A person wanting to begin flight training in Ottawa is prepared to spend in the neighbourhood of $10,000, and it only makes sense to get the best deal and the best experience.
A Google search for "ottawa flight school" returns a handful of operators in the Ottawa area, including the Ottawa Flying Club (OFC), Ottawa Aviation Services (OAS), and the Rockcliffe Flying Club (RFC). I began flying at the OFC, but switched to OAS. I have personally dealt with only these two, though, so the rest of this post only deals with them. (Side note: there used to be a Carp Flying Club, but a couple years ago it was absorbed into the OFC)
Tables are pretty, so let's start with one that simply compares the two schools on even terms.
|As of Oct '13||OFC||OAS|
|Aircraft Types & Rental Cost (/hr)||Cessna C150 ($133)
Cessna C172 ($172)
Beech Duchess BE76 ($269)
|Diamond DV20-A ($130)
Diamond DA40 ($185)
Cessna C172 ($145)
Grob G115C ($150)
Piper Seneca II ($270)
|Instructor Cost (/hr)||$52||$50|
|Membership Cost (/yr)||Student: $75
|Online Booking System||Yes||Yes|
|Recency Requirements||< 100 hours: 30 days
> 100 hours: 60 days
|Flight of 1 hour duration within last 30 days|
Okay, so now that the basics are out of the way, a little bit of "comparison beyond tables" is next. The OAS has a definite advantage in terms of aircraft; for instance the Grob is fully qualified for aerobatics, and the Katana goes far beyond any Cessna trainer out there. (Update November 2015: the OAS no longer uses any Katanas, so the advantage is gone) The hourly rates for planes and instructors between the two schools cannot be compared perfectly, so I'll leave that out. Speaking of money, though...the OFC is a "club", and well, members do have to pay up. OAS on the other hand brand themselves as a "flight school" and require less commitment from their members. This translates to free membership.
The OFC partnered with Algonquin College to offer a one-year diploma in Aviation Management a few years ago, and has since devoted a large percentage of its resources to properly tracking students through their program. Unfortunately, private members who are not enrolled in the diploma are at a disadvantage because aircraft are usually booked solid for a couple weeks in advance. In 2011 or 2012 (I forget), OAS also began taking on Algonquin students to manage the overflow from OFC. This resulted in decreased plane availability there as well.
Despite the OFC's aircraft being very old (several more than two decades), the equipment is occasionally improved. For instance, a couple planes have been outfitted with improved GPS/NAV combo units. Conversely, at least one DA20 at OAS has a 1990-era GPS unit, not too impressive.
I called this post a comparison rather than a review of two flight schools because the outcome is relatively neutral, and a review can't be neutral - it has to come out and blurt either "this rocks!" or "this sucks!". A comparison leaves the final decision up to the reader, and that's what I wanted to do. I encourage you to call both of them and see what works best for you and your plans.
Updated in October 2013 and November 2015