Want To Become a Pilot? Beware Flight School Scams!
Going to flight school to become a pilot can be one of the best experiences in a person’s lifetime, that is of course, so long as you find a reputable, honest, established, and accredited FAA approved flight training institution.
If you have been considering going to flight school to become a pilot, you need to understand that there are many flight schools and aviation academy’s that operate “shady” businesses. These unscrupulous flight schools use a wide range of deceptive business practices to prey on unsuspecting people interested in going to flight school to receive their FAA pilot certificate.
Common Flight School Scams-
1- Contract Inflation, Hidden charges– This is the most basic and lowest type of flight school fraud if that’s what you even what to call it. A lot of flight schools will end up over billing or adding additional billing items to your final tuition costs for items, classes, services that were not included in your original tuition bill or agreement, sometimes this is an accident and sometimes it is intentional. Most of the time a student pilot can simply reduce their chances of going to a sub standard flight school by conducting a little research on the flight school itself. Read reviews, check FAA cand business credentials, take a tour of the pilot training facilities, check out the aircraft, meet the CFI’s, and ask the proper questions to find out exactly what is included and what is not included in the main flight school tuition fees.
2- Flight School Student Loans- Paying for flight school with a student loan is not necessarily a bad idea so long as you have done your research on the flight school you want to attend along with the student loan company that you plan on using. If everything checks out and you receive a good student loan package and rate, go for it! Just be aware of smaller, lesser known student loan companies and predatory financial institutions.
3- Upfront Payment/Deposit Stealing- This type of fraud is nothing new in terms of how it works. Basically, a student puts down a cash deposit towards their flight training with a supposed flight school or individual certified flight instructor. The flight school or certified flight instructor then simply disappears with the student pilot(s) money, never to be heard from again.
4- New School Opens, Then Closes Months Later- This type of pilot school fraud is similar to the example in number 3, it is just a little more of an elaborate drawn out process. A flight school that appears to be established- has a training facility, several pilot training aircraft, a flight simulator, office and classes, a couple instructors, and some student pilots. The flight school reaches a certain threshold of students and their deposits or complete tuition payments. The flight school remains in operation for a short amount of time and then proceeds to take all of the new student pilot tuition deposits and payments, and then proceeds to close down the business. What is even more frustrating is that shortly after the scam flight school steals everyone’s money and closes, shortly thereafter, another pilot academy opens right back up under a new name and under “different” ownership.
5- Federal Student Loan and GI Bill fraud- This type of flight school scam involves the flight school administrators over-leveraging the federal student loan program and GI Bill program for military veterans. Read about this type of flight school scam that involved the flight school owners and employees being enrolled in their own flight school just to keep GI Bill required student attendance ratio to veteran student ratio compliant as to receive federal VA flight school funding http://dcourier.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubsectionID=1&ArticleID=122518
6- Immigration / US Visa Fraud- This type of fraud involves the flight school owners using “doctored” US visa papers (usually involving Form I-20) to entice international students to sign up and send deposits that they will never see again. Sometimes this practice is used on student pilots in country that need to extend their stay for flight training or are the US Visa is used as a means of threatening student pilots to pay more for additional random ”surcharges”, as the flight school can have the student’s visa rejected at any time.
Read more about immigration fraud and flight school scams in the news- http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/25/ice-busts-flight-school-massive-visa-fraud-scheme/
7- Insurance Scam Scare Tactics- All legitimate and established flight schools in the USA have to carry some sort of business insurance and usually aircraft insurance as well. The way this scam works is if a student pilot breaks something or has a small accident, the flight school owner will try and make the student pilot pay for any and all damages incurred. The flight school’s insurance company will cover just about any and all damages caused by a student, faculty, staff, etc. This type of scam is usually used on international students by using threats and scare tactics to extort more money out of the student pilot and their families.
8- International Pilot Student Scam- This category is fairly broad and can include some or all of the aforementioned examples listed above. There are a lot of flight schools out there that market specifically to people interested in becoming pilots that are located in countries all over the world. These scandalous flight schools and their admission specialists target and recruit in countries where there is a need for professional commercial pilots as they know that once they get them enrolled, they can start chipping away at the student’s bank accounts and family’s life savings. Once again, international student pilots are usually the ones whom experience the biggest problems as they are not aware of how “everything” works in the US.
Read about one flight school in California that was just recently closed down and left about 30 student pilots without flight training, housing, and US Visa’s-
Go To an Established FAA Flight School-
The purpose of this report was to inform all would be pilots or pilots looking for additional pilot training to be aware of the many different types of fight school scams that are out there. With a little bit of research and use of common sense, most of these students could have saved their money and themselves from falling victim to these scandalous, deceptive, and downright dubious flight training schools and their thieving owner/operators.
As there are several different ways to receive your pilot training- flight school, certified flight instructor, aviation college; the trick is to finding an honest, established, and reputable flight school where they care about how their pilots truly perform while flying- before, during, and after graduating from their flight school’s pilot training programs.
About Our 15 Year Veteran US Flight School-
Our FAA approved, accredited, and accelerated flight school, Epic Flight Academy, trains aspiring pilots from all across the world. We have successfully trained and graduated thousands of student pilots with their- private pilot license, commercial pilot license, certified flight instructor certificates, type ratings, and airline transport pilot training. Our prestigious pilot school offers over 40 state of the art aircraft for pilot training- single engine aircraft and multi-engine aircraft- Cessna’s, Seminole’s, and Diamond DA-42 aircraft. Our FAA commercial flight school has an ample supply of over 30+ multi-rated professional certified flight instructors as to make sure there is no downtime for a student pilot that wants to log additional flight training hours. Epic Flight Academy operates out of the Jack Bolt Municipal Airport in New Smyrna Beach, FL, located just minutes away from the beach.
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