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Best in class

2024 Flight Training Experience Award winners announced

AOPA’s 2024 Flight Training Experience Survey received thousands of submissions from students and pilots across the country. Six flight schools and six flight instructors were chosen as the most excellent in their region.

Photo by Chris Rose.

Additionally, 50 flight schools and 47 flight instructors were honored with distinguished awards.

The Flight Training Experience survey asked student pilots, newly minted pilots, and pilots pursuing advanced ratings or taking a flight review for feedback about the quality of their flight training and instruction experience. The survey gave respondents the opportunity to highlight the best parts of their flight training and identify where flight schools and instructors may want to make improvements.

The survey asked respondents to evaluate performance in four main areas: educational quality, customer focus, community, and information sharing. Flight schools and instructors who ranked in the top third of their region are recognized as a distinguished flight school or instructor. Additionally, a blind committee process selects the best school or CFI in each region. Feedback from the surveys is shared with the schools and instructors so they can celebrate, assess, and address the results.

Of the regional winners, one flight school and one flight instructor will be recognized as the nation’s best, announced at Redbird Migration, a flight training conference hosted March 5 and 6 at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston.

“This year we have seen something similar from past years,” Chris Moser, AOPA’s senior director of flight training education, said. “The emphasis was on how much the best schools and instructors made their customers feel like family. Whether through creating a warm or welcoming atmosphere, or simply just being there when the client needs them, I am excited to hear about the strong community that is being built right from the start!”

The Flight Training Experience Survey has helped the AOPA You Can Fly team recognize superior flight training professionals since 2012.

AOPA’s You Can Fly program is dedicated to building the pilot community by creating programs for flying clubs, rusty pilots, and high school students who need support with their aviation goals.

Regional winners

Best flight schools Best flight instructors
Central Southwest Code 1 Flight Training Norm Rathje
Eastern Air Ventures Flying School Malinda (Lin) Caywood
Great Lakes Pilot Flight Training Courses Ernest Boys
Pacific Mike Smith Aviation Margaret Watt
Southern Aviator Zone Academy Kurt Belsten
Western Copper City Aviation Services LLC Kerry Constable

See the list of Distinguished Schools and CFIs here.

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit

Niki Britton
eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: You Can Fly, Awards and Records, Flight School

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