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Best Flight Schools in California in 2021

March 2, 2021 | Staff Writers

Flight Schools in California

California is home to over 100 flight schools that offer pilot license programs at various levels.  Thanks to the beautiful year round weather, California draws aspiring pilots from around the world to its many flight schools.  Not all pilot schools are created equal, some focus on training airline pilots while others focus on training people who want a private license.  Flight schools have been ranked according to a matrix using key information that determines the quality and affordability of the programs.  Items that went into the matrix for ranking were cost, flight hours logged by certified flight instructors, and number of pilot programs.  

Best 31 Flight Schools in California

1. JetEXE Aviation          Points:  13

JetEXE Aviation is a top rated flight school located in Sacramento, California.  JetEXE is an FAA approved and CFR 141 certified flight training Academy Airline Career Pilot aviation school.  Students have the opportunity to participate in a fast track program that allows them to save money by completing a 20 month program in 10 months.  The fast track program is intense and intended for students that are able to dedicate 100% of their time to completing the program.  Students will receive a thorough education and hours of flight time with safe well maintained aircraft.  Graduates are able to find employment quickly and have less debt than many other competing flight school graduates.

At A Glance  

  • Location: Sacramento, California
  • Cost: $10,000 and up 
  • Pilot Licenses: Sport, Private, Commercial, ATP, Multi-Engine
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI, 
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 20 months

2. NorCal Flight Center LLC         Points:  13

NorCal Flight Center LLC offers aviation education for both ground coursework and flight instruction.  Students can enroll in one or the other or both depending on their needs and aviation goals. Students receive detailed instruction that flows seamlessly into flight instruction.  Students are prepared to pass their licensing exam and their flight exam as well as complete the necessary flight hours for licensing.  Students are able to finance their aviation education to make it more affordable to reach their goals.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Lincoln, California
  • Cost: $10,000 to $34,000
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License, Instrument, Commercial Pilot License
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 12 months

3. King Air First Officer            Points:  11

King Air First Officer Training Program is an aviation program that trains students that are seeking to become professional pilots.  First Officers will begin their training by working with a Captain right from the beginning.  Each Captain has several thousands of hours of flight time as well as being FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructors.  This program is designed to graduate students in as little as 6 months with over 500 hours of flight time upon graduation.  Students can take up to 18  months if necessary. 

At A Glance 

  • Location: Redlands, California
  • Cost: $80,000 Flat Fee
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License, Instrument Pilot License, Multi-Engine Commercial
  • Endorsements: High Performance Aircraft, Complex Aircraft
  • Estimated Completion Time: 6 months to 18 months

4. ATP Flight School       Points:  11

ATP Flight School offers the fastest, most comprehensive Airline Pilot Program where students can complete it in as little as 9 months.  Students will earn their private pilot license, their ATP CTP license, Flight time training, airline oriented procedures, online coursework, and more.  Students can finance the cost of the instruction and flight hours and there is also an option for airline reimbursement for those that qualify.  ATP Flight School is designed for the student that desires pursuing aviation as a career.  Students will have access to the largest training fleet in the world with over 420 aircraft to train on and earn flight hours on.   

At A Glance

  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Cost: $83,995
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, ATP, Airline Multi Engine
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI, IR
  • Estimated Completion Time: 9 months

5. US Aviators           Points:  10

US Aviators is a professional aviation training school that offers current instruction, flight simulation, flight hours with experienced instructors and more.  Students will find a variety of opportunities, whether they are seeking to earn a private pilot license of a commercial pilot license.  With a fleet of 6 aircraft, students will learn how to operate a variety of aircraft that will give them the necessary flight hours for licensing. Van Nuys has the busiest aviation airport in the world. 

At A Glance 

  • Location: Van Nuys, California
  • Cost: Contact US Aviators
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License, Multi-Engine Pilot License, ATP
  • Endorsements: CFI, ATP, CPL
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 10 months

6. Sierra Academy of Aeronautics             Points:  9

Sierra Academy of Aeronautics offers a comprehensive 141 course pilot training program that will instruct students in classrooms and in the air as they earn their pilot license.  Sierra Academy aims to provide practical and experiential training programs to adult students seeking to earn a pilot license.  Students can choose to earn a private, instrument or multi-engine license as they attend Sierra Academy.  Students will have over 230 hours of flight time as well as over 200 hours of pilot in command time.  Upon completing each course students will be given the FAA written exam.  Students will need to pass 90% of all missions on their first attempt. 

At A Glance   

  • Location: Atwater, California
  • Cost: Contact Sierra Academy
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Multi-Engine Pilot
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 12 months to 18 months

7. Advanced International Aviation Academy          Points:  9

Advanced International Aviation Academy has been rated as one of the best flight training academies in the world.  Founded with instructors that have thousands of hours of flight time and is the only AOPA “Honor Roll” aviation institution to receive this designation for 6 consecutive years.  It is also a FAA 141 certified school, which will make all the difference for students applying for commercial pilot positions throughout the world.  AIA Academy has also maintained a 100% pass rate for students in their FAA course completion and graduation as well as a high test pass rate the first time.  

At A Glance 

  • Location: Sacramento, California
  • Cost: $8,00 and up
  • Pilot Licenses: Sport, Private, Single Engine Commercial, Multi-engine Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1 month to 18 months

8. Howe’s Flight Concepts        Points:  9

Howe’s Flight Concepts is a small organization that instructs students at various aviation levels to prepare them for becoming licensed pilots.  Instructors are experienced pilots as well as instructors.  To earn the flight hours necessary for licensing students will either need to have their own aircraft or they can rent the Cessna 172 owned by Howe’s Flight Concepts for $130 per hour.  IF other aircraft are needed for licensing purposes and flight hours they will attempt to have access to the aircraft necessary to meet the needs of students. 

At A Glance 

  • Location: Hanford, California
  • Cost: Contact Howe’s Flight Concepts
  • Pilot Licenses: Sport Pilot License, Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot license
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII
  • Estimated Completion Time: 12 months to 18 months

9. California Flight Academy          Points:  8

California Flight Academy offers quality instruction blended with flight simulations and flight hours in the sky with experienced instructors.  Instructors are passionate about what they do and have extensive knowledge and experience both in the classroom and in the skies.  Students have access to a state of the art flight simulator and a fleet of aircraft for them to gain the necessary hours and skills for flight licensing.  Many students are international and bilingual and graduate to serve airlines around the world.    

At A Glance

  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Cost: $57,235 Total Cost
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot  License, Professional Pilot License
  • Endorsements: CFI. CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4weeks to 12 months

10. Aerocademy       Points;  Points:  8

Aerocademy opened in 2007 to give local residents a place where they can further their aviation education or begin it.  Aerocademy participates in community aviation events and offers an open house on Saturday mornings for local residents.  Whether students are seeking to earn a private licence in under a month or commercial pilots seeking to advance their education, Aerocadmey can provide what students are needing.  The aircraft available for students to rent for their flight hours are rented by hour using a wet cost varying from $200 to $300 per hour.  

At A Glance

  • Location: San Luis Obispo, California, 
  • Cost: $159 and up
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License
  • Endorsements: CFI, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 12 months

11. Fly the Wing              Points:  8

Fly the Wing is a great option for people that are looking for a professional and quick moving private instruction program where they can earn a private pilot’s license.  Students are taught by Gary Wing, a long time flight instructor and pilot that began flying aircraft at age 16.  Students can expect to receive personalized instruction that will enable them to learn everything they need to and gain the hours of experience they need in as few hours as possible without sacrificing safety.   Students can earn their private license in as little as 4 weeks.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Palm Springs, California
  • Cost: Contact Fly the Wing 
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License
  • Endorsements: CFI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 12 months

12. Skyview Flight Academy       Points:  9        

Skyview Flight Academy offers both FAA approved Part 141 and Part 61 flight training programs.  Depending on what students goals are in aviation, will determine what program they should pursue.  For students seeking to fly commercially or for an airline would take the Part 141 route.  International students must take the Part 141 route.  If students are pursuing aviation as a hobby or in addition to a career then the Part 61 route would work best for them as it is more flexible.  Both pathways end with the same licensing exam. The 11 aircraft available for flight hours are maintained in house and students can schedule their flight hours online working with their schedule.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Tracy, California
  • Cost: Contact Skyview Flight Academy
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, FAA Approved
  • Estimated Completion Time:  12 months

13. AeroDynamic Aviation        Points:  8

AeroDynamic Aviation has been training pilots since 1960 and has ranked among the top flight instruction schools repeatedly by the AOPA.  Students have access to a full team of qualified flight instructors that are not only knowledgeable but friendly as well.  Students will learn in a safe environment where instructors teach out of their love of aviation and sharing that passion with others. From beginning to advanced pilots, AeroDynamic trains them all, private, aerobatic, commercial, professional, and more.  

At A Glance

  • Location: San Jose, California
  • Cost: Contact AeroDynamic for cost on Desired Program
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, ATP, Sport
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 12 months

14. Angel CIty Flyers        Points:  8

Angel City Flyers offers a high quality and engaging approach to flight training from private pilot license to ATP license.  Angel City Flyers welcomes international students, offers flexible scheduling, and personalizes students programs to fit their needs.  With a focus on pilot proficiency and customer service students are guaranteed a positive experience in their journey as they pursue a pilot license.  Students can complete both the coursework and the flight hours necessary to earn their license with confidence.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Long Beach, California
  • Cost: COntact Angel City Flyers for Course Cost
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, IR, ATP
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 16 months

15. Coast Flight Academy         Points:  8

Coast Flight Academy is a flight school unlike most, one that many airlines partner with to have access to the top trained pilots receiving their licenses.  Those seeking to become airline pilots for their careers, will find Coast Flight Academy will provide the most comprehensive program that will place them in the sights of airlines such as American Airlines, United Express, Skywest, and more.  Students still benefit from personalized programs that will be designed for them and their career goals from day one.  With Airline Career Training and Airline Direct, the pathway to the Captains seat is very clear.  

At A Glance

  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Cost: Contact Coast Flight Academy for specific program
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, ATP, Airline Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI, IR
  • Estimated Completion Time: 2 months to 24 months

16. Cypress College       Points:  8

Cypress College is a community College that offers an aviation program that trains both private and commercial pilots.  Students do not need to complete the general education courses unless they plan to earn a degree in aviation and not just the certification and licenses.  Students can earn a private license, instrument pilot, commercial pilot, and advanced pilot licenses.  Ground courses will be taken on campus and flight hours will be completed with the fleet aircraft available through the school.  This is a very affordable route for those seeking a career in the airline industry.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Cypress, California
  • Cost: $46 per unit 
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Instrument, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII
  • Estimated Completion Time: 6 months to 24 months

17. Orange Coast College        Points:  8

A public community college, Orange Coast College offers courses in aviation that will lead students to be able to pass the FAA exams and become licensed pilots upon completion of the program.  The programs are designed for students with no flying experience that desire to have a career in aviation.  Students can earn private pilot license and commercial pilot licenses through the program available.  Once students can complete the program they can fly for hire to earn the remainder of their flight hours to qualify for advanced licensing.  International students are also admitted to this program.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Costa Mesa, California
  • Cost: $1,188 and up
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII
  • Estimated Completion Time: 18 months to 24 months

18. Glendale Community College California      Points:  8

A public community college, Glendale Community College of California offers one of the most affordable pilot training programs in Southern California.  Students will study and complete all groundwork on campus with experienced instructors.  Students will be able to complete up to a commercial license by gaining the knowledge and passing the FAA exams.  Flight training is done at the Whiteman Airport Facility nearby.  Flight instructors are highly experienced with over 40,000 hour logged in a variety of professional aircraft operation services.  Students will also have access to a flight simulator on campus.  

At A Glance

  • Location: California
  • Cost: $46 per unit plus lab fees and flight hour fees
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, IR, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 12 months to 24 months

19. Reedley College        Points:  8

Reedley College is the only public college in California where the flying lab classes are a part of the college. This means Reedley College is the only public college where students can use federal financial aid and VA benefits to help cover the cost of the actual flying lab classes. Students accomplish all ground school and simulator courses on campus. Flight instruction is provided at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Students earn private pilot through Flight Instructor certificates in the program offered at Reedley College. Students graduate from the program ready to get their first pilot job as flight instructors upon competition of the program.    

At A Glance

  • Location: Reedley, California
  • Cost: $8,000 -$14,000 per semester (6 semesters including summers)
  • Pilot Certificates: Private, Instrument Rating, Commercial, Flight Instructor – Airplane
  • Endorsements: PVT ASEL, INST – Airplane, COM – ASEL, CFI-A
  • Estimated Completion Time: 24 months

20. Accelerated Flight Academy          Points:  7

Accelerated Flight Academy is a unique pilot training school that provides a high quality accredited 14 day pilot training program.  It is the only approved Transport Security Administration (TSA) provider in Asia.  Instructors focus on an intense training every day and prepare students for their checkride so they can earn their pilot license quickly.  Students will learn the coursework online through a proven elearning system that prepares them for the FAA exam.  Students seeking a commercial license can earn that within 115 days of intense study and flight hours.  Students will find their experience unique to them and their learning needs and goals.  Each course will be adapted to the students’ needs.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Signal Hill, California
  • Cost: Contact Accelerated Flight Academy for specific program pricing
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI. 
  • Estimated Completion Time: 2 weeks to 6 months

21. Aero Aviation Flight School         Points:  7

Aero Aviation Flight School provides quality flight training for individuals that are career minded and seeking to have a career in the aviation industry.  The aircraft and Certified Flight Instructors are specifically geared toward training students from the private pilot license to the Airline Transport Pilot License.  Students will pay as they go, there are no down payments or block payments for the programs. Students also have the opportunity to finance the cost of the flight programs to help them reach their goals in a timely manner.    

At A Glance

  • Location: Long Beach California
  • Cost: Contact Aero Aviation for cost of Desired Program
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, ATP
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4weeks to 12 months

22. American Aviation Academy    Points:  7

American Aviation Academy is both FAA and EASA certified which opens up many opportunities for professionals seeking to become international aviators.  Students can study to earn their private, commercial, single or multi engine pilots license.  American Aviation Academy also offers a unique EASA CPL/ATPL career path program that enables students to complete it within 16 months and they will also complete their IR conversion without needing to complete it in Europe.   There are also individualized programs for international students seeking to earn commercial licenses.  

At A Glance

  • Location: El Cajon, California
  • Cost: Contact AAA for cost of desired program
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, ATP
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 16 months

23. AFI Flight Training         Points:  7

AFI Flight Training has been preparing pilots for over 5 years in both the private sector and the commercial sector. The private pilot, instrument rating, and commercial pilot license programs are all approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.  This is a family owned and operated training school where instructors have a passion for aviation and share that with all who enter.  Many students have gone on to fly for airlines.  Students have 5 different aircraft to use for flight hours as well as a state of the art simulators.    

At A Glance

  • Location: Fullerton, California
  • Cost: $17,000 and up
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4weeks to 12 months

24. AFIT Accelerated Flight and Instrument Training       Points:  7

A leading provider of accelerated flight training programs, AFIT Accelerated Flight and Instrument Training provides students with highly experienced and trained professional flight instructors as well as technical specialists.  They also offer professional consulting services for the general aviation industry and more.  The Instrument Rating Course is guaranteed.  Students pay by the day for the courses.  Both helicopter and airplane training is offered.  Students can earn private pilot licenses, instrument rating, and more.

They specialize in training students with a senior instructor One on One every day. Each student will be the only student the instructor has the entire time they are training (AFIT is the only school that does this type training). AFIT has been in business for over 30 years and has 50 senior instructors with thousands of happy clients from around the world.

At A Glance

  • Location: 
  • Cost: $650 Per day, plus aircraft rental cost
  • Pilot Licenses: IFR, IFR Partner, Private Pilot, Instrument Rating, commercial helicopter, 
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 10 days and up

25. CFI Academy            Points:  7

Students of CFI Academy will learn the “why” behind safety rules and regulations as well as the why behind flight training.  Students retain and understand the information they learn to become Certified Flight Instructors and Multi-engine Instructors.  Students will receive both coursework training and flight hours as part of the course. Students will attend courses full time and then complete the program with a checkride and the examination for the given certification students are earning.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Acampo, California
  • Cost: $6,000 and up
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot License
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 2 week to 6 weeks

26. Accelerated Flight Training Center            Points:  7

Accelerated Flight Training Center (AFT Center) specializes in offering accelerated aviation training for students of all aviation levels.  For new students with little or no aviation experience will be taken through the entry level courses and flight hours with qualified instructors that will become their mentors.  The success students have in their program is due in large part  because of the personal attention they receive from caring instructors that have extensive experience in flight and instruction.  

At A Glance  

  • Location: Long Beach, California
  • Cost: Contact AFT Center
  • Pilot Licenses: Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Commercial Pilot
  • Endorsements:Fixed Wing, Helicopter, CFI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1 month to 18 months depending on program

27. Sunshine Flyers        Points:  7

Sunshine Flyers is part of 61 Flight School located in Auburn, California.  Students can take courses ranging from an introductory flight to earning their commercial pilot license.  Students will participate in coursework and flight instruction.  As students earn their flight hours they have 8 aircraft to choose from, each allowed for retinal use at a wet rate.  Rates for these aircraft range from $99 per hour to $290 per hour.  Students of Sunshine Flyers have the benefit of flying over mountains, cities, and the ocean due to the location in Auburn.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Auburn, California
  • Cost: $150 and up
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Sport, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks and up

28. California Aeronautical University           Points:  7

California Aeronautical University offers students a college like experience blended with their flight school and training.  Students will complete their groundwork in classrooms on campus with knowledgeable instructors.  The flight instruction and flight hours will be completed with experienced instructors with one of the aircraft available in their fleet.  Students will also have hours of experience in the state of the art simulators available on campus.  Students can also pursue an Aeronautics degree as well if they choose to take their education that route.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Bakersfield, California
  • Cost: Contact California Aeronautical University for cost of Desired Program
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, IR
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 12 months to 3 years

29. California Airways       Points:  7

California Airways offers both flight training and aircraft rentals.  Students can pursue a private pilot’s license or go on to complete the requirements for a commercial pilots license.  Many that earn a commercial license advance their education and experience to work for airlines.  The aviation goals of each student will determine what license they should earn and coursework they need to complete to pass the necessary FAA exams.  Students can also take the instrument rating course from California Airways.  Along with excellent instruction students can gain experience pilotin 12 aircraft available in the fleet.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Hayward, California
  • Cost: $230 up 
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, IR, Commercial
  • Endorsements: CFI, CFII, MEI, IR
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 16 months

30. Hayward Flight School      Points:  7

Hayward Flight School is a flight school for pilots designed and run by pilots, so students will be learning from and flying with experienced pilots.  Hayward offers courses ranging from private pilot license to ATP commercial multi-engine pilot license.  There are currently three aircraft for students to earn their flight hours with and gain necessary experience.  Students will be able to gain experience to meet their personal goals and career goals for those seeking to make aviation their career.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Hayward, California
  • Cost: Contact Hayward Flight School for Cost for Desired Program
  • Pilot Licenses: Private, Commercial, IR, Multi-Engine, ATP
  • Endorsements: CFi, CFII, MEI
  • Estimated Completion Time: 4 weeks to 16 months

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