Warnock, C. (2014) 1,600 students worldwide take online flight classes Daily Herald, April 5

“Yeah, you’ll be telling me next that you can learn to fly a plane online – what, you can?!”

Not only that, you can get a Bachelor of Science in Aviation from the Utah Valley University, Orem, the largest public university in the state of Utah. The program has 200 students studying on campus, and the other 1,600 studying online. The program enables students to get a private aviation license, an instrument license and even a commercial pilot’s license. The 1,600 students who take classes online do their actual flying hours in airports local to them, so it’s only the theory part that is done online (although there are an increasing number of flight simulation programs now available as well, for those interested).

I have a special interest as I also have a private pilot’s license – yes, that’s me with my plane, a Cessna 172. It took me over 30 hours of night classes to get through my theory classes, and I would love to have been able to have taken that part online at the time, as it meant two hours driving from home to the airport and back for each lesson.

I’m still flying and in 2008 I flew across Canada from coast to coast (Tofino to Sydney, Nova Scotia) and back again as part of the Century Flight Club’s celebration of 100 years since the first flight in Canada. The photo below os of Black Tusk mountain, near Whistler, and was taken by my grandson, Marley, who was 14 at the time.



  1. That’s a sensible approach — theory in the (online) classroom and the practice where it needs to happen. As I read on an engineer’s blog somewhere: “Theory without practice makes more sense in theory than in practice”. Ideally, the two are taught in tandem, with the theory and practice supporting one another. However. I can imagine that we could find a course (online or off) that deals with theory and another (offline) course or informal activity that supports the practice. It makes so much sense to learn how to fly an airplane in a real airplane, taking off from a real airport. Why, then, do we have so many grounded, place-based courses that promise to teach people how to navigate cyberspace?

  2. Even they done only the theory part online, I still feel that the 100% offline class would match this aviation class than online. How do you feel when you know that your flight captain optained his license from online class?

  3. Tony,

    In 1977 I obtained my private pilot licence through a Cessna flight training program. The ground school was self-study of the texts along with watching filmstrips and listening to audio cassettes. I don’t recall an opportunity to take the filmstrips and cassettes home, but it was easy enough to do before my flight lessons. An important component, though, was the willingness of my instructor to provide tutorial assistance. He was a new instructor with few students, so he spent extra time answering questions without charge.

    I went on to do my commercial the next year in a classroom, with no other options available that I recall. Sadly, I did not keep up my flying and did not renew a number of years ago. Still, it was a great experience. My commercial cross-country was 41.9 hours, from Brampton, Ontario, to Edmonton, Alberta (for a job interview), and return, including stops in many Canadian and US airports.


  4. Hi Dr Tony Bates,I always wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid..I red about yo school and it shines a ray of opportunity to me..please help me learn how to fly online.. Iam currently working as a cargo porter at Jacksons international airport Papua New Guinea…please help me register so I can start early next year 2017…tnx for your consideration..

    • Hi, Clarence
      You will have to go to the web-site of the university offering this program: Then click on prospective student and follow the links from their to admissions. The university does take foreign students for the online program but read carefully their admission requirements, find out what the tuition fees are and what possible scholarships or grants you might be eligible for. This may require a phone call to the admissions office or counsellor.
      Good luck and let me know how you get on


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