Part 141 vs Part 61 Flight Schools – What Are The Differences?

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Interested in learning to fly? Researching flight schools? If you research enough schools, you may eventually run into the question of whether to fly at a Part 61 or Part 141 school. This article will explain the differences between Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools, and help you decide which one is right for you.

What “Parts” Are We Talking About?

When you hear discussion of a Part 61 or Part 141 school, the “part” part is referring to the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), Title 14. In layman’s terms, it’s federal law.

The CFRs, as defined by Wikipedia, is “the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States.”

There are many “Titles” to the CFRs, 50 to be exact (as of 2020). The Title that governs over “Aeronautics and Space” is Title 14. These are also known as the 14 CFR, or the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs)

Inside of 14 CFR, there are several “parts” of the regulations. In this case we are obviously referring to Part 141 and Part 61 of 14 CFR. Other well known parts are 91 and 135.

Differences Between Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools

The main difference is Part 141 schools have applied and received certification by the FAA for meeting certain standards of training as outlined in Part 141. This includes requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, facilities, and training curriculum. They are required to use a structured training program and syllabus approved by the FAA.

Part 61 flight schools make up the remainder of schools. This simply means they have not received certification (perhaps intentionally, by not seeking certification) for the requirements listed above for Part 141. Many flight schools do not become Part 141 schools because they find it impractical to qualify for the requirements set forth by the FAA.

Here are a few key points.

  • Part 141 certification ensures strict quality of training by the FAA, but offers students less flexibility than Part 61.
  • Part 141 certification for flight schools is voluntary.
  • Part 61 schools can be less rigid, more flexible, and offer training tailored to the individual student..
  • Part 61 training requires the same quality of airmanship and knowledge, but gives you more freedom in the way you receive your training.

Which Type of School is Better?

Naturally you may ask “which type of school is better?” I’m going to give the answer that you probably hate hearing. It depends.

You may be tempted to instantly think that a Part 141 school will naturally be better. Don’t assume this. Flight training is not a one size fits all scenario. Everybody has different training needs and preferences.

It’s highly likely that your small, local airport that offers flight instruction is a Part 61 operation. It may not be a school as much as it is an airport or fixed-base operator (FBO), that has flight instructors working there.

This doesn’t mean you wouldn’t or couldn’t get extremely high quality instruction from a Part 61 operation. Perhaps the most important point to make is that every student pilot, regardless of which type of training, must meet the same performance standards and aeronautical knowledge to become a certificated pilot.

There are various differences in pilot certification minimums between Part 61 and 141. For example, the number of flight hours required to become a Private Pilot under Part 141 is 35, but Part 61 requires 40 hours. This is most likely an insignificant matter since most pilots average 60-75 hours, according to the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.

Which Type of School Is Right For Me?

Obviously many factors will come into play in the decision of which flight school to choose for your training. Here are things to consider that have nothing to do with Part 61 vs Part 141.

  • What is your end goal? Do you intend to work for the airlines? Do you want to make a career out of aviation, or are you just in it for recreation?
  • Are you willing to relocate to receive your flight training? If you are a prospective college student, the answer may be yes. If you are just looking for a new hobby, the small local airport may be sufficient.
  • What is your budget for training?
  • What does your gut tell you about what is right for you?

If you are dead set on working for the airlines, and want to make a career out of aviation, a Part 141 MAY be better, but that is not a guarantee.If you want to become a weekend warrior, the local Part 61 flight school may be best. Again, there are exceptions to every rule.

A Part 141 school may not be close to where you live. If you are looking for a university style education, you may need to relocate to an actual university campus. However, that is not to say that some universities do not operate under Part 61, because they do. Some universities even offer both, like Purdue University.

I graduated from Indiana State University’s aviation program, and it operated under Part 61 at that time. It was an excellent program, and I enjoyed the flexibility it offered me to complete my training on my own terms and as the funds were available for the aircraft/instruction. In 2014 it received certification to become a Part 141 operation.

I’m sure it is still a top-notch flight school, but the fact that it was Part 61 made very little difference in my opinion. It is all about the people involved in the school that matters.

Do Airlines Prefer Part 141 or 61?

An airline is most likely not interested in whether you came from a Part 141 or Part 61 operation. They are most likely interested in the total package of what you can offer them in your experience and expertise.

The reasons for this are the same reasons I mentioned already. The airlines are going to know that you can receive a quality education and training in either type of flight school. They are looking at you, the individual, not just your schooling.

It’s true that some schools have placement programs, and arrangements with some airlines, but I know from personal experience that any reputable flight program will have people that have connections with the airlines. This is true even with Part 61 schools

One caveat. If you are serious about going to work for the airlines, I would recommend attending a university if possible. This transcends the 141 vs 61 question and becomes a matter of building your resume.

Examples of Each Type of School

You can find Part 141 schools any time by searching the FAA’s online database. Here are some examples of some of the most popular Part 141 flight schools.

  • ATP Flight Academy
  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Purdue University
  • Indiana State University

You may also find both, Part 141 and Part 61 operations in the AOPA Flight School Finder. Here are some examples of Part 61 operations I found just running random searches.

  • Birmingham Flight Center, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Intl Airport
  • Peak Aviation, Colorado Springs Municipal Airport
  • St. Louis Flight Training, LLC, St Louis Downtown Airport

There are hundreds more you can find if you start running searches in either of those two databases.


In conclusion, Part 141 schools are certified by the FAA as having met certain requirements regarding their personnel, equipment, maintenance, facilities, and training curriculum. Part 61 schools don’t have to meet these requirements, although pilots are still required to meet the same level of aeronautical skill and knowledge as Part 141 schools before becoming a certified pilot.

Part 61 schools can offer a more flexible training tailored to the individual student, rather than a one size fits all curriculum like Part 141 schools. Part 61 schools are more likely to be located at smaller airports, while Part 141 schools are more likely to be at colleges and universities. There are exceptions to every rule of course, but generally that is what you can expect.

How about you? Which school are you most interested in attending? Are you in a school right now? Comment below to tell us about it.

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