Below are many common questions with detailed answers to help guide you.  Contact Us anytime to discuss your specific needs and how we can best assist.

There are many exceptional flight schools around the country and we encourage students to carefully research each in their area before beginning flight training.  Rainier Flight is owned and operated by airline pilots with years of experience flying and teaching in most general aviation aircraft.  In addition, Rainier offers:

  • The largest training fleet of modern aircraft in the Pacific Northwest.  Since the aircraft are standardized you can fly any aircraft of same model and enjoy the same training experience.
  • Our custom training curriculum incorporates the latest tools and concepts including simulation and decision-making exceeding FAA minimum requirements – without extra cost.
  • Four locations in Puget Sound to enjoy the same quality experience.
  • Our training philosophy is to provide a safe environment to learn and explore – not rote repetition.
  • Culture of inclusion and fun.  Everyone has different challenges and needs so we strive to provide you the opportunity for success, no matter your goals.  And have fun in the process!

Rainier offers a variety of payment options.  Unlike many flight schools, we do not require a large deposit for you to get started.  You can pay as you go using check or credit card, or simply keep a card on file for convenient Autopay.

We also partner with specific lenders for those needing to borrow funds to cover training costs.  If enrolled in the Green River collegiate program, student loans can be secured for flight training expenses.  Lastly, a variety of scholarships are available and we encourage students to apply for these free funding options. See our Financing page.

At this time we do not accept direct VA (GI Bill) funding but always exploring opportunities to meet client needs.

If you are eager to get started there is no harm in gaining as much knowledge as possible, even though you won’t be using that knowledge until later in flight training.  However, you will want to review subjects outlined in the Study Assignment for each lesson to ensure that knowledge is fresh for flight lessons.

Our custom curriculum is designed to complete training as efficiently as possible while accommodating individual learning style.  Each course is broken into Stages which group subjects in a logical sequence culminating in a Stage Check to evaluate performance.  This ensures adequate knowledge and skill is acquired before moving on to more complicated subject areas.

Within each Stage, Lessons are designed to introduce and/or review specific tasks.  These tasks are usually performed within a scripted real-world scenario to incorporate the knowledge, skill and risk management in a holistic manner – otherwise known as scenario-based training.

In preparation for each lesson, Study Assignments should be completed so that time with instructor focuses on practical application of knowledge gained through books, videos or ground school.  Lessons begin with a Preflight Briefing to review any questions from the study assignment and discuss lesson scenario which puts this knowledge to practical use.  You then execute this plan in flight gaining experience and skill.  Finally, a Postflight Briefing reviews what went well, areas of improvement and how to best prepare for the next lesson.

This structured format ensures a comprehensive approach to learning and clear progress throughout course.

Not really, but it does take persistence.  Most pilots enjoy the challenge because you don't just become a pilot, you become an amateur meteorologist, aerodynamicist, mechanic and lawyer.  The airplane is a machine just like a car or boat.  You have to learn how to handle it correctly but anyone can learn.  Even those with disabilities.

Aviation medicals are issued by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  You can find the nearest medical examiner through search the FAA database here: AME Locator.  There are three types of medicals: Classes I, II and III.  Student and Private pilots only need a Class III medical and student pilots much also request a student pilot certificate when scheduling the exam.

Most people have no problem passing the medical exam if their vision is correctable to 40/40.  Color-blindness may impose some flying restrictions but there are varying degrees and tests that can be conducted resulting in no restrictions at all.  The most common disqualifying conditions are those that may cause incapacitation such as diabetes and heart conditions.  But even those conditions that can be controlled under medical supervision may still b acceptable for an FAA medical.

We always recommend that you get your medical early in the training process so that if something does come up delaying the medical, you have time to resolve the issue before needing it to solo.

Preparation!  The contents of each lesson are itemized in the training syllabus so you know exactly what to expect every flight.  If you study the material in advance then the instructor can focus on answering your questions, not covering things you could have read on your own.

This really depends on the individual, prior experience and frequency of lessons.  Each course is carefully designed to ensure maximum efficiency while allowing flexibility for each student’s strengths and weaknesses.  Every lesson includes completion standards which must be met to progress.  However, one or several attempts may be necessary to meet those standards.  Conversely, multiple lessons may be completed in a single flight if you are progressing rapidly and can demonstrate appropriate proficiency.

Frequency of training plays a significant role in the time and cost.  If you only fly once a week there will be skill lost between lessons and more time spent reviewing previous tasks each appointment.   Flying three times a week greatly accelerates the training process while minimizing skill atrophy thereby reducing cost.

We encourage students to fly as frequently as circumstances allow and provide itemized costs on each course page.

The training time really depends on individual motivation and frequency of lessons.  Our Private Pilot curriculum consists of about 30 lessons so if you take one lesson a week it would take over half a year to complete training.  If you take three lessons a week it can be completed in just a few months.  The most efficient training schedule would be to take a lesson every other day.  This allows enough time between lessons to review and adequately prepare for the next lesson.  However, few people have the time and resources to commit to this schedule.  If you can only train once a week or once a month, the overall course will take more time and money but we tailor the training to each individual's needs.

This is an often-misunderstood subject.  Part 61 and 141 refer to federal regulations that determine experience requirements for pilot certification.  Essentially, courses submitted to the FAA and approved for Part 141 allow students to complete training with less hourly requirements - but in reality it is not that simple.

Training under Part 141 can reduce time and cost but comes with certain restrictions:

  • You can only fly in approved aircraft with approved instructors.  If you want to fly in a different aircraft for variety of experience, that training may not count towards Part 141 course requirements.
  • Stage Checks must be completed prior to conducting lessons in subsequent stage.
  • Credit for training when transferring from 141 to 61 may all apply but only a portion may be credited when transferring from 61 to 141.
  • All lessons must be completed in a 141 course where Part 61 is generally train to proficiency.

In addition, if you are training to become a professional pilot you will eventually need an Air Transport Pilot certificate.  You need a minimum of 1,500 hours to qualify so even if you complete all of your flight training under Part 141 there is a 1,000+ hour gap you will need to gain through flight instructing or other types of commercial flying.  Therefor training under 141 does not offer a significant advantage.

Of course there are exceptions and considerations.  If you are enrolled in an approved collegiate degree program you may qualify for (restricted) R-ATP minimums of 1,000 hours for 4-year degree or 1,250 for 2-year degree.  Most flight training must be conducted under Part 141 to qualify.  If using funds to pay for training from the VA or certain lenders, they may also require funds only be used for Part 141 courses.

Most training courses at Rainier Flight are BOTH 61 and 141 approved.  Schedule an appointment with our team to discuss your particular circumstances and goals so we can help determine the best solution for you.

Everyone has a different learning style and our courses are designed to accommodate the method best for you.  Some students prefer text materials to read, make notes and review at their own pace.  Others prefer the audio-visual experience an online ground school offers with detailed explanations and video demonstrations.  If you learn best through interactive discussions with instructor and fellow students, a formal in-person class may be best for you.

Students often use a combination of methods such as taking an online course and supplement with textbooks.  For difficult subjects, participating in study groups or meeting individually with an instructor may be the best way to gain understanding.  The important part is acquiring a solid foundation of knowledge so that you can effectively apply to flight lessons efficiently.

Flight simulators are an incredibly powerful training tool that can significantly reduce the time and cost to complete training.  Learning new topics can be very challenging and sometimes dangerous in an airplane while managing navigation, airspace, traffic and weather at the same time.  Introducing maneuvers and procedures in a simulator allows the instructor to remove these external distractions and let you focus on learning the fundamentals.  Tasks are then reviewed in the airplane to gain experience and proficiency.

Some tasks, such as emergency procedures, cannot be safely replicated in the aircraft and simulation is the best tool to expose students to a variety of situations.  Our curriculum is designed to make use of simulation when appropriate while maintaining flexibility to tailor training to your needs.

You will be spending a lot of time with your instructor so it is very important to find a good fit.  Generally, you will be paired with an instructor based on your desired training time and frequency.  While all of our instructors are professional and proficient we also recognize sometimes personalities just don’t align or that you are more comfortable with a specific gender.  In this rare case we will introduce you to one or several instructors to ensure a good match for your learning style.

Flying with a single, primary instructor is best for consistency but you will have opportunities to fly with other instructors as well.  If your primary instructor is not available we encourage you to occasionally train with alternates.  All instructors are standardized to a high level of proficiency but sometimes a new technique or different way of explaining a challenging topic can be very beneficial.

We have a wide variety of instructing experience ranging from supervising collegiate programs to teaching at small uncontrolled airports to training airline pilots.  This variety gives us valuable experience in virtually all flying conditions that we use to impart good flying habits and decision-making skills.  Check out our instructor bios for more detailed information on each instructor's background.

It really depends on your ultimate goals.  Our primary training aircraft are new Cessna 162s which are only manufactured with glass cockpits.  If the aircraft were made with round dials the training wouldn't be any better or worse because the Private Pilot training focuses fundamental flying skills, not avionics.  However, the glass cockpit also affords additional safety features such as terrain awareness, traffic collision avoidance and satellite weather.

Our Instrument Rating course is designed to obtain proficiency in both round dial and glass cockpits.  General aviation and commercial aircraft will have round dials for some time but most new aircraft are being made with glass cockpits.  We feel it is important for instrument pilots to be proficient in both whether they are renting or starting a career.

Rainier Flight has a large fleet of two training aircraft: Cessna 162 and Cessna 172.  Both types are modern aircraft with the latest safety features including glass displays, traffic awareness, terrain alerting and more.  The primary difference is size and cost.

The Cessna 162 is a two-seat aircraft designed for primary training in visual conditions.  The small size and simplicity result in low operating costs which means it is cheaper to fly.  This is generally the preferred aircraft to start your training journey.

The Cessna 172 is a four-seat aircraft approved to fly in both visual and instrument conditions.  Its larger size may be more comfortable for some students and required for instrument training.  Because it is larger and more complex it costs more to fly.

Rainier also has a variety of other aircraft including the Cessna 182 for high performance, Piper Seminole for multi-engine training and misc types for leisure and rental.  We recommend the 162 for Private and Commercial training to keep training costs as low as possible but can tailor a solution to meet your particular needs.

Every certificate or rating requires that the student complete three areas of competency, under the review of a person designated by the FAA to conduct the tests.  Near the end of your flight training you will need to pass a written (knowledge) test.  This is taken on a computer with multiple-choice questions and must be passed with a score of 70% or higher.  When your training is complete your flight instructor will endorse you for the oral and practical exams.  The FAA designated examiner will ask you questions to determine if you understand the knowledge to the level required for the exam.  In the practical exam you will demonstrate you can safely operate the airplane in accordance with set standards.  The oral and practical typically happen on the same day as a single appointment.  If you are adequately prepared the exams should not be a stressful event.

Rainier Flight requires a ‘Renter Policy’ to protect you from aircraft damage and liability when acting as Pilot in Command.  As a client of Ranier Flight Service, you are required to have a supplemental aircraft insurance policy that covers at least $20,000 in aircraft damage before you flight with us. Liablity coverage depend on individual financial circumstances so limits should be chosem accordingly. If you have additional questions regarding your personal coverage needs, we recommend that you speak with a professional insurance agent. When flying with an instructor, you are covered under the Rainier company policy, but when flying alone you are responsible for returning the aircraft in the same condition of left – just like renting a car.  Mistakes sometimes happen and even minor damage can cost thousands of dollars to repair.  Renter policies are very affordable and we would much rather see you complete training instead of using funds for aircraft repairs. Please see our Insurance Requirements document for more information.

Our primary goal is to make you a safe, proficient pilot.  Part of becoming a pilot is gaining the experience to determine personal limits and use good judgment in ‘less than ideal’ conditions.  Flying in the wind, rain and clouds offers an excellent classroom to develop skill and experience.  Our professional instructors set boundaries to ensure compliance with regulations and safety.  Of course there will be those days when it is simply unsafe, but we try to continue moving forward by substituting with another lesson in the simulator or catching up on questions from ground school studying.

There is no better place in the country for instrument training!  Puget Sound is a perfect place for getting a lot of actual IMC experience as the freezing levels are generally above the minimum vectoring altitudes throughout the area. There are certainly some days that weather can be a challenge – but we see as an opportunity. 

Most people do not like being evaluated so it is natural to stress about the checkride.  In reality, the checkride is just a formality.  When your instructor endorses you that person is saying you have received all training required for the course and as a professional, they attest you can safely act as PIC.  However, instructors do not have the authority to issue certificates so an independent examiner verifies the instructor's assessment.  You will not do anything on the checkride you haven't done many times before!

To prepare for the checkride there are a few simple things you can do to build confidence:

  1. Take a mock checkride.  Have another instructor conduct a practice checkride to vet weak areas.  Brush up on those items before the real deal.  Two instructors saying you are ready should help you feel more comfortable.
  2. Over-prepare.  Don't just study and prepare to the minimum requirements.  Try to gain deeper understanding of knowledge areas and build skill to tighter tolerances than the checkride requires.
  3. Remember - the examiner wants you to pass.  It's no fun failing an applicant.  As far as the examiner is concerned you have passed the checkride from the beginning of the exam until you give them a reason to fail you.  If you make a mistake, acknowledge the error and ask to repeat the task.  This demonstrates good judgment and the examiner has some latitude.  Multiple errors show you may need some more practice but never give up!  The checkride is not over until the airplane is secured.
  4. Follow instructions.  Ensure you have all of the planning completed per the examiner's instructions, documentation is in order including endorsements and application, examiner fee, etc.  Use the Practical Test Checklist in the ACS/PTS to make sure everything is completed the day prior.  Then get a good night's sleep!