After completing the commercial rating, aspiring airline pilots come to a critical fork in their career- Do I become a flight instructor or look for a job with low flight time requirements?
Because a CFI rating is not required at the airlines, some pilots opt to acquire hours through other avenues. This is sometimes due to having reservations towards teaching, easy access to alternative time-building jobs, or a number of other reasons.
But in our opinion, no other alternative has quite as many benefits as flight instructing. The biggest benefit is it makes you a better pilot.
1. It Makes You a Better Pilot
“Students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply spend the same time re-studying.” Source
You may be surprised at how many things you didn’t understand as well as you thought once you start teaching.
You may not feel very confident the first time but if you did it every week for several months you’d have it down. That’s exactly what flight instructors do.
To become a flight instructor you’ll attend a CFI Academy where you’ll learn how to teach students. You’ll also write your own lesson plans which will help you gain a deeper understanding of a variety of aviation principles.
And you teach these basic principles over and over and over, ingraining it in your own head more and more each time. You will be hard-pressed to find a commercial pilot, regardless of hours, that knows the basics better than a seasoned instructor.
You’ll also spend hours watching your students fly, continually correcting them as they make mistakes. With each new student, you’ll get better and better at recognizing common mistakes pilots make and you’ll get better at not making them yourself.
If you work at a good flight school, you’ll also spend time in meetings with the other instructors and your chief reviewing emergency procedures and analyzing accidents.
2. Instructing is the Fastest Way to 1500 Hours
This is probably one of the main reasons many pilots who are headed for the airlines become flight instructors.
The quicker you get to 1,500 hours, the sooner you get your seniority number. The sooner you get your seniority number the faster you can move up from the regional airlines to the majors.
In other words, the effectiveness of your time-building has a direct effect on how much money you make throughout your career.
This is why flight instructing is by far the preferred method of collecting hours. It’s absolutely the fastest pathway available to your average student.
If you find a job at a busy flight school there’s a good chance you could fly nearly every day of the week.
If you’re flying that regularly you’ll hit your 1,500 hours in no time. Considering most pilots reach CFI with about 300 flight hours here’s the quick math on how long it will take to build an additional 1,200 hours:
4 flight hours per day x 5 days a week = 1,200 flight hours in 1 year & 2 months
If you want to accelerate that and your flight school is busy enough you can get it done even faster:
6 flight hours per day x 6 days a week = 1,200 flight hours in 8 months
At Thrust Flight, many of our instructors reach 1,500 hours in less than a year. As a result, we’ve sent many, many flight instructors off to work with our airline partners.
If your goal is to become an airline pilot, we definitely recommend becoming a CFI.
3. It Will Teach You How to Work With a Variety of People
The above two reasons are quite practical. And easily the top two reasons most people become flight instructors. But there’s one other benefit we think most people are missing.
Working as a flight instructor really teaches you how to work with other people. At many schools, you don’t get too much say in who you teach. You’re assigned a student and you have to figure out how to work with them.
You’ll have students who struggle day after day after day to pick up the most basic principles and techniques.
As a result, you’ll be forced to learn different methods of teaching as you try to get through to them.
There will be times when you have to correct your students. When you have to tell them to buckle down and study if they ever want to become a pilot.
You’ll teach students of different ethnicity, countries, and backgrounds.
You may work with students who aren’t native English speakers forcing you to repeat and define many words as you teach them.
All of these challenges will help you become a better pilot and a better person.
The skills you develop here will undoubtedly help when you’re stuck in the cockpit for a 4-hour flight with an obnoxious airline captain.
Most people overlook these skills but they really are a huge benefit to working as a flight instructor for even just a few months.
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A Bonus Reason: It isn’t Hard to Find a Job
The pilot shortage has caused a lot of problems for the airlines. But along with those issues comes some positive results. In this case, instructors are needed now more than ever.
If you’re hoping to fly tours or fly aerial photographers, those types of jobs are few and far between. It’s going to take you a while to get hours flying once a week at some points in the year.
But as a flight instructor, you could fly nearly every day of the week, especially if you work anywhere across the southern portion of the United States.
According to an article in the Washington Post, recruiting and retaining flight instructors is the number one challenge reported by flight schools. This is a nation-wide problem, and flight schools everywhere are hiring more than ever.