Discover what it takes to become a flight instructor in this article.
Unfortunately, the number of jobs available to low hour pilots is rather small.
One of the most common however, is that of flight instructor. When I first learned that most flight instructors were rather new pilots themselves I was rather shocked.
Shouldn’t someone with a few thousand hours of flight time be the one to teach me to fly?
But when you step back for a moment, it makes quite a bit of sense. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” I’ve found this is absolutely true.
But becoming a certified flight instructor is no easy task. It takes considerable effort and there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet before you can become one.
In this article we’ll walk you through the requirements you’ll need to meet along with some tips on working through a certified flight instructor academy and passing your checkride.
Certified Flight Instructor Requirements
Before you pursue your CFI rating make sure you’ve met these requirements:
If you’re pursuing a CFI Sport these are the requirements:
- 100 hours of flight time as PIC of a powered aircraft
- 50 hours of flight time in airplane category
- 25 hours of cross-country flight time
- 10 hours of cross-country flight time in airplane category
- 15 hours of flight time as PIC in airplane category that is Light-Sport aircraft
Now, before we dig into an academy we should note, a CFI academy isn’t required. You can do instruction one-on-one with an instructor but it typically takes longer and costs more because you aren’t splitting the cost of ground instruction with an entire class.
Choosing a CFI Academy
If the school where you’ve done most of your training offers a CFI academy you may want to consider going there, however, it doesn’t hurt to shop around. The best thing to do is talk to different flight instructors.
See where they went and find out if they recommend it. You can also jump on the local aviation Facebook group to see if anyone there has any recommendations.
To help you prepare to become an instructor, look for a reputable school that is known for turning out proficient and effective flight instructors.
Do They Hire Instructors from Their Academies
If you’re going to be looking for a job once you’re done, you may want to find out if the school hires instructors from the pool of graduating students. If they do, you may be able to land a job as soon as you finish.
As you evaluate CFI academies don’t be afraid to ask to see a syllabus. You may also be able to audit a class for an hour one day to see how you like it.
While this may not seem important to you, I also like academies that are taught by multiple people. Since CFI academies last for 2-4 weeks typically, listening to the same person that entire time can get a little dull.
What to Expect in Your CFI Academy
On days when you don’t fly you should spend the extra time writing and practicing your lesson plans.
In your CFI academy, you’ll learn how to teach various materials, review FAA guidelines, and practice instructing. One thing many CFI students aren’t prepared for is how much time you spend talking about how people learn.
Consider the academy a crash course in a teaching degree. While this may seem odd, it’s important as a flight instructor to understand how your students learn and how to cater your teaching style to each student.
How to Do Well In Your Flight Instructor Academy
Here at Thrust Flight, we’ve seen many students pass through our academy. In each class, there’s a clear distinction between those who perform well and those who struggle.
The most successful students start the class prepared. They’ve studied the material and are ready to teach it. Successful students also make the time to create their own lesson plans.
It’s easy to buy pre-made lesson plans, however, if you truly want to succeed as a flight instructor you need to create your own lesson plans. Remember the Senaca quote above?
As you prepare lesson plans to teach a principle, you will gain a stronger understanding of it. This greater understanding will help you become a safer, more capable pilot and instructor.
Study Every Day During the Academy
In addition to creating your own lesson plans, you should also make time to study every single day you’re in the academy. We have seen so many students who think they can simply sit through the class and somehow be ready for their checkride without preparing. Don’t be one of those people.
Practice with a Partner
Another great tip for doing well in your CFI academy is to find a partner to practice with. Teach one another from your own lesson plans again and again. Then critique one another and help each other improve and grow.
Few people will do this but the best instructors we have seen do so with great effect.
The FAA Checkride
Again, you need to have a strong understanding of these learning principles so that you can effectively communicate them to the DPE and so you can best train your future students.
For a large portion of the checkride, you should expect to play the role of teacher with the DPE as your student. They will probably give you a large variety of scenarios which you must then adapt your teaching to fit.
How to Prepare for the CFI Checkride
The only way your teaching will ever improve is if you do it again and again, so get in as much practice as you can before your checkride.
Want more helpful tips on working as a flight instructor? Check out these articles:
- About the Author
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Liz Brassaw is a first officer for a regional airline and the former Chief Pilot and Chief Flight Operations Officer for Thrust Flight. She holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI, AMEL, ASES with over 2,500 hours of flight instruction given. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the Utah Valley University School of Aviation Sciences. She’s passionate about flying and enjoys instilling that love in the instructors on her team and the new students she trains.