Certified Flight Instructors: Gateway or Career?

I identified “teaching” as one of the 7 great careers in general aviation. Despite what many think, teaching people how to fly is not just a way to build time, but it can provide a life-long career which delivers incredible benefits to certified flight instructors ranging from a good income to the knowledge that the flight instructor has launched many a successful pilot.

There is no greater achievement than to pass on to others the knowledge and skills required for them to be successful in life. Whether the Student Pilot simply wants to fly for pleasure, or to achieve a career as a professional pilot, the certified flight instructor is essential to achieving those goals.

CFI and Student Pilot Performing a Pre-Flight Inspection

CFI and Student Pilot Performing a Pre-Flight Inspection

Flight instruction is where every pilot starts and begins to learn the skills necessary to safely pilot an aircraft through the skies. In the early days of aviation there were no civilian flight instructors – budding pilots simply purchased an airplane, climbed in and figured it out as they went. Some went on to accomplish great things, others died quickly from ignorance and over confidence.

The military was always a great place to learn how to fly. Knowledge and skills were passed from instructor pilot to instructor pilot, solutions to problems were sought and found, and a large pool of knowledge was formed which continues to grow.

In the civilian world much the same goes on. The further up the ladder of licenses and ratings a pilot climbs, the more sophisticated and experienced the certified flight instructors must be. Today many young civilian pilots attend major universities with large aviation programs and a history of quality education in flying.

A Gateway?

Some regard flight instructor jobs as a “gateway” to what they really want to do in aviation: smell jet fuel and fly big jets! And for any number of flight instructors, that is exactly what this job is.

Many of the pilots going through flight training build flight time by teaching others how to fly, all the time improving their knowledge and flying skills. Even at the universities where there are large programs, many of the students become certified flight instructors for the last year or two of their education.

But for some the passion for teaching catches on, and the feeling of doing something noble kicks in.

Or A Career?

Over the years I have known any number of pilots, many of whom would rather teach someone else how to fly than to fly an airplane as a job. Some love the old airplanes: the J-3 Cub, an old Stearman or perhaps even a PT-19; others relish the opportunity to fly a well-equipped Cirrus with all the modern equipment and side stick control.

Most airline pilots would rather spend a weekend off out at the local airport tooling around in a Cub where an open window invites the smell of freshly harvested beans, or the cool air of an October morning, or even a late sunset as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon as you turn the ship and slip in for one last landing before dark.

The Adventure

Flying airplanes is not so much a job, but rather an adventure, and a good flight instructor wants to share that adventure with each of their students. Many work hard to advance their profession, like Max Trescott who shares his experience and knowledge with the world through his blog.

The AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) works hard to promote excellence in flight instruction while encouraging more people to learn to fly. The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) promotes aviation for young people through its Young Eagles program.

Share The Joy!

No matter what stage in your flying career you are at, share the joy with as many people as you can. As you slip the bounds of earth and soar skyward reward some youngster with the thrill of a lifetime: flying!

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

JetAviator7

Man’s flight through life is sustained by the power of his knowledge.

— Austin ‘Dusty’ Miller, the quote on the Eagle & Fledgling statue at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Donated by personnel from Air Training Command in 1952.

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2 thoughts on “Certified Flight Instructors: Gateway or Career?

  1. Hi John,

    over the years I flew with something like 16 or 17 different flight instructors and / or examiners. Some were on a career, other were airline pilot wannabees. There are pros and cons to both. Airline wannabees have less experience but they are often more freshly certified and more fit on some details that long-term instructors. On the other hand, career instructors have way more experience.

    The only type of instructor I don’t like are the “jump-in / jump-out” guys that dont take the time for briefings and debriefings.

    I even wrote a guide to various flight instructor breeds: http://www.plasticpilot.net/blog/2008/02/28/instructors-breeds-guide/

    • Vincent:

      You are correct – flight instructors vary from those just trying to make a buck and get flying time, and others who take teaching flying very seriously.

      Fortunately, over the years I have known a number of them, including Ray Wheeler from Capital City Aviation, Billy McCormick who flew with Western’s program, and a number of others.

      A good certified flight instructor can make all of the difference in attitude, knowledge and experience.

      John

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