As a recent "Zero-to-Hero" graduate from Coast in San Marcos, I'll just start this topic thread. Feel free to post any general questions, or add comments, concerns about the San Marcos location on this thread. If you think you need a separate topic altogether, then start a new topic outside of this thread.
Some things I can tell soon-to-be students are...
Training: If at all possible, the best way to show up is with all your ratings so all you need to do is time build. There are multiple reasons for this, but the simplest is that you're only stuck in San Marcos for the time you need to build your PIC time. Going through PPL, IFR, time building and CMEL can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months depending on weather, aircraft availability and instructor availability. Also, one recurrent issue students are facing with getting their ratings is that Coast San Marcos likes to use a certain DPE for a majority of their checkrides and this DPE is known for failing students for the smallest reasons. I've heard he has a 48% pass rate and I wouldn't be surprised if it were lower. Failing a checkride can set you back for as long as a week while you wait for a DPE to become available again and at the same time, you'll have to pay out of pocket for the re-check. My sole reason for going through the whole program was the 23K training bonus that Envoy would pay since I couldn't afford to pay for all of the flight training on my own. Another reason I decided to do it was housing cost.
Housing: Unless you can find a better deal than what the current housing situation is, I recommend staying in the student apartments. Right now students are sharing 3 bedroom apartments at the Savannah Club at a rate of $175 a week for a shared bedroom to $210 to have a bedroom all to themselves. Before moving to San Marcos, I was paying about $1400 a month, so paying half that at San Marcos sweetened the pot for me. The apartments are fully furnished with their own washers and dryers and the apartment complex has a small gym and a small pool. Parking is first come first serve, but there are covered parking stalls for an additional monthly charge. I have nothing bad to say about my experience in the apartments and I'm glad I stayed there because I was able to study with my roommates (or other students whose apartments were in the same complex) pick their brains about the next course since they were ahead of me, or it just made it easier to have someone to go hang out, grab a drink, movie or dinner with.
Instructors: My PPL and CMEL instructors were both Envoy Cadets. Great guys and surprisingly good instructors who knew their shit. Unfortunately, my Instrument instructor was more of an evaluator than an instructor and I had a hard time getting through instruments with him. While I had the option to switch instructors, I think it was my personality that kept me from switching out. One thing to watch out for is the flight time or the ground instruction that you are being charged for. One of my classmates noted that he was charged for ground instruction a few times when he never actually sat down in a classroom. As for flight time, each flight lesson/ training event is allotted a certain time to fly and that's how they come up with the cost estimate that you're charged for to begin with. If you fly over it, that could eventually eat into your training bonus and worst case result in you having to pay out of pocket for follow-on flight lessons.
Aircraft: San Marcos has a lot of Cessna 172S's and a few R models to use for PPL, IFR and time building. All are G1000 equipped and I've never had an issue flying them except for one time when the G1000 database wasn't updated. The PA-44 Piper Seminole is used for multi-engine training and they've only got about four worth flying and between them is a mix of six packs, Avidynes and Garmin430's. If at all possible, fly 583ND or 581ND which are the best two to out of the bunch. For checkrides, students get to reserve any plane they want to us which usually means that the best plane in the fleet is sometimes unavailable for normal training or time building. Aircraft are usually pre-assigned for normal training and time building, but sometimes if you're nice to the receptionists they might be able to give you the plane of your choice if you're not happy with your pre-assigned one.
Location: San Marcos is a nice college town, so I found plenty of good places to eat, drink and shop. There's a large factory outlet shopping center about a three miles from the apartments that has a Bose outlet which is was convenient because I was able to buy my A20's there instead of buying them online. There's a good movie theater called the Spot where you can order food and drinks from your reclining seat in the theater. Target, Walmart and HEB are all close by and located between the airport and apartments so it's easy to knock out your grocery shopping before or after your flight. One bonus for me was that there's an In-N-Out not too far from the freeway exit going to the airport. Apparently, floating the river is also a thing to do here, but I never got the chance to do it and didn't want to be the creepy loner floating down the river drinking by myself.
I hope this helps, but hopefully this info becomes obsolete. It would be so much better if Envoy opens up their RTP (like some others have) and gave people the option of where they do their training at. I know it sucked for some of my classmates who had to leave their families for the few weeks or months and it also was a pain for some of my classmates who were in the Guard and Reserves who had to go back to their home state to drill. Overall, I had a good experience, but if I could do anything different at the very least I'd get my PPL and IFR ratings before coming.
Like everything else in this business, things change and what I'm talking about today could change in the next week or two, but I hope it helps in some way. Thanks for reading, that's all I got for now.
Wow! Outstanding post. Thank you for taking the time to type all that out. I agree with you - I think the "ideal" RTP is one that allows you to go anywhere...or at least a larger variety of schools. Not a fan personally of the single-school contract. It's too limiting and with no competition, that school (not necessarily Coast) can do whatever they want.
No pay during the RTP portion of training at any of the airlines. Another reason to work on your ratings before terminal leave.
I was able to get my PPL and instrument ticket before I started terminal leave and then finish my time building and CMEL while still on leave. I will also start at my airline before the Army pay checks stop!
I started here at Coast on 23 August with just 15 hours of PIC and my ASEL. I finished the Instruments portion in about 7 days total. I need 60 hours of PIC and the CMEL. So I hope to be done in 3 weeks. If I can do that, then my total time would be about 8 weeks.
Roger, the DPE in question is no longer going to be used. The instructors I have have had and interacted with have been good. They currently only have 3 instructors. The business side of things not so good. They have known about the “expiration date” of the instructors and haven’t brought anyone new in. Not sure if that is the management or the status of the CFI “industry “. They are overpriced. I paid $39k (23k Envoy/16k Me).
If you are time building, we are currently on 10 hour blocks except Sunday witch is only 7. The 172S are pretty nice and I haven’t experienced any maintenance issues or suspect the quality of the maintenance program.
The housing is a good deal. It is cheaper than renting on your own by a long shot. It does help to have roommates going through the same thing and you can ask questions to guys in front o you in he process. I currently have just one roommate in a 3 bedroom apartment.
If you are looking at Coast, get your single and multi rating somewhere else, if you can. Show up with at least your single engine rating. There are plenty of flight schools that can do it in a week or so.
I chose Envoy based on the airline, not their RTP program. I looked at my time at Coast as a little blip in my new career.
Kylerossi, no pay until you show up to Envoy for Indoc. So factor in the total training time at Coast and the time you're waiting for indoc to be "unemployed". You do get the 17k sign on bonus after your second week there. If income is a problem, I think it's possible to run an Uber/ Lyft to make a little cash on the side while at Coast or during that bubble before indoc.
Roger is going to continue being used at Coast.
Do you have any say on who your DPE is going to be?
Great post by by the way, thank you for the information. I just received my CJO with envoy and am waiting for a start date at Coast. I’m currently finishing up my PPL and am thinking of knocking out instruments prior to going to coast. Have any of you guys used your GI bill at coast? If so how has that process been and how much did you get out of it.
Thanks for the writeup!
Are there any changes to the above information? Looking to hit Coast in March.
Are the accommodations still the same.... Crowded or reasonable? How's the training? Have they increased their instructor numbers? Is that same DPE (Roger) still there? If so, any other options? If you had the option, would you choose San Marcos again, or another Coast location?