You want to find a flight instructor who is compatible with your learning style, consider that the best flight school for you may not be at the closest airport to you!
Call flight schools at each airport and ask for price, number of instructors, size of fleet, and aircraft availability
More information on finding a good flight school below…
Location / Airspace
Convenience to home is important, you don’t want to spend a lot of time traveling to flight lessons
Airports close to O’Hare are under or near very complicated airspace
Complicated airspace can be more difficult to navigate in and around, but can create pilots who are better able to deal with difficult airspace situations in the future
A control tower provides spacing and sequencing between aircraft entering and leaving the airport environment
A control tower can make it easier to fly in the airport environment as they give pilots instructions for how to taxi on the ground, as well as how to enter the airport environment in the air
Training with a control tower creates pilots with better radio skills
A control tower can also be seen as more restrictive to some pilots
Number of Runways
Multiple runways makes it less likely to need to take off or land in a crosswind
Multiple runways can make it more complicated to safely taxi around the airport
Single runways make it more likely to operate in crosswinds, and it may at times be impossible to take off or land at the airport as a result
Single runways can make pilots more proficient at crosswind takeoff and landings
Level of Activity
Busy airports can make pilots more capable of operating at events with high levels of activity (fly-outs, pancake breakfasts, busy airports)
Busy airports require high levels of situational awareness and collision avoidance techniques
Busy airports with a control tower might mean that pilots are asked to standby before entering the airport environment, or they might need to spend significant time on the ground waiting before takeoff
Aurora Airport (KARR) Sugar Grove, IL
Control tower (open daily from 0700-2100)
3 runways (9-27, 18-36, 15-33)
Not very busy, except on nice weekends
DuPage Airport (KDPA) West Chicago, IL
Control tower (open 24/7)
4 runways (2L-20R, 2R-20L, 10-28, 15-33)
Busier than Aurora
Under O’Hare’s airspace, but not too complicated
Schaumburg Airport (06C) Schaumburg, IL
No control tower
1 runway (11-29)
Under O’Hare’s airspace, airspace is very complicated
Chicago Executive (KPWK) Wheeling, IL (formerly Palwaukee Airport)
Control tower (open weekdays 0600-2200, weekends 0700-2200)
3 runways (6-24, 12-30, 16-34)
Under O’Hare’s airspace, can be complicated
Can be quite busy
Clow Airport (1C5) Bolingbrook, IL
No control tower
1 runway (18-36)
Lewis University Airport (KLOT) Romeoville, IL
No control tower (but one is planned to be built within a few years)
2 runways (2-20, 9-27)
Intensive flight training activity
Selecting a Flight School
Part 61 vs. Part 141
These parts refer to the federal aviation regulations (FARs) that regulate the flight training activity
Part 61 is a “mom and pop” flight school – benefits include more flexibility in your training and lower costs
Part 141 is in a more structured university environment – benefits include faster-paced instruction, but will be much more expensive
You want a flight school that is close to home, ideally. See above for information on selecting an airport to train out of
How many aircraft does the flight school have? How many are down for maintenance at any time? How much do they cost to operate? (Be careful about signing up with a flight school that exclusively trains out of expensive aircraft such as Cirruses!)
What are the goals of your fight instructor? Are they there to teach because they love teaching, or because they are trying to build hours to go to an airline? Consider that instructors who are just building time may not be with you for the duration of your flight training.
How many instructors does the flight school have? Alternatively, you may decide to hire an instructor who is not affiliated with any particular flight school.
What is the availability of the flight instructors? How far in advance do you have to schedule lessons?
Does the flight school have an on-site ground school to prepare students for their written exam and oral practical exam?
Does the airport have a testing center for students to take their written tests on site?
Call flight schools and ask for their estimates for how many hours and how much money it will cost to complete a private pilot’s license. Be wary of any flight school that vastly underestimates these numbers!
My name is Alyssa J. Pasquale, Ph.D. and I teach engineering and physics at the College of DuPage. I am also a flight instructor in single engine airplanes. This website has a bunch of resources for students to help them out in their educational journeys.