Marion Military Institute

FAQ Flight

Frequently Asked Questions about MMI's Flight Training Program

CONTACT: COL Bill Hansen, USMC (Ret)
What are the advantages to having completed flight training while at MMI?
Many of our Service Academy Preparatory students are interested in a military career in aviation. The traditional process of a military academy cadet obtaining pilot training first involves an Initial Flight Screening (IFS) program which has historically been awarded after graduation. The assignment to IFS training is in itself very competitive. Once passing the IFS training requirements and having demonstrated a proclivity for flight, the cadet is then eligible to be considered for further training as a military pilot. One way for a cadet to indicate that he or she is competitive for military pilot training is to enter the academy with an FAA Private Pilot Certification (license). The same goes for cadets who are entering military service through ROTC or OSC programs. In doing so the cadet bypasses the IFS requirement which only demonstrates a proclivity for flight where an FAA pilot’s license demonstrates a higher standard in ability as a pilot. In the Navy’s case USNA upperclassmen are currently spending their own money to obtain outside FAA private pilot certification before graduation so that they can bypass the IFS hurdle and be considered as a very strong candidate for further military pilot training.

Who is providing the flight training?
MMI’s aviation partner is Selma Air, Inc., located just 20 miles from our home airport, Vaiden Field (A08), which is 8 miles south of Marion on Highway 5. Flight training will occur in two aircraft, a Cessna 150 and a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, the latter of which is a recent addition to our fleet of trainer aircraft through a generous charitable contribution by an ardent supporter of aviation training at MMI.

What can you tell me about the flight training?
Flight instruction occurs in two modes, ground school and in-flight training. In the previous two years, ground school (the academic piece) was acquired individually online using FAA-approved providers through electronic media (CD-DVD and on-line) as opposed to the traditional in-class instruction. The results of independent self-paced ground instruction have been significantly less than satisfactory. This year in lieu of self-paced computer-based training for ground school, MMI will offer 32 hours of classroom lecture-style ground instruction taught by FAA-certified instructors, in addition to providing electronic and hard-copy home study materials. The ground school will be conducted during the first semester and the required FAA knowledge exam (the culmination of the ground school) will administered at the end of the term. Passing the FFA-written exam (70%) is a critical milestone in the completion of the FAA private pilot’s license. Additionaly, the initial pre-solo phase of flight training will begin concurrently with the beginning of ground school. It is expected that most cadets will solo before Christmas break. Subsequent phases of flight training, to include cross country flying (50 miles or more), night flying, and introduction to instrument flight, will extend into second semester. Training flights will be individually tailored to each cadet’s schedule during afternoons throughout the week and on weekends. Flight instruction is given by highly experienced FAA-certified flight instructors (CFI) under Selma Air’s FAR Part 61 certification. Preflight briefs and post flight debriefs reinforce knowledge learned during ground school and inflight instruction. Both flight and ground instructors are always available to answer questions and provided one-on-one mentoring.
Will this add significant workload to an already busy schedule? I am concerned with being overloaded while my primary focus will be on core curriculum classes.
The average amount of time that a student pilot spends on aviation academics and in-flight training averages to about 3-4 hours/week. Many of our SAPs are also student athletes, all of whom have gone onto an academy appointment; spend far more time than 3-4 hours/week engaged in their respective sport. If anything, the flight school will actually help keep the students focused on their academics because the flight training is withheld if/when a student’s grades fall below a B average and reengaged when grades come back up. Once the cadets have arrived and gotten into a routine many of them tend to find plenty of time to take off during weekends to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, etc., and flight training tends to keep them in town, focused on their grades and focused on something that they really want do, learn to fly. Over 80% of last year’s flight training class was on the Dean’s and/or President’s Academic Achievement list.

What are the initial FAA requirements and what are the associated FAA fees?
FAA fees are: $85-$100 for a 3rd-class aviation medical exam/certificate which also serves as your student pilot certificate (same document). As an MMI flight training student you can obtain your 3rd class certificate from a local-area FAA-certified Medical Examiner. However, getting a 3rd class aviation medical exam/certificate completed before coming to Marion might be logistically easier for you. If there are medical issues that require documentation (e.g. medication related) you will not receive the certificate at the time of your medical exam. Instead you will have to wait until the needed documentation has cleared through the FAA medical examiner’s office and has been forwarded to the FAA for issue. An FAA certified aviation medical examiner in your area can be found online ( ). NOTE: The 3rd-class aviation medical exam is not to be confused with a DoDMERB physical exam that you may have already taken for one of the academies. They are not the same and serve different purposes. The FAA written knowledge exam given first semester will cost $150. Finally, the oral/practical private pilot check-ride will cost $350 and be paid directly to the FAA examiner.
Will I need any additional insurance for this program?
Typically insurance is not needed until you begin solo flight in the absence of a CFI. All flight schools have liability and damage insurance but that insurance typically has a $5,000 deductable. To cover the deductible you can get student pilot insurance through the Aircraft Owners & Pilot Association, AOPA (see Annual premiums are on the order of $150/year.
To retain a private license will I be required to fly in the future? I understand that military academy cadets get minimal flying time while at the academy.
A pilot certificate does not expire, however a pilot must maintain currency to exercise the private pilot privilege. To stay current the pilot has to have completed a bi-annual flight review with any current CFI which involves one hour of ground school updates and one hour of in-flight training for renewal of certification. That’s probably doable during vacation and summers for most military academy cadets. Should two years laps without a bi-annual review, the pilot simply must undergo a review before flying.

Is the tuition for this program due at the beginning of the program or over time?
Terms of payment are typically “pay as you go”, $110/ hour for the Cessna 150 and/or $125/hour for the Cessna 172 and $39/hour for the CFI. That said, we ask that interested students make a $500 deposit to reserve a seat in the class. Please provide a check ($500) made payable to Selma Air and send it to Advancement Office (Marion Military Institute, 1101 Washington Street, Marion, AL 36756). The $250 of the deposit will go toward ground school tuition and all study materials. Once the deposit is received, COL Bill Hansen will register the student in the class and forward the check to Selma, Inc. The remaining $250 of the deposit will be applied toward your flying account. Many MMI students set up local bank accounts at one of two banks here in town once they arrive, West Alabama Bank & Trust or Marion Bank and Trust.

What are the components of the MMI-Selma Air Initial Flight Instruction program?
MMI-Selma Air IFI includes 32 hours of classroom ground school with study materials, 23 hours of dual flight instruction, 20 hours of pre-flight and post-flight briefings, , review for the FAA written exam and taking the exam, access to ten Microsoft flight simulators at MMI, a pattern work solo, an area flight maneuvers solo and a cross-country solo (cross country is defined as a flight of at least 50 nautical miles with a landing and a full stop at the destination site plus the return flight the same day). The in-flight instruction takes place at Vaiden Field (A08) which is 8 miles from the MMI campus.
What are the requirements for an FAA private pilot certification?
  • Minimum 40 hours (hrs.) total flight time, the first 23 hours are included in the IFI program.
  • 20 hours of dual flight time (with instructor) which includes but is not limited to:
    • 3 hrs. of cross-country flight training
    • 3 hrs. at night with 10 takeoffs and landings
    • 100 nautical mile (nm.) night cross-country flight
    • 3 hrs. of instrument training
    • 3 hrs. preparing for the FAA check ride
  • 20 hrs. of solo flight time
    • 10 hrs. of solo flight time.
    • 5 hrs. of cross-country flying which includes a 150 nm cross-country flight.
What is the sequence of flight training sequence for VFR private pilot license (PPL)?
  • Pre-solo dual instruction
  • Solo (an experience you'll never forget!)
  • Advanced maneuvers and cross-country flying
  • Solo cross-country flight
  • Instrument and night flying
  • 150 nm. cross-country flight
  • Review for the FAA written test
  • Pass FAA written knowledge test
  • Review for FAA check ride
  • FAA check ride
How much does it cost for a private pilot’s license (PPL)?
While the FAA minimums to get your PPL are 30 hours dual and 10 hours solo flight, not everyone acclimates equally to operating an airplane in three-dimensional space with simultaneous multitasking of radio communications, situational awareness and positional awareness, emergency planning, etc. Factoring in additional FAA fees, ground school materials, headset, flight bag and many of the other cockpit related ancillaries you can safely expect to pay between $7,500 - $9,000 total. The IFI curriculum is a sub-set of the PPL training and applies 100% toward your expected expenses for obtaining the PPL.

To get more information about the MMI Flying Tigers Club and Flight Instruction program see our Facebook page.