There are two different sections of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Aviation governing flight training, Part 61 and Part 141. Both set specific requirements and steps for pilots to earn certificates and ratings, but each part has different procedures. Deciding which regulation to train under may be confusing and overwhelming at first, but don’t let it scare you. Either way, you will be able to earn a certificate or rating. And it may be up to the flight school as not all schools meet the requirements or possess the Part 141 authorization.
Part 61 has far fewer regulations dictating the training process than Part 141. It tends to be a better environment for someone who doesn’t fly nearly as much, as it allows for much more flexibility throughout the course. Part 61 does not have any special requirements of the flight school’s syllabus nor does it even require one, but quality schools will have some structure to the training.
Part 61 training allows students to complete the majority of their ground training from home through books or online learning systems. The student and instructor are working toward the minimum experience required as well as meeting the certification standards on maneuvers and ground knowledge. Once the student and instructor feel the student meets the standards set forth by the regulations, the student will be endorsed for a checkride with a designated pilot examiner (DPE).
Part 141 places more oversight on the flight school itself. The school must have an FAA-approved syllabus which includes stage checks (intermediate assessments); approved airplanes; maintain a minimum an 80% checkride passage rate; are subject to FAA inspections; must have a management structure, and more. Students must complete every lesson in a syllabus in sequence. As a result of the Part 141 structure, it allows for a lower minimum experience requirement over Part 61 in all training programs, so it’s typically preferred for career path flight students. For a school to be approved for Veteran’s benefits or to sponsor a VISA for international customers, the school must be approved under Part 141.
Another benefit to the Part 141 environment is that it also provides an option for qualified schools to earn examining authority. This means that at the end of your training, you are not required to do a checkride with an outside designated pilot examiner, likely saving thousands of dollars in additional expense.
It’s important to note that Part 141 vs. Part 61 does not mean better or worse. Even if not certified under Part 141, a flight school may choose to abide by all the same structure as a Part 141 school. In other words, do your research, talk to current or former students and make a decision that feels right for you.