I'm at the very beginning of my flight training --- my first block of instruction will be this weekend. My goal is to fly professionally one day.
I decided to train for the PPL at a local airfield (I have the GI Bill but the part 141 schools that require two years of undergraduate college work seem like a bad deal for me, economically and in terms of my goals, since I wouldn't be able to realistically do that and my current job and it would take a lot longer to get licensed). After I have the PPL completed I figure I can look around at other schools for the next step in my training.
This place has a flight instructor who got his training at Hillsboro Aero Academy in Oregon, but there does not appear to be a chief instructor. I feel like I need to do my due diligence here given that there is no official management of curriculum, standards, etc. like there would be with a chief instructor.
So are there red flags a new student should watch out for? Am I overthinking this?
What do you mean with "there is no official management". What does the official in that mean.
FAA official? Otherwise if not FAA then what determines it official?
No chief pilot does not necessarily mean no standards.
I worked for a flight school that did have a Chief Pilot.
I also worked for a flight school that did not have one.
The latter ended up being the better, because it had better instructors. Maybe the water was just better and it attracted great instructors. I successfully taught students there from different backgrounds, many who have ended up being instructors, or flying tours, HEMS etc.
You could end up at either, with bad instructors, or bad culture, or bad many things.
If you want / need structure and standards, then a Part 141 will at least provide an actual FAA approved syllabus. At least. Does that guarantee structure or standards? No. Because teaching is as much about the how it's taught as the what is being taught.
A part 61 school doesn't even have that. They make it up as they go along.
That's good and bad.
I've taught students under part 41 and 61. Sometimes one is good, sometimes the other is better.
I hate to say it, but it's all subjective, and ending up at a good school / with a good instructor is more luck than research. There are so many variables that come into play. It's just how it is.
Great for you in doing some research beforehand.
That Hillsboro instructor might be great, but that doesn't mean he/she is going to be great for you.
Go meet him/her, look around, talk to previous students, use your spidey-sense. See how you feel.
That, will trump research, but since you've already done some, I have a feeling you'll figure it out on your own.