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What do you fear most when choosing an ATO?

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What do you fear most when choosing an ATO?

Old 19th Aug 2020, 22:01
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Stockholm
Posts: 2
What do you fear most when choosing an ATO?

Hi -

Just wondering what scares you the most when you’re shopping for a new ATO. I’ve had really good experiences so far in Sweden, and I’ve read about some real horror stories on here too.

Outside of Covid and the generally bad shape of the industry as a whole, what are your top fears when you’re looking for an outfit to do either integrated or modular training?

maineguy is offline  
Old 20th Aug 2020, 00:29
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Hamburg
Posts: 10
I've been looking at a bunch of flight schools the past year (and haven't picked a single one, which is due to various reasons, especially Covid) and I've seen both good and terrible ATOs. Now, I wouldn't call it "fear" but here's what I pay most attention to:


Cost is obviously a big issue. Flying is expensive and I know that - nothing new here. However, there are multiple things to consider, these are things which I will usually ask the very first day I take a look at an ATO. The first thing is the way you pay for the training. If you have to pay everything at once (quite common for Integrated courses), then that's a major red flag. ATOs know that some people are simply not made to fly airplanes, so if you pay everything at once and possibly get a loan from a bank, just to find out that you don't like flying, you're in big trouble. I would never ever pay all the money up front, even if I love everything else, like the facility, the people, the airplanes and whatever else there is.
Something much better is either steps (so you pay for your ground school, then PPL, then CPL/IR etc.) or even just paying as you go, so essentially you pay for every flight hour you take. Both options are far better than paying everything at once.

Not only do I care about the cost of the course itself, but also about what's included. What about additional hours that you possibly need? What about material like books, question banks, your headset, uniform and all that stuff? I know, those aren't that expensive but they still cost money and if you drop 80k on a course, you might as well get some books out of it. If not, then that's not necessarily a red flag but kind of weird because I'd expect a flight school to provide me with necessary material to complete the course.


The facility is probably one of the most important things to me. While cost is a major thing to consider, there are plenty of schools that offer good ways of financing your training, so once I've picked out a few ATOs that do this the correct way, I'm going to look at the facility. This is basically just to see how much the ATO has invested to make sure that they provide a good product. I've seen very small ATOs that take you to bigger simulators during your flight training and I've seen ATOs that have simulators right at their own facility. Both options are fine, however you need to consider travel cost to those simulators as well as the amount of time it takes to get hours on them. In the end, those simulators are probably located at a different ATO, which means that you have at least 2 ATOs that use the same simulator(s). This can be a massive bottleneck.
Then there is also the school itself. And while this isn't the biggest "fear" or anything, I just like to take a look at the rooms, the school itself and the campus. I've seen some that just look terrible and while yes, this doesn't necessarily mean that the ATO is bad, it still gives you a first glance at what to expect.
Planes are also something to look at. Does the ATO actually own them? How many students are there and how many planes are there? Do they even work? How old are they and what type are you flying? In the end you'll spend a lot of time in airplanes, so you should feel comfortable flying them. There are ATOs that share airplanes with private people or other ATOs, which could possibly mean that it's hard to get hours - again something to consider, since you need your hours, usually ASAP to get your training done and start flying for money.


I've seen so many people rush into a random ATO, just to find out that it was a terrible mistake and it's about to go bankrupt. Then they have a massive loan, no license, no future and their dream is over.
Look at your ATO. Take a look at the past, take a look at weird rumors (they don't always have to be true but research is always a good idea), see how it's possibly tied to other businesses or even airlines in very rare cases. Has the ATO been around for a while or is it a new one? Has there been one before that failed or went bankrupt? This does happen. And I know people that fell for it.
Last but not least, and this is more about the present than the past, what do they offer and does it sound too good to be true? If yes, then it probably is. They don't give out presents. ATOs aren't charity projects, they want money.. from you. So be careful with them. I know some that will tell you stuff that sounds great, some will help you get scholarships and all that stuff and while those things might exist on very rare and special occasions, there are far more ATOs that will tell you about it, than actually offer it.

In the end it's all about research. Out of all the ATOs that I've researched and visited, there's not even a hand full that I'd actually take. In fact, in the DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) area there are exactly three ATOs that I'd even consider - and one of them is far too expensive for me, so it's actually two. Two out of at least twenty that I've looked at. And I'm still not taking a single one of those. Because it's too risky.
Pawly is offline  
Old 20th Aug 2020, 13:43
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Timbuktu
Posts: 943
In fact, in the DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) area there are exactly three ATOs that I'd even consider - and one of them is far too expensive for me, so it's actually two
Curious - which ones?
Booglebox is offline  
Old 23rd Aug 2020, 09:18
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: England
Posts: 1,028
Here is what you should fear.

The single most critical component of any ATO is the instructors. The departure (or arrival) of 1 or 2 key people can completely change the student’s experience of being at the ATO.
Capt Pit Bull is offline  
Old 23rd Aug 2020, 10:42
  #5 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: UK
Posts: 13
Echo what CPB has said. An ATO is only as good as the people that work within it. When choosing an ATO it is important to actually have a visit and talk to key members of the organisation and students. If you were handing over 30k to purchase a car you would certainly want to visit the dealer and take a test drive, no different for picking an ATO.
flying.scotsman1 is offline  
Old 27th Aug 2020, 17:39
  #6 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Hamburg
Posts: 10

TFC Käufer - Went to their presentation and while I know that you have to be careful with what they tell you, they seemed very organized. The school isn't just a standalone, tiny flight school, it's owned by a freight company that also operates flights and is very successful. So if you don't succeed in finding a job after your training, you might be able to join them, even if it's not a job in the cockpit at first. You have a company behind your back, which is always a nice thing to have. Plus, they've been training pilots for a bunch of different airlines, such as Air Berlin, Condor and Aerologic. I liked their campus and the owner, as he appeared to be very down to earth when I met him. Unlike others, he didn't try to sell his product, instead he focused on critical questions and explained to us that the current time is indeed problematic. I also had some special requests and he took care of them immediately.

RWL - I haven't talked to them very much and I didn't do any of the testing that is required to start flight training there. But I've talked to a lot of flight students who will start or already have started flight training there and they all seem to be happy. It's probably one of the most popular schools in Germany, in terms of quality. The selection process is supposed to be rather difficult, compared to others, which personally gives me a feeling that they truly select people based on their skills, instead of just taking anybody and get their money. They seem to have quite a long history in which they were a successful flight school.

Horizon - This is a difficult one. It's ridiculously expensive and as far as I know, it's not as popular as most other schools out there. But the two main things that convinced me were that they have contact to Airlines, such as easyjet and Helvetica, who will come to the school at some point and test all the flight students, if they wish to do so (which of course they do). Once the results are in, they get accepted or rejected. And in the likely case of being accepted, you have an airline job immediately - even though you're still a flight student at a private school. Essentially it's a mentored program but with extra steps and also good airlines. The selection process seems to be quite difficult as well and I was ready to go for it, but I simply couldn't afford flight training there, so I didn't even bother with it. For most students this wouldn't be an option, simply because of the cost. So it's either for rich people, or people from Switzerland, because as far as I know, they get a lot of money from the state if they start flight training, so it's much more affordable.

I went to a bunch of others and even did some of the selection processes and succeeded, however in the end none of them truly convinced me.
Pawly is offline  
Old 28th Aug 2020, 07:20
  #7 (permalink)  

de minimus non curat lex
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: sunny troon
Posts: 1,337
The only way to be truly convinced that an ATO is suitable for you is to speak to the customers aka students on site away from the prying ears of management. You will be surprised how open and honest they tend to be. No management speak. Just simple plain unambiguous comments.
Have lunch in their canteen, sample the food. Never an easy task for the establishment to cater for a large school.

Is the Crystal Ball starting to become less opaque?

Vaccines by Easter 2021, assuming a following wind & full sails.

The summer 2021 a recovery begins. Those CR in 2020, begin to be welcomed back into the fold.
Bound to be some who took retirement slightly earlier than planned. Some who hated flying anyway and have found gainful employment elsewhere.

Junior Birdmen start to sense 2022 might just be the start of their apprenticeships.

A note of caution: I am often wrong about things........
parkfell is offline  

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