Flight Training FAQs

Flight TRAINING FOR AIRPLANE and helicopter PILOTS for nearly 20 years

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.  The typical flight training time range we see is 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.  While there are many paths a commercial pilot can take to build flight time, 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 along the way. Leading Edge predominately hires graduates who complete 100 percent of their flight training with us. Our instructors fly an average of 70 hours per month and typically are 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.  

How Much Does The Flight Training Program Cost?

This answer is very dependent on the individual, their experience and aptitude.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates a minimum number of flight hours that must be completed for each rating.  IMPORTANT NOTE: you should NEVER budget for flight training based on the FAA minimums!  Why?  Flight training is high individualized based on the student.  Everyone progresses and learns at different rate, and it may take one student longer or shorter to complete a rating 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 the amount of time a student spends in the air or on the ground with their instructor. The best way to reduce the cost is to train consistently each week, spend plenty of time on self-study, and come prepared for each lesson.   

For estimates on the helicopter program, click here.

For estimates on the fixed wing program, click here 

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 programs 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 Meritize. This financial student lender looks at previous academic and military achievements, along with your credit score, to determine eligibility for student loans. These loans only cover the costs of flight training. 

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

What flight ratings will i receive?

Students in our professional pilot program earn their Private, Instrument, Commercial, Certified Flight Instructor, and Certified Flight Instructor Instrument ratings.  At that point they are eligible to be hired 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.

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 show 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 Associates in Applied Science along with all their flight ratings in two years.  Students wishing to obtain a bachelor’s degree have the option of transferring to either Oregon Institute of Technology or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University upon completing the COCC program. 


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 a student who wants to add a rating, get some specialized training, or 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 along with 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 advising regarding using your benefits at the college, please 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. Please contact launch@flybend.com to setup a time to learn about your options. 


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.  Training is guided by our FAA approved training syllabus and you will have progress checks as part of each rating.  This is to ensure that training quality and consistency is within our standards and to ensure you are adequately prepared to advance.   

Your flight instructor will tell you what to study and prepare in advance of each lesson.  The studying you do on your own is a critical part to your success in flight training.  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 either 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. 

Will I be hired as an instructor at Leading edge?

Leading Edge gives first preference to hiring our own 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 a FAA approved Part 141 program. Students completing 100% of their training at LEFA are given the first opportunity to interview for flight instructor positions.

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 safety 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 who are under 205 lbs can safely operate the R22 with an instructor in our operating environment. A student who is 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 effectively progress in their career. 

 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 with you. 

Is Housing Available?

We encourage students to explore all their housing options as they make the move to Bend. Leading Edge currently owns and operates two pilot houses with a total of 16 single occupancy rooms. Residents must be training at least 3x/week at Leading Edge. Contact us for current availability.

What medical certificate is required?

You should obtain a first– or second-class medical certificate before entering the program to ensure that you will be able to 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) 

How do I get started?
  • FOR LEADING EDGE: Contact our Launch team at 541-383-8825 or launch@flybend.com Prior to training we will collect several documents, including our enrollment application, photo ID, and your passport or birth certificate.  Prior to staring the solo phase of flight training you will need to have both a FAA Medical Certificate and a FAA Student Pilot Certificate.  


    FOR CENTRAL OREGON COMMUNITY COLLEGEContact the Aviation Advisor for your preferred airframe to receive the requirements for program entry: