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Dear Florida flight schoolDear Florida flight school

Dear Florida flight school,

Lots of flight schools ask for money up front—and apparently you do as well. 

Here’s the problem: Customers are increasingly gun-shy of paying up-front for flight instruction—and rightfully so. In the last 10 years there have been too many instances of flight schools accepting large sums from students and then abruptly closing their doors. The money’s gone, and the students are left without the training they were promised. (Does Silver State Helicopters come to mind?)

It's not unreasonable to ask customers to keep some money on account. But that’s not what you do, apparently. You ask for the full payment of a private pilot certificate plus a 20 percent “buffer” plus a $1,500 security deposit.

Flight training students don’t operate in a vacuum these days. In this instance, your potential client ran to the Reddit Flying subreddit to ask the other pilots there. What do you think they told him?

“Run like a rabbit with its ears back.”

“A security deposit. … They’ll be bankrupt in 3…2….1…”

“Don’t. Do. It. PERIOD.”

The market’s opinion of paying up front is shaped by past events. Almost everyone counseled this flight student not to pay money up front with any flight school, even one that is offered by a college or university. (A change in contractors has burned more than one person, apparently.)

Ultimately, Florida flight school, you set your own policies and charge what the market will bear. Just know that so long as we continue to see headlines about foreign flight students left stranded because their U.S. flight school closed, your potential clients will not be clamoring to hand over the cash up front. And, as I noted in “Dear Northeast Flight School,” everyone has an “expert” a few clicks away. And those experts have influence on your customers. 

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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