flight training program

FAQs

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HOW LONG TO A PROFESSIONAL PILOT CAREER?

Students in our Professional Pilot Program train with us from Private Pilot through Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) ratings. This takes an average of 18 months to complete. We see a typical flight training time range between 12 and 24 months and 200-250 hours of flight time. Most professional aviation jobs require at least 1,000-1,500 flight hours. There are many paths a commercial pilot can take to build flight time, but the most efficient is to work as a CFI.  

Additionally, the best way to truly learn your craft is to teach it. Our instructors use their immediate training and experience to instruct the next class of professional pilots, gaining flight hours and completing advanced ratings. Leading Edge predominately hires graduates who complete 100 percent of their flight training with us. Our instructors fly 50-70 hours per month and are typically ready to advance to their next aviation job in 18-24 months. 

After gaining the required flight hours, our CFIs take advantage of Leading Edge’s pathways and industry connections to move into the next stage of their careers. This could be a regional airline, a tour company in the Grand Canyon, a floatplane operator in Alaska– and so much more. Leading Edge graduates find their dream jobs as high-time, high-performing fire, medical, airline, or search and rescue pilots.

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HOW MUCH DOES THE FLIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM COST?

This answer is very dependent on the individual, their experience, and their aptitude. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates a minimum number of flight hours for each rating. IMPORTANT NOTE: you should NEVER budget for flight training based on the FAA minimums! Why? Flight training is highly individualized based on the student. 

Everyone progresses and learns at a different rate, and it may take one student longer or shorter to complete a certificate than another student. As you reach proficiency at each stage of training, your Certified Flight Instructor will endorse you to move you forward. Each flight lesson is billed based on time spent in the air or on the ground with your instructor. The best way to reduce the cost is to train each week consistently, spend plenty of time on self-study, and come prepared for each lesson.

For estimates on the helicopter program, see our Helicopter Financing page and our Helicopter Program Pricing

For estimates on the fixed-wing program, see our Airplane Financing page and our Airplane Program Pricing.

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WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PAY FOR FLIGHT TRAINING?

The cost to become a professional aviator is an investment in your future. You should look at all your options and find the one that meets your needs. 

 Financing through a college degree program like Central Oregon Community College’s Aviation Program (COCC) offers the most options, such as low-rate Federal student loans, private loans, Federal Pell Grants, and scholarships. Students certifying financial need through COCC can also receive housing and living costs.  

 Students attending Leading Edge directly can apply for student loans through our lending partners, including Sallie Mae and Meritize. Sallie Mae offers students the Smart Option Student Loan, which can be used for all school-certified expenses. With a Meritize loan, you can get credit for your merit and potentially improve your loan options by sharing your academic history or military background. You can learn more by visiting either our Airplane Financing or Helicopter Financing pages. 

It is also worth exploring the plethora of aviation scholarships available.

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WHAT FLIGHT RATINGS/CERTIFICATES WILL I RECEIVE?

Students in our professional pilot program earn their Private, Instrument rating, Commercial, Certified Flight Instructor, and Certified Flight Instructor Instrument certificates. At that point, they are eligible for hire as a flight instructor. While instructing, it is common to work towards your advanced ratings: multi engine commercial and multi engine instructor in the case of airplane; turbine, external load, night vision goggle, and mountain flying in the case of helicopter.

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CAN I GET MY DEGREE WHILE I TRAIN? SHOULD I?

Yes! While not all aviation employers require a degree, it can open additional opportunities and shows a level of commitment and education greater than those without an aviation degree. Here in Bend, the Central Oregon Community College Aviation Program (COCC) allows students to earn an Associate in Applied Science and flight ratings in two years. In addition, students wishing to obtain a bachelor’s degree can transfer to either Oregon Institute of Technology or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University upon completing the COCC program.

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WHAT WILL MY VETERAN BENEFITS COVER?

Using and getting the most out of the VA benefits you have earned can be complicated and confusing. 

Leading Edge Flight Academy is an approved vocational training school where you can use up to $14,881.59 per year towards training. This works great for students who want to add a rating or get some specialized training and for students who have other funding sources to pay the difference. 

Aviation degree programs are offered at several colleges across the country– however, not all are created equal with the same access to VA benefits. Here in Bend, Central Oregon Community College’s Aviation Program offers in-house aviation degree programs for both Airplane and Helicopter. In these two-year programs, you will earn your Associate of Applied Science in Aviation and your flight certificates and ratings. If you have 100% eligibility under the Post 9-11 GI Bill ®, 100% of your flight training and tuition fees are included. You are also eligible to receive a monthly housing allowance and a yearly book stipend. For official advice regarding using your benefits at the college, don’t hesitate to contact vetsed@cocc.edu.  

We would be happy to discuss your specific situation and help you utilize your Veteran Education Benefits to meet your goals. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with launch@flybend.com to set up a time to learn about your options.

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WHAT IS FLIGHT TRAINING LIKE?

After enrollment, you will be assigned a flight instructor that will work one-on-one with you during each certificate and rating. All students in the professional pilot program are put on a recurring flight schedule with at least three training events each week. Our FAA-approved training syllabus guides training, and you will have progress checks as part of each rating. This ensures that training quality and consistency stays within our standards and you are adequately prepared to advance.   

Your flight instructor will tell you what to study and prepare in advance of each lesson. However, studying independently is a critical part of your flight training success. We encourage students to practice and learn on the ground many times first to make their time in the air even more valuable.   

A training event is a flight, ground lesson, or simulator session. Standard training flights are scheduled in two-hour blocks; students should allot around three hours total time for each flight. It is advised to arrive early and complete pre-flight activities before your flight block starts, so you get the most time in the air.

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WILL I BE HIRED AS AN INSTRUCTOR AT LEADING EDGE?

Leading Edge gives first preference to hiring our students as instructors. Our graduates are familiar with the Bend airspace, Leading Edge’s policies, and procedures and have experience training under the structure of an FAA-approved Part 141 program. Students completing 100% of their training at LEFA are given the first opportunity to interview for flight instructor openings.

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ARE THERE PHYSICAL SIZE OR WEIGHT LIMITATIONS FOR STUDENTS?

All aircraft have limitations. Part of what you will learn while completing your training is how to operate each aircraft within these limitations. The most restrictive of our aircraft is the Robinson R22, which is the most common helicopter in the flight training industry. 

Helicopter students under 205 lbs can safely operate the R22 with an instructor in our operating environment. A student over that weight limit could train in the Robinson R44 helicopter. However, they would not be able to gain the experience necessary in the R22 to be authorized as an instructor in that helicopter. This limits their opportunity to gain the hours necessary to progress in their career effectively. 

Our primary airplane trainer is the Cessna 172, also very common for initial training in the industry. This aircraft has a greater payload margin that can accommodate most students. 

If you are concerned about your physical size (big or small), we are happy to discuss it with you.

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IS HOUSING AVAILABLE DURING FLIGHT TRAINING?

We encourage students to explore all their housing options as they move to Bend. Leading Edge currently owns and operates two pilot houses with 16 single occupancy rooms to help give students an opportunity to find roommates and a more permanent place to live. Residents must be training at least 3x/week at Leading Edge. Contact us for current availability.

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WHAT MEDICAL CERTIFICATE IS REQUIRED?

You should obtain a first– or second-class medical certificate before entering the program to ensure that you can pursue a career in commercial aviation. For a list of doctors (AME) who can issue FAA medical certificates, please visit Designee Locator Search (faa.gov)

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HOW DO I GET STARTED?

Contact our Launch team at (541)383-8825 or launch@flybend.com. Before training, we will collect several documents, including our enrollment application, photo ID, and your passport or birth certificate. Before starting the solo phase of flight training, you must have both an FAA Medical Certificate and an FAA Student Pilot Certificate.

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Leading Edge was where I started my aviation career. They gave me to tools necessary to instruct, fly in rural Alaska, and finally become an Airline pilot. Training was always fun and exciting, but at the same time challenging. As a veteran, it is unbelievable that in two years, I got a degree as well as all my fixed wing ratings at no out-of-pocket expense. I always think to myself, “Why doesn’t everyone do this?

Clint Sheppard

Clint Sheppard
Becoming an airline pilot has always been my ultimate goal, and Leading Edge provided the best opportunity to build my flight experience up to the minimums required by the airlines. I grew up watching airplanes fly into the Bend airport, and flying over my hometown on a daily basis is one of the highlights of my career so far. As a SkyWest pilot, I now find myself flying into many of the same airports I first visited during my time at Leading Edge!

Garrett Ross

Garrett Ross
COCC and Leading Edge helped get me to where I am today. The instructors, working with management, always wanted the best. It’s the group of people you work with that makes a company great, and at Leading Edge the camaraderie within the organization was awesome. That is what I saw as a student and an instructor. I really liked my time there and enjoyed the fact that everyone was tracking the same goal. I would recommend anyone to go fly there because there is a distinct difference in the knowledge and ambition coming out of this school that I haven’t seen from other pilots from different schools.

Andrew Camara

Andrew Camara
This is one big happy family of mechanics, pilots, and instructors. I’m very excited to become a professional pilot at Leading Edge Aviation and to invest in the rest of my aviation career.

Katani Best

Katani Best
Air Methods Corporation provides advanced air ambulance services as a flying ICU (Intensive Care Unit). The crew consists of one nurse, one paramedic, and the pilot. We respond at the request of EMS to rural scenes, and also transfer patients between hospitals. Our base in located in Osage Beach, Missouri. Air Methods has over 330 bases in 48 states. The education I received from Leading Edge and COCC prepared me in all aspects of flying, from air traffic-controlled environments to rural off-airport operations in the Cascade Mountain range. Flying in the mountains of Oregon prepared me perfectly to be an air ambulance pilot (now) and a bush pilot in Alaska (my previous 4 years experience). 

Will Lawrence

Will Lawrence
I work for JR Helicopters as an OAS-carded fire and short haul helicopter pilot flying AS-350b3 Astars. I fight fires and do search-and-rescue for Sequoia National Park in California. In the winter months, I am on-call for Part 135 commercial work. I couldn’t have asked for better training than I received at Leading Edge Aviation and COCC. They prepared me above-and-beyond with both my flight training and knowledge-base for my career in aviation. On top of that, I got to do it all in amazing Central Oregon!

Jordan Kunhmuench

Jordan Kunhmuench
It’s become part of who I am and I will never lose the desire and love I have for it.” Alice loves the freedom and adventure it brings! She wants to make flying into her career and inspire more women around the world! She highly encourages any women’s curiosity in aviation to give it a try!  She says, “Being a female pilot is empowering and rewarding!

Alice Reed

Alice Reed
I’ve obtained my Private certificate, Instrument rating, and Commercial certificate. I went on to obtain my CFI/CFII, flying as an instructor and running Part 91 tours through the end of my training program. By the time I graduated, I was interested in using my experience to pursue a few different career paths. From Grand Canyon helicopter tours to working off-shore and gas or utility operations, the sky is truly the limit for COCC/LEFA graduates.

Levi Rogers

Levi Rogers
That job really inspired me to pursue a career as a pilot. I started flight school at Leading Edge in 2016. I felt like I was getting a late start with my career and didn’t want to take on a lot of debt, so I worked my winters in Antarctica to save money and spent the summer finishing a rating. I’ve been so happy with my flight training at Leading Edge and all of the instructors who have helped me along the way.  

Becca Voltin

Becca Voltin
After completing my flight training and instructing at LEA, I got the opportunity to fly tours in EC 130s and AS 350’s in the Grand Canyon. Those experiences prepared me for the 2020 fire season, where I am now fighting fire in Central Oregon.

Tori Palmer

Tori Palmer
Leading Edge Flight Academy, in partnership with Central Oregon Community College, is very happy to announce the new Instrument Rating Scholarship. We are excited to be joining the list of Whirly Girl contributors and help advance women pilots in the industry. The recipient will receive the required training for a helicopter instrument rating, gaining the invaluable skills necessary to become a better, safer pilot. At Leading Edge, we instill our values of safety and professionalism with each student we graduate through a course; helping the aviation community grow, one success story at a time. Director of Flight School Operations

Nicole Wolf

Nicole Wolf
I wanted to do something that challenged myself. Do something interesting, something that would benefit me for the rest of my life.

Jackson Jukin

Jackson Jukin
While pursuing my Private Pilot Certificate, I tried out three different flight schools that either closed their doors for good or wasn’t the right fit. LEFA was one of the few schools that could honestly stand by their GI Bill program. Their instructors accelerated my training and helped me achieve CFII in 9 months. Finding a good flight school is hard! I’ve talked to so many students recently that have been failed by poorly operated schools that don’t hold up their promises. ???????? (Tori Palmer a former student/instructor is now a Contract Fire Pilot for Helicopter Express!)

Tori Palmer

Tori Palmer
Leading Edge Flight Academy helped me get to where I am now in many ways!  First while a student I worked Line Service and then in Dispatch where I learned aircraft scheduling, maintenance coordination and the importance of ground support. Then when hired as a flight instructor I had great mentors that all taught me the valuable information that I now use flying every day!

Mario Armendariz

Mario Armendariz
Leading Edge is known for its diversity and high standards. Not only did they give me the skill set needed to pursue my career, LEFA helped pave the path to my first turbine transition job – one of many steps needed to get me to where I am today.

Twila Contreras

Twila Contreras
I can always depend on Leading Edge’s high standards to provide quality pilots that excel within Papillon.

Tyler Carver, Papillons Chief Pilot

Tyler Carver, Papillons Chief Pilot
It was a really fun experience to be able to help ferry the MD500 across the country and fly through extensive airspace. It’s one of those things that, as an instructor, you always talk about and teach but not everyone has done it. I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity. It’s definitely something I look forward to passing on to another person one day. It was nice to fly one of the coolest helicopters around too, so I can’t complain!

Cody Davis

Cody Davis
When I started flying, the college and the flight provider laid out a plan for me—where I was gonna start and where I wanted to end up… 3.5 years later, I’m going to the airlines, which is exactly where I wanted to be when I started.

Jake Edgerly

Jake Edgerly
Instructing at LEFA for 2.5 years not only got me the flight hours and experience necessary to make the next step in my career, but made the transition to flying bigger/faster aircraft easier. LEFA’s safety oriented, fast paced and professional program helped me sharpen valuable skills that have been necessary to meet the high safety and punctuality standards in the corporate pilot industry.

Cullen Foss

Cullen Foss
Leading Edge provided me with the exceptional training that prepared me for an awesome career as a professional aviator. The kicker is that you get to train in the dynamic and gorgeous area that is central Oregon! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to fly at Leading Edge and choose aviation as my career!

Adam Mitchell

Adam Mitchell
After instructing I got the opportunity to work in Alaska, delivering parts and supplies to a remote gold mine. It helped pave the way to land my current job at a 135 operation. I fly C207s into the local villages delivering cargo and passengers in the Yukon Delta where driving is not always an option. It’s always good to maintain relationships in the aviation community because you never know who’s going to help you get to the next step in your career– or who you may help!

Dayne Schafer

Dayne Schafer
Leading Edge has been a great stepping stone for me to transition from military aviation into the commercial world. I did a lot of long IFR flights, in a large multi-engine aircraft, utilizing crew resource management and operating under military rules. Leading Edge allowed me to experience VFR flying out of a busy uncontrolled field, in a tiny/simple plane, utilize single pilot resource management, and get spooled up on the FARs as they apply to general/commercial aviation. Without the opportunity to experience this first hand as I did, and then pass that knowledge on to my students, I’d still be trying to wrap my head around the differences between military/commercial aviation. 

Brad

Brad
As a First Officer, I assist Captains in the operation of our CRJ fleet; we get to fly the 200, 700, and 900 variants to all parts of the country! As a Procedures Instructor, I teach new hires how to apply what they learn from Ground School to successfully accomplish a regular gate to gate flight. The foremost impact of my time at Leading Edge was getting to train and work alongside some of the sharpest and kindest individuals one could…I learned a staggering amount both personally and professionally. They are all inspiring and motivating to keep oneself improving and growing, which is arguably the most important habit any pilot can develop.

Steven Crowe

Steven Crowe
I moved to Bend, OR after I retired from the Navy to pursue my passion of becoming a professional pilot.  Even though I was a relatively junior instructor with just a handful of CFI experience, I was hired by Leading Edge Flight Academy. Over the past two years I’ve  had the opportunity to grow and hone my skills as a pilot and ultimately assume the title and responsibilities of Lead CFI and Check Instructor. Flying in Central Oregon presents unique challenges and opportunities for young students and their instructors. Pilots are presented with real-world flying scenarios that can teach them valuable lessons about flying safely while executing sound decision making skills.  I had the pleasure of having Nick as one of my first students when I started teaching at Leading Edge. It has been very rewarding to see him (and others) earn their pilot wings and become instructors as well! As I move on to a career in the airlines I reflect on my time at Leading Edge and am thankful for the amazing people I have had the opportunity to work with.

Andrew Reischauer

Andrew Reischauer