By Kim Jones
The single most important element in your desire to fly is finding a great flight instructor that’s perfect for you. There are two professional organizations that represent flight instructors. The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) and the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI).
A Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) in the United States is required to be at least 18 years of age and be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. You also need to attain a Commercial Pilot Certificate which requires a minimum of 250 hours of flight time as a pilot, and then complete the training and pass both an FAA practical knowledge written examination and a flight test to become a CFI.
A CFI completes many requirements, as does a professional pilot. Many professional pilots will acquire their CFI certification as a means to build flight hours in preparation for a move to the airlines or other flying career.
You would think a great pilot would indeed make a great instructor. They have the certification and experience. They may be competent and skilled at flying as well as being extremely passionate about flying. They may have a great personality and plenty of devotion to the student. This does not make them a good teacher. Being a good teacher is the key ingredient to make a great CFI. There are some individuals who truly enjoy life as an instructor pilot and find it very rewarding to teach people how to fly. Not only are they sharing their love for aviation with a fellow pilot, but the very process of teaching someone to fly helps sharpen their own skills to become a better pilot in the process.
A good teacher allows the student to benefit from their experience and carefully prepares and guides the flight candidate to a successful outcome.
A good teacher does their homework and is well prepared during training at all times. They will provide their students with plenty of demonstrations. These demonstrations are done with clarity and skill. They provide the initial experience that students build upon as they work towards mastering the skill. Providing plenty of good demonstrations will accelerate the student’s progress.
A good teacher will also talk to you while you fly. Verbalization is a powerful way to not only improve the CFI’s instructional skills, but will increase the rate of a students’ progress. It is a good idea to have students talk while they fly. The “telling and doing” process identified in the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook not only provides a great feedback loop for the pilot, but it allows the instructor better insight into the students thought process. More often, execution problems are cognitive in nature. If they talk, you may be able to pick up on problems faster and correct them.
Lastly, a good instructor is able to admit if they have made a mistake. Error analysis training is an important part of initial CFI certification. By hearing your acknowledgement of the mistake, along with necessary actions to correct it can give the student some tools for coping with errors.
A great pilot may not necessarily be a great flight instructor, but, rest assured, a great pilot can be made by a great flight instructor.
At AeroStar, we hire great instructors!