Pros and Cons of learning to fly at a big airport.

Pros and Cons of learning to fly at a big airport.

Choosing where to learn how to fly largely depends on where you live and the type of flying you plan on doing.  I consider a big airport as a class C (Charlie) airport which has a control tower.

Small Un-controlled Airport – Non-Towered

Porter County Regional Airport

If you only plan on flying locally or on short cross-country flights, you will probably be better off learning to fly at a smaller airport with no control tower.   At a small nontowered airport, you can taxi, take off and land at your own discretion and traffic is typically lighter but that is not always the case.  Lots of flight schools are located at smaller non-controlled airports and have a lot of training traffic. Small airports typically have lower fees and cheaper flight training costs which will save you some money. If you learn to fly out of a small airport, you will probably avoid flying into larger controlled airports because you will most likely lack the confidence to deal with ATC.

Big, Busy Controlled Airport – Towered Airport

Chicago Midway International Airport

If your goal is to become a commercial pilot, fly on long cross country flights, or fly for business, you’re probably better of learning to fly at a  bigger airport with a control tower.  Here are a few pros and cons of learning how to fly from a bigger controlled airport:

Pros

  • You’ll be more comfortable flying into busy, controlled airspace.
  • Your radio communication skill will be superb. 
  • You’ll know airport procedures inside and out.
  • Your knowledge of airport signs and markings will be much better.
  • Typically, ATC will provide separation from other aircraft if the workload permits.

Cons

  • Typically the training is more expensive at a larger airport.
  • You need to get permission from ATC before you can taxi/take off/land.
  • Your ground time could be a little longer if there is a lot of traffic ahead of you.
  • Stressful for new students as there is typically a lot more going on at a larger controlled airport.

I started flying from Chicago Midway AIrport which is a busy Class C controlled airport at the age of 14. It takes a little while to get used to the busy traffic and fast-paced ATC communications but eventually it becomes second nature. Once you learn to fly from a busy controlled airport, you’ll have the confidence to fly into any busy controlled airport/airspace.

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