So, you want to be a flight instructor?
The information in this article was written by user Big Pistons Forever from avCanada. We thing it is a good representation of the life of a flight instructor. If you’ve taken our CPL Ground School Course, some of this material may already be familiar as we talk about being a commercial pilot extensively!
You have just finished your CPL and are debating what to do next. One option is to be a flight Instructor and use an instructing job as a way to start your professional flying career. So should you be a flight instructor? I get asked this question fairly often and so I thought there might be some value in putting down my 02 cents. They represent one data point and are worth exactly what you paid for them.
Advantages of Instructing as a first job
1) You build time and get to gain experience in a relatively safe and controlled environment as opposed to say a bush job/float job where you may be confronted with very demanding situations right off the bat.
2) Flight instructing is all basic stick and rudder all the time. It will cement the foundation skills that you will use for the rest of your career. The same goes for all the basic concepts of aerodynamics/flight planning/regulations/weather etc. You will have a very good grasp of the theoretical building blocks for all future studying.
3) It forces you to deal with customers. XYZ air services won’t give you that Multi Engine marvel for your flying pleasure, it is for you to make money getting freight, self loading or non, to the destination. Keeping the customer happy is an important part of your success. Dealing with the range of personalities that are students, and more importantly managing conflict when their interests do not align with yours, is an important skill that will serve you well in future jobs
4) Since all of your flying will be as PIC , the time to get your ATPL or meet Insurance/contractor mins may be shortened
5) In general you get to live in a reasonably civilized place. There are no flying schools on Indian Reservations…..
Disadvantages of Instructing as a First job
A) Yes you are PIC right away, but the range of potential experiences you will be subjected to will be quite limited by the nature of the flying you do. In other words you will not have as rich a set of experiences as you might get as a MEIFR FO or especially in the float/bush world. In particular A to B flying in the 604/703/704 world is all about operational efficiency.
Those elaborate checklists and rituals that exist in the FTU world are not the way pilots operate in the real world. After having to beat the “FTUisms” out of several Ex Instructors when doing training, I can see why some Chief Pilots get frustrated with instructor new hires.
B) Instructing can be quite repetitive particularly if you are stuck doing mostly PPL’s. When you are on the seventh flight of the day and the student is making the same mistakes as the first 6 it can be hard to give them the energy they deserve. However I prefer to think of this as good training for the rest of your career. I guarantee future jobs will also contain plenty of tedium and unfun moments.
C) The pay sucks. The reality is you will probably make more on the ramp than as a new flight instructor and most instructors I know ended up working a part time second job in their first year in order to make ends met
D) Being a flying instructor is to be the Rodney Dangerfield of aviation. There is plenty of Cat Driver like personalities out there who will go out of their way to disrespect you. Best to just suck it up and ignore them
E) At the risk of sounding PC, your “emotional quotient” really does matter. It helps if you are a naturally outgoing person who is at ease in a variety of social situations. If you are a quiet loaner who doesn’t like to talk a lot and not terribly patient, I think you will find instructing absolute torture
F) Moving on can be a shock. The vast majority of instructors will use the job as a stepping stone to a higher position, usually as a FO in two crew a MEIFR aircraft. You will have gotten used to the fact that most of the people you deal with (i.e. students) will look up to you as the expert. You need to approach the next job with a very open mind and realize you still have lots to learn.
So you have given the matter a lot of thought and decide the instructor route is the best fit for you as a way to get started in aviation. What the best way to get started? My 02 cents and again representing a data point of one
1A) The easiest (and IMO the most common) way to get started is to be hired by the school that did your training. Virtually all FTU’s would rather hire a guy/gal that they have trained and that is already familiar with their operation. Therefore the probability of getting hired is IMO a very important consideration in which school you chose, and the school that did your PPL and CPL may not be the best choice
2B) The flight instructor rating is the hardest and requires the most work, of any training you will do. In order to demonstrate a manoeuvre effectively you have to do it as close to perfect as possible. In other words you should be able to fly every manoeuvre in the CPL flight test to “4” standards every time. For the average CPL graduate this is a big step up in flying proficiency.
Similarly, you need a pretty comprehensive knowledge about all the basic theory. A big part of the course is putting together a set of lesson plans. This again will require a non trivial amount of effort on your part. Each of the 25 hrs of ground instruction that TC requires for the flight instructor rating will generate 1 to 5 hrs of additional homework/study.
3C) Approach your instructor training as an extended job interview. Work your ass off and make an effort to learn the dispatch/back office/maintenance side of an FTU as well. Be nice to staff and make them want you to be one of their co workers.
Instructing gave me my start in aviation and for me it was an excellent experience. I moved on after 2.5 years of full time instructing but I have kept up my ratings and still instruct part time because I still find it very satisfying.
If you do decide to instruct I have only one plea……be the best instructor you can be.