Part 61 vs Part 141

How to Become a Pilot, Student Tips


61 141

It’s one of the questions I get a lot as an instructor; “What is part 61 and part 141?” What is the difference between them?” Most importantly, “Which one will get me done faster?” Now that I have been through it all, have interviews lined up with some airlines and am rounding off my time as a flight instructor I thought it would be a good idea to look into these questions to help you, the future pilot, out. In this article I will dissect the main differences of a part 61 and part 141 program.

Here at Wayman Aviation Academy we have a part 61 and a part 141 program. What is the biggest difference between these two? 

A part 141 school is fundamentally more structured. It has a syllabus with quality controls. This includes regular stage checks when students fly with supervising instructors that are verifying the student progress, and the instructor’s standardization. It is not possible for students to skip around sections as that could lead to missing critical flight lessons, and the natural progressions that was designed in the syllabus.

Part 61 training, in contrast, has very little structure. There are minimum requirements such as “solo” time, when a student flies by themselves, or night hours and cross country navigational flights. Part 141 students have similar requirements, but they are specified to happen in a specific lesson. 

Part 61 training is primarily done by independent instructors or small, less formalized flight schools. This flexibility is great if you are a weekend warrior, flying as a hobby after the responsibilities of family and work.

According to the student pilot guide from the FAA: “One difference between a part 141 school and a part 61 school is that fewer flight hours are required to qualify for a pilot certificate in a part 141 certificated school. The requirement for a private pilot certificate is 40 hours in a part 61 school and 35 hours in a part 141 certificated school.”

Now you might be thinking, awesome, I’ll get my license in 40 hours if I follow the part 61 program, or 35 hours if I follow the part 141 program. As a flight instructor and former student pilot I can tell you out of experience. 99% of the pilots going through their training need about +/-70 hours to get their private pilot license. The US average is 73 hours according to AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. It is hard for me to imagine somebody getting their PPL in 35 hours. This due to a lot of variables like bad weather, some extra training here and there to make sure the student is 100% safe and proficient. After all, when was the last time you wanted the minimum for lunch, or the minimum score on your test? 

test center

We have had instances where students could have soloed with very low hours- if we were training at a grass strip somewhere in the Sahara desert – that however, is not the case. I can imagine somebody soloing faster if it’s at a small strip. There are also a lot of fight schools that will budget students for 35 hours, and then, during training you get past 35 hours and are nowhere near your checkride. They sell the minimum, but bill for a lot more. Please, be careful when considering schools regarding this. Wayman Aviation is very transparent and budgets 71 hours for your Private Pilot License. The vast majority of students will meet this budget.

If you are reading this and you are part of that tiny group of pilots who got their license in 35 hours, let me know how you did and at which airport by explaining it in the comment section below.

What else separates a part 141 school from part 61 operations?

“One is normally referred to as a certificated “part 141 school” and the other as a “part 61 training”.” A part 141 school has been granted an Air Agency Certificate by the FAA. The certificated schools may qualify for a ground school rating and a flight school rating. In addition, the school may be authorized to give their graduates practical (flight) tests and knowledge (computer administered written) tests.”  A part 61 school, is not certified. It is a group of instructors working together, but it is not inspected nor supervised by the FAA.

Not clear for you yet? Let me make it simple for you; during your training you have to make some written tests. Part 141 schools are allowed to have in-house checks. From written tests, which we do here at our Academy, to having in-house check examiners which is very rare. A good flight school will have existing relationships with examiners. This leads to shorter wait times for students.

Part 141 schools have more structure and get checked up by the FAA thoroughly. Which is a good thing, safety is #1 throughout aviation and it doesn’t hurt to have a supervising agency verifying the quality of your training.

Keep the blue side up!