -- teach on the ground, practice in the plane), from a highly experienced instructor (PIC's average 8000 hours) with real-world IFR experience, and you will be well-prepared for actual IFR operations.  You will also experience real IFR flying in real IFR weather -- something I consider invaluable, and something your local time-building CFI with no significant real IFR experience may not be comfortable doing.  Without this preparation, you'll just end up tired and frustrated – and your instructor will, too, because s/he wants you to succeed just as much as you do.

One last point -- you will need exclusive access to the airplane for the full ten days.  We will not fly all day/every day, but due to weather and progress considerations, we need the flexibility to fly any time we choose. If you're not the sole owner (e.g., co-owners or club), that may require some coordination.  Also, some flying clubs and most FBO's have their own CFI's and don't permit outside instructors -- if that's your situation, you may have to work a deal with the club/FBO or find another plane.  The good news is that PIC instructors have the experience to meet any insurance policy's CFI requirements.


@Andrew Meranda
Thank you for your input. They have two DPEs at the airport where they train and a third in a very nearby airport. I will have access to planes (Cessnas, though, not Pipers) when I return, so getting signed off on a C172 after earning my ticket should not be a problem.

In this case, it's a three-week program in Florida, and I'll be doing it in the Summer when I have time off from work (I'm a university professor).


I'm glad you both made it. I'm trying to avoid what is happening to my wife with going through eight (yes, eight) different instructors and nearly $30,000 and she's just now being prepped for her checkride. I'll have access to planes when I return, so I'm not worried about keeping skills up once I finish.


@Ronald Levy

Thank you for your detailed input and sage advice. I will absolutely take what you have said to heart, and I have considered most of the relevant points already, but it is good to hear them from someone with extensive experience to assure me that I was on the right track. I know it was addressed to Andrew, but since I started this thread…

I'm looking at my initial private pilot ASEL, so this will essentially be the first plane in which I'm taking training. (I had a one-hour discovery flight in a Cirrus about 10 years ago, so that doesn't really count.)

I already did ground school at my university's Part 141 program and had the highest grade in the class, beating out the professional flight majors. (This is not saying they did poorly, just that I took it very seriously and I know how to study effectively.)

I have the current ASA FAR/AIM on my phone and a 2023 hardcopy, all the tools (I still prefer a manual e6b to the electronic one), and the means to obtain an endorsement for the exam.

The having time is not going to be much of a problem as it will be between the Spring and Fall semesters, a three-month break where I will not be teaching or required to be on campus.

The nice thing about this particular program (unlike where my wife is training) is that the instructors are there to be instructors, not just build hours toward becoming an ATP. These folks are career CFIs who want to teach and help people fly. It is unfortunate that so many CFIs are only teaching to build hours toward ATP. As a professional educator, I feel that there should be a different way for them to build their ATP hours so we can have an overall improvement in the quality of flight training.


@Glyn Gowing
I forgot to mention that one of the things my daughter experienced was difficulty getting enough sleep during the intensive course. The days were so long, the homework so heavy, and the amount of information so huge that it was hard to get to sleep and there wasn't enough sleep time available. That's an individual thing but if you have the same trouble, being short on sleep doesn't help your ability to learn and fly. She was 40 at the time and didn't usually have trouble sleeping but it's not the same as being 20.


@Andrew Meranda
I'm 57, but I normally run on about 6-7 hours/night anyway, so I should be OK. Thank you, though, for your concern and for the information.