View Full Version : How to tell if a school/instructor is legit?

16th Sep 2013, 21:09
I'm in a bit of a dilemma here. I have two flight schools that are operating from a nearby airport (EGNV) but I am unsure which one to pick. I have a similar thread in the Private Flying sub-forum (http://www.pprune.org/private-flying/522021-looking-flight-school-recommendations-ne-uk.html), (http://www.pprune.org/private-flying/522021-looking-flight-school-recommendations-ne-uk.html) but I can't seem to get proper answers so I hope that getting advice from FIs and Examiners (who deal with aviation as part of the daily grind) would be better than average-Joe-with-a-PPL.

The first one is Teesside Flight Training (http://www.flytft.com/) which would've been my first choice if not for a bit of questionable history (http://www.pprune.org/private-flying/491381-teeside-flight-training.html). As a new guy, I'm not sure if this should concern me as businesses do come and go quite often in this economic climate. There is quite a lot of venom in the thread and in the linked threads, but this is obviously one side of the story --- and unless the others have been scammed out of money, I can't understand why there is such venom.

I did like TFT because of the location they had, very roomy and had a great view of the airfiled. Also, it was the very first flight school I visited (I was looking for St. George but missed it) and Shaun Wilkinson (yep, the very guy they're looking for!) was kind enough to explain things to me. We talked 1.5hrs on my first visit and well over an hour on my second visit, and has been very helpful.

I took a trial flight with TFT and flew with one of their FIs who is a captain on Flybe or something, or so they say. The FI was okay, I guess (as I've nobody else to compare him to). I was quite comfortable with him and he let me takeoff and fly; I was in-control 98% of the time we were flying. He only took over for the final landing as we had a bit of crosswind, but then I had control again once on the ground. I also did most of the pre-flight and post-flight checks.

The second school is Durham Tees Flight Training (http://www.dtft.co.uk/). I've visited a total of four flight schools (three here, one in Newcastle) and since St. George is merging with DTFT and the other one is all the way in Newcastle, well....

So far, I've not heard of anything negative about this school but unfortunately, my visit there failed to impress me. Perhaps it was because I was talking to a "receptionist" who was all of 20 years old and was probably as confused as I was and couldn't answer my question? Perhaps it was because I felt like their flight school was cramped, especially compared to TFT? I'm trying to like DTFT and convince myself to stay away from TFT, but this morning I rang DTFT to arrange a trial flight and I had the mobile phone on loudspeakers and even my wife wasn't impressed by the "people skills" of the person who answered the phone. He gave his name as "Dale" and unless there are two or more staff named "Dale," he's probably the CFI of that school. If I continue along that "first impression" feeling, I'm really not looking forward to the trial flight, which I've already booked for September.

I'm going to give DTFT a few more tries, I will probably visit them tomorrow or Wednesday to see if I can chat with someone there and this is also the main reason I am spending another 170 on a trial flight instead of booking some groundschool lessons or actualy starting some air hours.

One advice I keep getting is not to pay anything up-front. So far, none of the schools have asked me to do so. "Dale" tried to get me to buy a voucher but I told him I prefer to pay on the day, and that was that. I'm not very sure about how paying for groundschool or exams work, but I will be sure to pay after the event.

Another advice I got was to "trust my instincts" but unfortunately, it is telling me that I will not be a happy student at DTFT, not unless something happens that will change my mind. Whenever I buy something (PC part, graphics card, car, or Warhammer 40K unit) or commit to something (phone contract, ISP provider), I try to learn as much as I can then "sell" them to myself. I usually sleep on it as well; I never buy under pressure or because someone said so. It took me 5 weeks to find a car that "felt right," and have not regretted the purchase. The problem is: I can't seem to "sell" DTFT to myself. To be honest, if it weren't for the linked thread about TFT's past, I'd very likely be well into my PPL now.


So, with that long intro out of the way:
1. I wonder if there are ways to tell if a school or instructor is legit? One person suggested I go up to the instructor and ask to see his license, but as I can't tell if it is legit anyway, I'd rather go to a page on the internet that lists an instructor's name and his credentials.

2. I am under the impression by both schools that they can administer the PPL exams as well, how can I see if they really can do so?

3. Is there a way to check which courses a school is allowed to teach? According to the TFT website, they only offer PPL(A), PPL(H), NPPL, night rating, IMC rating, and Multi. According to the sign they have outside their building, they also do CPL(A), CPL(H), FIC, and IR.

4. On the front page of TFT's website, there's a line that says "Civil Aviation Authority Approved School OCP 2256" is there a way to verify this? Google search turns up nothing that I could make out. DTFT has nothing like this I could find on their website as well.

5. Another user suggested that the ownership/management of a school has little or no bearing on my PPL pursuit as it is what the instructors teach me and how I do on my exams that matter, not whether the school is in-the-red or in-black.... provided I follow the first advice of not paying anything up front. So I guess if I make it halfway to my PPL and one school goes under, I can pick up my books and finish my PPL on another school. Is this correct?

6. Would it be a good idea to tell Shaun that I know about this thread and ask him about his side of the story? Or perhaps ask the guys at DTFT what they thought of their competition?

As my previous thread on this sub-forum was a lot more helpful than the one I posted on the Private Flying sub-forum, I look forward to what you guys have to say. Thanks a lot!

16th Sep 2013, 21:23
The list of PPL Schools is here (http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/20130820StandardsDocument30v36.pdf):
Approved Training Organisations are listed here (http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/sarg_lts_Stds%20Doc%2031%20v112.pdf)
There is no list of Instructors publicly available however; as you can only do PPL training at a school, they will look after that issue.

16th Sep 2013, 21:36
Thanks for that, Whopity!

I see both DTFT and TFT listed under the UK CAA Registered Training Facilities document. Ironically, Shaun Wilkinson's name is right there on page 40 so if authorities are really looking for him, he's not doing a good job of hiding!

Also, I see DTFT only has PPL(A) while TFT has PPL(A) and PPL(H), but no mention of the other ratings such as night rating, IMC, or even the CPL.

Neither schools are in the Approved Training Organisations document.

Any lists for approved examiners? Or does it follow that if a school is listed, the CFI is automatically an approved examiner?

16th Sep 2013, 21:41
but no mention of the other ratings such as night rating, IMC, or even the CPL.Night rating can be combined with the PPL so no additional details were required. IMC is a National rating and was outwith the JAA Registration system. CPL is an Approved Course and would be listed in Stds Doc 31
The CAA are supposed to have produced a list of examiners under EASA but as yet have failed to do so. Originally data protection was the excuse!

19th Sep 2013, 19:51
Hmmm... CPL is not listed for either school, but with TFT advertising it on their board... are they lying? Then again, St. George says they do CPL as well, but they are on neither document. Verdict?

Also, looking for thoughts re: questions 5 and 6!

20th Sep 2013, 15:51
St George's used to be approved for CPL and FIC but they have recently been taken over. I guess the board needs updating.........
There are plenty of schools that have "outdated" boards outside. It can be misleading so all you can do is check the CAA Stds Doc which you have done! PM me for more info if you wish as I live locally.

20th Sep 2013, 18:29
As you are looking to do a PPL why are you concerned about CPL approvals? Instructors who teach PPL are unlikely to teach CPL and vice versa.

20th Sep 2013, 21:44
If the documents are not updated, well, it doesn't list St. George anyway, and the "takeover" of St. George and DTFT is only recent.

As for TFT, it is a new school if I understand correctly, at least less than 2 years old as I can find threads here on PPRuNe saying there was a different school (Cleveland Flight Training, IIRC) on that building a few years ago. So the TFT board beside its front door should be "new."

Whopity, a CPL would likely be in my future and just researching schools so obviously if a school offered CPL, I'd consider it more so as not to have to go to one school for PPL and another for CPL.

21st Sep 2013, 06:50
If the board outside the building lists courses that the school is not approved for then it is misleading. Perhaps approvals have been applied for and are pending. Or maybe that's what they want to do in the future. Why not ask?

The definitive answer is the list of approvals that RTF's and ATO's currently hold which Whopity has already directed you to.

Regarding your link to Portacabin - there are airlines that operate from such structures. Jet2 at Leeds is one of them but they have lots joined together.

Maybe with the merger of DTFT and St Georges there are plans to expand facilities. Why not ask?

However I wouldn't ask either of them what they thought of the competition because you probably wouldn't get an honest answer.

21st Sep 2013, 07:33
As you are looking to do a PPL why are you concerned about CPL approvals? Instructors who teach PPL are unlikely to teach CPL and vice versa

yes but it is more likely (everyone I have seen) that the ppl course has a lot of input from the CPL side of things and the level of standardisation across the full stable of instructors is far better than a ppl only school.

And if the person is wanting to go onto CPL anyway they might as well be over taught to CPL standards from the word go than have to lift there game later on.

Don't worry about porta cabins and the like. Some of the best schools in the country run out of them. And some of the just acceptable ones have swankie buildings. Basically it where they want to money to go. But a swankie building will have been paid for by customers money.

21st Sep 2013, 08:38
And if the person is wanting to go onto CPL anyway they might as well be over taught to CPL standards from the word go Over the years I have seen many schools that teach both, but I cannot think of a case where there has been any cross over. The PPL instructors teach PPL whilst the one and only CPL instructor is too busy teaching CPL to have any influence on the PPL courses. If nothing else, cost rules it out.

21st Sep 2013, 09:58
My Instructors teach both our PPL and CPL students and will often take the same student through PPL, CPL and often IR.

I standardise all my instructors to the same level and expect them to be completely versatile. Even the odd restricted FI is treat the same way in preparation for the future.

21st Sep 2013, 12:55
Off the top of my head.

Perth leading edge has cross over and standardisation between PPL and CPL. Mainly because the CPL side of things were utterly fed up with CPL students turning up who were utter pants. So they found if they brought the PPL training side of things up the CPL side of things were easier for all concerned.

Tayside in Dundee does as well on the back of the CFS training standards.

Airways In Exeter again PPL instructors teach the whole lot up to IR.

That lot that were based in Filton were standardised by the CPL quality manager.

I will presume Kevin Rowell in Sherburn will have his PPL instructors standardised as well to his CPL standards of instruction.

In fact I am struggling to think of any commercial schools that I have had any contact with that haven't standardised the PPL instructors as they are the main supply for the CPL instructors. It just makes life so much easier with commercial students because the checklists are the same right through, the methods of nav are the same right through and even the standard exercises are exactly the same. No bad habits to unlearn.

I have though flown with ppl's hour building mainly from the south who it glaringly obvious that there has been no transfer of knowledge between the two courses. Seems a bit stupid to me to be honest. Both from a students point of view and from a instructor development point of view

21st Sep 2013, 14:47
Yep, I didn't think "asking about the competition" was a good idea. As to the portakabin, I guess I just didn't know what to expect, but in fairness, the place was clean and tidy.

mad jock, thanks for that insight about PPL/CPL! Not exactly what I had in mind, but good to know! I was more after "starting at the right school straight away" approach.

21st Sep 2013, 15:24
The more standardisation the better really, be it for going forward to Cpl or just plain being a professional school.

It means when you have a change of instructor you won't have to relearn their way of doing things.

21st Sep 2013, 16:13
Hmmm... has anyone read the links posted about TFT's "history"? I wonder what you guys have to say about it?

As I've said, I've come across so much negativity regarding that issue on PMs and on various threads but I'm now surprised as there seems to be none here. Is the view of a PPL-holder different from the guys who actually work for flight schools?

21st Sep 2013, 16:49
its the instructors forum so no real exposure to ppl's.

A lot of these characters are actually quite pleasant to the punters and even when the business goes bust they will have a core of punters who will stick up for them through thick and thin.

The instructors etc will see the nasty side of them which is only selectively seen in the school.

21st Sep 2013, 23:11
its the instructors forum so no real exposure to ppl's.

A lot of these characters are actually quite pleasant to the punters and even when the business goes bust they will have a core of punters who will stick up for them through thick and thin.

The instructors etc will see the nasty side of them which is only selectively seen in the school.

I'm sorry but you really lost me there. English isn't my first language so I'm not exactly sure what you mean about punter.... do you mean "customer"? Even so, I can't make sense of the whole message.

22nd Sep 2013, 06:43
Sorry I am not the best in my native tongue.

Yes punter is the customer.

Basically certain people have two faces one which the customers see and one which the employee's see.

Also there tends to be groups of customers who will never see anything wrong with what they are doing and see the person as some sort of aviation god who can't do anything wrong and its everyone else that is being horrible to said person.

As for the forum its for instructors not private pilots so there aren't so many looking at the threads.