What’s the difference between Part 61 and Part 141 pilot training programs?

fc-cover-photo-smBased on the number of questions I get, I thought it worth explaining US Part 61 vs Part 141 pilot training programs.

Training under Part 61 is virtually unregulated except for meeting the specific objectives defined in the FAA regulations — that boils down to covering required maneuvers, aeronautical experience, and meeting test standards, pretty much however a given flight instructor sees fit.

Part 141 programs, on the other hand, are individually FAA approved, meaning each flight school must develop a detailed pilot training curriculum including lesson-by-lesson syllabus and extensive record-keeping requirements, and submit it to the FAA for approval. Part 141 programs must by definition be highly structured to be approved by the FAA. As a result, they are one-size-fits-all, meaning that every student must be trained precisely within each flight scool’s approved syllabus. Part 141 programs theoretically can graduate pilots in slightly fewer hours than under Part 61 (35 vs 40) and are required for those seeking government funding of their training, most notably to qualify for VA benefits.

My longtime-CFI buddy Jim Hackman likes to observe that “the best and the worst pilot training take place under Part 61 [because instruction quality can vary across the spectrum], while Part 141 trains for the lowest common denominator.” These days Part 61 programs increasingly incorporate some of the best Part 141 features such as written syllabi and stage checks.

Incidentally, well-run Part 141 programs are great places for beginning instructors to cut their teeth because rigorous syllabi and standardization help them learn to structure training for their students.


©2016 Gregory N. Brown

Greg’s “Airplane Geeks” podcast interview

Greg-SharlotHallFCopening_JanCollinsphoto_5024eCrSmw1200For you Airplane Geeks podcast fans, I had the pleasure of being their guest this week.

We spoke mostly on flight training and flight instructor topics, along with their usual news and industry features. Here’s the link for those interested in listening.

Thanks to Max, Max, Rob, and David for having me!


For more guidance on this topic, see Greg’s book, The Savvy Flight Instructor Second Edition, available in print and ebook.

“Cap’n Alex,” Greg’s March, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Flying “turns about a patio”

Nicole-AlexChambers_CarolWyatt-Smith_FC_SEZ_2236-EditeSmw1200I questioned how much Alex Chambers would appreciate an airplane ride celebrating his 5th birthday, given little kids’ notoriously short attention spans.

But Jean’s friend and tennis coach, Nicole, had long reported her son’s obsession with airplanes, so I willingly offered a flight when Jean suggested it.

Normally I fly first-timers around the nearby San Francisco Peaks, followed by breakfast at scenic Sedona Airport. But for little Alex, I figured one or the other would be enough. I also bought a toy airplane to occupy him if necessary during our flight; finding no Flying Carpet-style Cessnas, I selected a nifty P-47 fighter.

Our opportunity arose a week after Alex’s birthday. Nicole’s visiting girlhood friend Carol Wyatt-Smith from South Africa would join us.

“Why are we going inside the gate?” Alex asked his mom when we met at the Flagstaff Airport.

“We’re going to see Greg’s airplane,” she explained. Alex squirmed shyly when invited out of the car, but eventually emerged to open his P-47 birthday present and stash it with his back-seat airplane collection.

AlexChambers_FCaloft_2218eSmw1200I assigned my young friend to push the button opening the hangar door—always popular among youthful passengers.

Then he “helped” me pull out the airplane. Surprised at Alex’s level of engagement, I demonstrated the elevators during preflight.

“These make the plane go up and down,” I said. “What do you think they’re called?”

“Are those the flaps?” he replied. This is a five-year old, mind you, so I was impressed that he could name any flight surface, even if the wrong one…


Top photo: Alex and Nicole Chambers with friend Carol Wyatt-Smith, at Sedona Airport, Arizona. (KSEZ)

Lower photo: ‘Cap’n Alex’ at the controls.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

Download Greg’s “You Can Fly!” ebook for free!

YCF ebook image-ASA ecrHi Folks,

Get my You Can Fly! eBook for FREE by downloading the new ASA Reader iPhone/iPad App!

Authors Greg Brown and Laurel Lippert write to those who are considering flight training, specifically to answer frequently asked questions about it, and at the same time entice more people into exploring general aviation.”

There are no strings attached. My coauthor Laurel and I, along with the good folks at our publisher, ASA, felt that offering this book for free would be a worthy contribution to get more people into the air to experience the joys of flight we so treasure.

You aviators out there, please share this with your friends who have always dreamed about becoming pilots but didn’t know where or how to start — now they can take that long-awaited first step with some guidance.

Spread the word!


©2013 Gregory N. Brown

Greg’s PilotCast interview: “Adventure Training”

Greg’s take on how to improve the student pilot dropout rate

“The PilotCast crew banters around ideas with respected author and CFI Greg Brown, to discover ways to bring the sense of adventure back into flight training.

“From building a sense of community for new students, to rethinking the flight training curriculum, CFI pay, and becoming a pep-talk-giver yourself, no topics are off limits in this exciting episode.”

Play or download Greg’s interview here (via playback bar at bottom of PilotCast page).

Many thanks to PilotCast‘s Tiffany, Kent, and Bill, for inviting me to join this worthy discussion!

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

For more guidance on this topic, see Greg’s book, The Savvy Flight Instructor Second Edition, available in print and ebook.

How often must new pilots fly to stay proficient?

My buddy Gary just wrote with a great question. He’d been chatting with another friend, Yaron, who is taking flying lessons,  and the two were discussing how many hours per month a new pilot should fly to remain proficient. Yaron figured six hours per year would be enough, while Gary was thinking more in terms of six hours per month.

At three landings per 90 days, the regs hardly require enough continuing flight experience to stay sharp. Competence can be measured at different levels, but in my mind a minimum of 2-3 flights per month are desirable to maintain basic piloting skills, particularly for those new to the game. That being said, frequency is probably more important than hours. For those on a tight budget I’d rather see two or three 45-minute flights a month in the traffic pattern, than a single 3-hour cross-country with only two landings.

One thing that always intrigues me about such questions (and they are very common) is why anyone who has invested all the time, money, and passion into becoming a pilot wouldn’t automatically want to fly a few times a month. Otherwise why learn? I suspect it’s due to budgetary concerns, which brings me to a final point. Pilots-in-training like Yaron are accustomed to making a big investment every flight, because they’re paying for the airplane and usually an instructor every time themselves. But flying once you’re licensed needn’t be nearly that expensive.

The regs of course allow expense-sharing with passengers, and more pilots should take advantage of that as an alternative to flying infrequently. Rather than flying around the neighborhood alone once a month, invite two friends to share costs and make three flights for the same investment. $100 might sound expensive, but who can’t come up with $35 for an airplane ride?

Going somewhere makes it even more palatable. Instead of flying around Phoenix for proficiency, head for Las Vegas. Better yet, make the trip with two couples and… well, does $120 apiece sound reasonable for a day in Vegas? Again, those taking lessons tend to think in terms of “flying costs $100 per hour.” But going somewhere in that hour changes the picture considerably. Invite someone along to share the cost, and it becomes more reasonable yet. The bottom line for staying proficient while controlling your flying budget? Fly smarter, rather than less often.

I suspect others have opinions and suggestions on this, so please chime in!

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

“Girls’ Morning Out,” Greg’s March column & photos

“Four-whiskey-alpha – is that you?”

“Hey Greg, are you free tomorrow for ‘guys’ morning out?’”

It was my former neighbor, Gary Wyant, from when Jean and I lived near Phoenix.

Once or twice a year, Gary cruises his motorcycle an hour northeast through the Mazatzal Mountains from Fountain Hills, and I soar 35 minutes southeast over the Mogollon Plateau from Flagstaff to rendezvous at Payson Airport’s Crosswinds Restaurant.

Often I invite friends along; this time it was my retired Flagstaff neighbors, Suzanne Golub and Sue Weber. Suzanne is a student pilot, and Sue has long requested a ride. So early the next morning, we three winged our way toward Payson.

“Is there anything you’d like to practice on this trip?” I asked Suzanne after takeoff.

“Frankly, the radio is my nemesis. Every time I push the mic button I get stage fright. In fact one day I was suffering and suffering on the radio while circling the traffic pattern. I babbled something on the radio, and the tower came back and said, ‘Four-whiskey-alpha – is that you?’” We laughed at her rendition of the controller’s quizzical inflection, and agreed that she’d handle communications this trip.

“What got you interested in piloting, Suzanne?” asked Sue.

“Actually Sue, I’ve had a great desire to fly for as long as I can remember. There’s not an airplane or helicopter that flies overhead that I don’t stop to watch, and wish I was going along, wherever they are going.

Continue reading Greg’s March column, “Girls’ Morning Out,” here. (Please allow a moment for the column to load.)

Photo: Suzanne’s first solo, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Arizona. See additional photos, here.

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

45 minutes of joy…

Just a quick morning circuit around the San Francisco Peaks before work, a landing at Sedona Airport without even shutting down, and look what I found…

Photo: Yes, those are gigantic fields of flowers carpeting the flanks of O’Leary Peak! See more photos from this morning’s 45 minutes of joy, here.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

“Captain Midnight,” Greg’s August Flying Carpet column & photos

“Hi, Men!” Most of us remember someone we idolized as a kid, someone we aspired to be when we grew up. For my brother Alan and me, it was Frank Rosenstein, corporate pilot.

Back then, we joined my dad every Saturday at Chicago’s DuPage County Airport to fly, polish his airplane, and jaw with his pilot buddies over lunch. Prominent among them was Frank Rosenstein. As a pro pilot among pleasure flyers, when he talked flying everyone else listened. Although not a big man, Frank projected quiet power with his large presence and mischievous grin. Gentlemanly and reserved, he personified “speak softly and carry a big stick.” But what captivated Alan and me was how he treated two impressionable young kids.

Read my August column, “Captain Midnight,” here. (Please allow a moment after clicking for the story to load.)

Above: Frank Rosenstein in his favorite Learjet, “Sugar-Whiskey,” in 1970. See more Captain Midnight photos here.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

Native American teen reaches for the sky

Those who read my February AOPA Flight Training column, Navajo Pilot, about young Tyler Allen of Window Rock, Arizona, will appreciate the the wonderful EAA News article that appeared online today regarding his attendance at EAA Air Academy camp. Read Ric Reynolds’s inspiring article, Native American Teen Reaches for the Sky. Good goin’ Tyler!

Photo: Tyler Allen with Adriel Heisey’s FlightDesign CT at Window Rock Airport. (Adriel Heisey photo)

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!