What is the Difference Between Part 61 and Part 141?

What is the Difference Between Part 61 and Part 141? Hero Image

When searching for a flight school, new students inevitably encounter flight schools advertising their "Part 141" or "Part 61" status. But, what exactly does this mean? Unfortunately for perspective students, many of these schools' websites fail to adequately explain the difference.

Both "Part 61" and "Part 141" are references to US federal regulations pertaining to pilot schools and the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors. Although this difference may seem nuanced, the pros and cons of these two types of flight schools directly impact students' flight training cost and timeline. Ensure you understand the difference between Part 141 and Part 61 before pursuing your aviation dreams.

What is a Part 61 School?

Under the Part 61 regulation, any FAA approved flight instructor can provide flight training to students. These instructors may be affiliated with a flight school, but they don't have to be. Essentially, any CFI can provide flight training under Part 61.

Part 61 schools are generally smaller than Part 141 - they may have fewer aircraft in their fleet with less advanced avionics. They likely have fewer instructors, as well. Part 61 flight schools is most akin to "Mom n' Pop" flight training.

What is a Part 141 School?

Part 141 is a federal regulation relating specifically to "pilot schools." To qualify under Part 141, flight schools must meet more stringent regulatory requirements than Part 61 schools. All Part 141 schools must have an FAA approved curriculum for all training provided. To ensure FAA standards are being met, these schools are subject to regular FAA audits and must maintain a minimum practical exam pass rate. These strict requirements allow Part 141 schools to accelerate training, allowing students to progress with fewer flight hours.

Part 141 schools are often larger than Part 61 - they have more training aircraft, often with advanced avionics such as G1000 displays. As part 141 schools must maintain strict FAA standards, they often employ more flight instructors. Many Part 141 schools have multiple locations across the United States. Part 141 flight schools are most akin to for-profit technical colleges.


Part 61 Benefits

Part 61 Flight School Image

1) Most Cost Effective

Shrewd students training under Part 61 experience savings over their Part 141 counterparts. Part 61 schools are frequently more affordable than Part 141 schools due to smaller fleets, fewer instructors, and less bureaucratic processes.

2) Flexible Training Environment

Part 61 schools provide less structured training environments. For some a less structured training environment is beneficial, as the enhanced flexibility can be helpful for part-time students training on a irregular schedule.

Unlike Part 141 schools, Part 61 are not required to use an FAA approved curriculum. This allows Part 61 schools and instructors to tailor the program to meet each individual student's needs and ambitions.

3) Choose the Best Instructor

Students seeking flight training under Part 61 have the ability to interview instructors, ultimately choosing the instructor they're most comfortable with. Some Part 141 schools may not allow students to pick their instructor, but most will allow swapping if there is a clear mismatch.

4) There are More of Them

Most readers in the United States have a Part 61 school within driving distances, making aviation ambitions attainable. Part 141 schools tend to cluster in regions of the country with nicer weather, requiring students to relocate for training.

Part 61 Cons

1) Slower for full-time students

Part 61 schools may not provide the most efficient way for full-time, career-oriented students to complete their flight training. Small Part 61 schools often lack the faculty and aircraft fleet size to support full time flight training, which can delay a student's progression. But, this is not always the case. Some Part 61 schools offer accelerated training programs to meet the needs of professionally oriented students or those with limited training windows.

2) More Required Flight Time

Student training at a Part 61 school often have a higher minimum total flight time. For example, a student pursuing her private pilot training at a Part 61 school must have at least 40 hours of total time for issuance. At a Part 141 school, she may need as little as 35 hours.

Keep in mind these are the minimum hours allowed by the FAA. Most students need more than the minimum hours required, with the national average ~50-60 hours for the private pilot license.


Part 141 Benefits

Part 141 Flight School Image

1) Structured Training Environment

Part 141 schools' structured training environments provides a clear pathway for students pursuing aviation careers.

2) Larger Fleet, More Instructors

Combined with the structured training environment, the Part 141 schools' (generally) larger fleets and instructor count help full time students accumulate hours. Larger fleets ensure plane availability, and more instructors mean opportunities to get in the sky.

3) Less Flight Time

As Part 141 schools must have their curriculum approved by the FAA, they may allow students to complete their training with lower flight time minimums.

Part 141 Cons

1) Rigid Environment

The rigid curriculum and training environment provided by Part 141 schools may not be a great fit for part time students, particularly those uninterested in professional aviation. Further, the rigid curriculum often translates into a faster training pace - some students may find the pace of Part 141 flight training overwhelming.

2) Fewer Locations

There are fewer Part 141 schools across the United States. While most United States residents are within a reasonable driving distance to Part 61 flight training, instruction under Part 141 may require temporary relocation.

Is Part 61 better than Part 141?

Deciding between Part 61 and Part 141 is unique to each student's needs and ambitions. Students juggling a full-career and a family will benefit from the flexibility and proximity of Part 61 training. Those seeking a career change into professional aviation may find the fast paced training and aircraft availability of a Part 141 school desirable. And of course, affordability is a major concern for many students - staying local and training part time at a Part 61 school may prove the prudent decision.

Whether your looking for a local Part 61 or a Part 141 in Florida, be sure to check out our Interactive Flight School Finder.