Part 61 vs 141 Certification

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New flying students hoping to train for a Private Pilot’s License will discover references to “Part 61 and Part 141” as soon as they start doing any research on flying schools.

So what do these terms actually mean? And why is Part 61 vs 141 certification important, and also treated as though it is such a quandary for aviation students?

Put very simply, both of these ‘parts’ refer to different types of flight schools and different training regulations.  The FAA allows flight schools to operate under either one of them. So which of these should you choose?  Which is better?  And does it really make a great deal of difference?

We will now take a look at both of these ‘Parts’ and answer these and other related questions.

My Bottom Line Up Front

Part 61 and Part 141 are parts of the FAA Federal Aviation Administration) regulations regulating different ways of administering flight training. Generally, Part 141 schools are more regimented and designed for prospective commercial pilots, while Part 61 schools are more flexible and often better suit the leisure pilot.

But the difference is not as great as it sounds, and finding a school and instructor close to where you live or in some other suitable location is probably more important.

What Do Part 61 And Part 141 Actually Mean?

aviation

The word ‘Part’ in this case refers to a part of the Federal Aviation Regulations or FARs. These regulations summarize requirements for pilots and flight schools, plus other related topics concerned with aviation.

Part 61 is concerned with the certification of pilots and instructors. It gives minimum flight time requirements to obtain various pilot licenses, plus other related information.

Part 141, on the other hand, is more concerned with pilot certification requirements for schools operating under this system.

The FAA allows flight schools to operate either of these series of regulations.  Although they are similar, the emphasis of Part 61 is on the student and instructor, while that of Part 141 is on the specific school.  This doesn’t sound too different, but it leads to quite a lot of variation in practice.

Confused?  You’re not the first by any means!  Things will become significantly clearer if we look at the specific differences between Part 61 and Part 141 certification.

Main Differences Between Part 61 vs Part 141 Certification

  • Flexibility – the Part 141 timetable is quite rigid, but that of Part 61 allows for more flexibility.
  • Training Programme – Part 141 is highly structured, while Part 61 allows variation and customization of training to suit the individual.
  • PPL Flying Hours – Part 141 has a minimum of 35 hours to Private Pilot License (PPL), while Part 61 has a minimum of 40 hours.
  • CPL Flying Hours – Part 141 has a minimum of 190 flying hours to get a commercial flying license (CPL), while the minimum hours under Part 61 are 250.
  • Cost – the costs can vary between the two parts, for a variety of reasons.

Let us now look at all these differences in more detail…

Flexibility

Part 141 flying schools have a fixed schedule and often the course has to be done to a fixed timetable with little opportunity to change things.  Part 61, on the other hand, allows students to train and progress at their own rate.  Students can adjust the timing of the training to suit their own needs, and often their own finances too.

Part 141 schools are basically designed for students who are working towards becoming professional pilots and want to do it within a short time. They are especially suitable for career-minded students who want to do the training in as short a time as possible.

The part 141 course is highly structured, with required lesson plans, stage checks, and a defined syllabus.  It will suit some people, but not those who cannot fly full time, or who find training at such a rate overwhelming.

I was one of these types of students, and I found full-time flying courses to be just too much for me to cope with, either physically or mentally.  I was better off with a part-time, slower, more flexible training schedule.

Students who want to train more slowly do better with a school operating under Part 61.  This is much more flexible, and can be completed at one flight school, or several different ones, or even under an independent freelance instructor.

This is also better for those who want to learn to fly, but aren’t sure how far they want to take it – do they want to get a CPL, or just a PPL, or even just have a few flying lessons and see what happens?

If that describes you, you would most likely be better off with Part 61.  But if you’re keen to get ahead quickly, then a Part 141 school would be fine.

Training Programme

pilot

Flying schools need to have a curriculum approved by the FAA in order to operate under part 141.  They need to have precise lesson plans, classroom facilities, and certified instructors.  ]

At a part 141 school you must also pass checks at each training stage, learn at a specified rate and to a definite timetable, and your ability in all aspects of the training is constantly being checked.

None of this is required for Part 61 schools, which can more or less arrange their own schedule and checks.  Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these approaches.

See also: Best Kneeboards for Pilots Guide

PPL Flying Hours

For many people, the number of flying hours needed to get a Private Pilot’s License is what really matters.  You need 40 hours for a PPL with Part 61 training, but only 35 with Part 141.  So surely Part 141 is better, right?  No, it isn’t that simple.

For a start, it is very rare to get your PPL in the legal minimum number of hours.  Most people take around double that time, and hours well into three figures are not unknown.

The time taken to get your PPL depends on all sorts of things, such as consistency of training, weather, flying aptitude, and so on.  All of this makes the difference between the minimum hours required for the two types of training academic or even non-existent.

CPL Flying Hours

take off

These seem to make more difference, on the face of it.  If you know from the start that you want to go for a CPL, you might be better off with a Part 141 school requiring only 190 hours, rather than a Part 61 school where you need at least 250 hours.

The Part 141 course might save you both time and money.  But be careful.  According to some sources, Part 141 schools tend to charge more per flying hour, and you might end up with fewer flying hours, less experience, and the same total cost.

Also, if you start flying and later on decide to ‘go commercial’ as I did and many others do, it really doesn’t matter if you are training under Part 61.  So you need some more hours, so what?  It means more experience, and experience is always a good thing when it comes to aviation.

Cost

Comparing costs is more complicated.  As stated already, Part 141 schools do tend to charge more, though they require fewer hours, in theory at least.

If cost is a major issue, do some research and be realistic.  If a Part 61 course gives you more hours but costs the same, this might be better, as it will give you more experience.

Also, with the flexibility of a part 61 course, you can look for your own instructor, and even negotiate aircraft hire and instructor’s rates separately if you wish.

And unlike for a Part 141 course, you don’t necessarily have to pay for ground school, but can study on your own for the grounds exams.  Although it must be said that this is rarely recommended, unless you are extremely good at studying alone.

Similarities Between Part 61 And Part 141

flying school

It might sound from the above as though there are huge differences between the two types of training. But in practice this is not the case in many ways. A school operating under either part will be able to teach you to fly, and get you your PPL and CPL if you wish.

All of them operate to the same high flight training standards required by the FAA.  Indeed, it is best not to get too hung up on the Part 61 vs 141 certification dilemma.

It is more important to find a flying school in a convenient location for you and an instructor whom you like, rather than worrying too much about the exact form which the training takes.

And if you don’t like the school or instructor, you can always change, although it must be said that this is much easier under the more flexible Part 61 than the more rigid Part 141.

Verdict: Which Is Better, Part 61 or Part 141

It is difficult to be definite about which is better, Part 61 or Part 141.  If you want to do your flight training quickly and are definitely aiming to become a commercial pilot, then a Part 141 school is probably best for you.

But if you are more of a leisure pilot or are not sure about how far you are planning to take your flying training, the flexibility of Part 61 is probably better.

But if you are the first of these types of students described above, you probably know already that you want a Part 141 course, and you don’t really need this article!  For the rest of us, and those who aren’t quite sure, Part 61 training is more flexible, and possibly more enjoyable for that reason. And most pilots learn to fly for enjoyment, whether or not they go commercial eventually.

So which is better, Part 61 certification or Part 141 certification?  I would say Part 61 is better for most students.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: If I Want to Change Flying Schools or Instructor Part Way Through my Course, how Difficult Will it Be?

Answer: It will be much easier to do this under Part 61, where a change of instructor or school will not be an issue at all.
But it could be harder at a Part 141 school.  However, the better Part 141 schools do allow you to change instructors if there is a mismatch or personality clash.  It might be a good idea to ask about this when you are choosing the school where you wish to train.
However, it can be difficult to transfer to or from a Part 141 training school.  The FAA only allows Part 141 schools to give up to 25%  of flight time credit to students coming from Part 61 schools, or up to 50% credit if transferring between Part 141 schools.
Moving from a Part 141 school to a Part 61 school is a lot easier.  But basically, if you think you might want to change school or instructor, Part 61 makes things easy for you, while Part 141 may not.

Question: Is it easy to Find Flying Schools Operating Under Both of These Regulations?

Answer: There are plenty of Part 61 flying schools.  But you may find it harder to find a Part 141 school locally, depending on where you live.

Question: Are Both these Types of Flying Schools Equally Good?

Answer: They should be.  Both are regulated by the FAA and teach to the same high training standard.  But according to some sources, while a Part 141 school is very regulated and policed, this is not the case for all Part 61 schools.
For these, it is possible for a high failure rate, for example, to go unnoticed for a while. But this shouldn’t necessarily be a reason to avoid any particular type of school.  Instead, do some research yourself and find out the school’s reputation and success rate.

Conclusion

Don’t get too hung up on the Part 61 vs 141 certification dilemma.  It is more important to consider the flying school’s reputation, the instructors, location, costs, and aircraft types.  You should also consider a good place to do ground training.

Your choice of flying school and instructor determine the quality of your flight training, so they are important, but there are many things that need to be involved in your choice other than Part 61 versus Part 141. So do your research, choose wisely, and then have fun learning to fly!

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