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Want To Become A Flight Instructor? Here's What You Need To Know.

Becoming a flight instructor is one of the most challenging and rewarding things a pilot can do. Here are a few things you should know before you get started...

Hands, Feet, Eyes

One of the toughest parts about becoming an instructor is taking your aeronautical knowledge and finding a way to verbally explain a maneuver step by step. As an experienced pilot, it's easy to forget how we developed stick and rudder skills. Always teach students using the "hands, feet, eyes" method. How should your hands and feet move? Where should you be looking?

For new students, make sure you're using exterior visual cues, as opposed to focusing primarily on instrumentation inside the cockpit. Using the "hands, feet, eyes" method will get you through the explanation stage of almost any maneuver.


Your New Best Friends: The ACS

If you didn't pay attention to ACS during earlier training, get into those books fast. You'll be expected to know how the ACS works in depth for your CFI checkride. More importantly, it's the primary resource you'll use to determine how prepared your students are for their checkrides.

Letting Students Make Mistakes Is Hard

Unless safety of flight is at risk, sometimes allowing students to make errors is extremely important for them to learn. Fight the urge to correct a student's error before they have the chance to fix it. Defensive positioning is important. But don't make it too obvious if you want your students to maintain self-confidence, and build their skills at the same time.


Write Your Own Outlines And Lesson Plans

Purchasing outlines and lesson plans online is easy and seems like a great option at first, especially if you want to avoid writing and editing hundreds of pages. In my CFI class, the students that wrote their own outlines and lesson plans had an easier time with their checkrides. They learned the material thoroughly, and were able to customize plans to their teaching style.

If you have copies of outlines from a friend, use them as a guide to create your own. Don't forget to reference the PTS and ACS to make sure you've covered all of the required teaching elements.

Swayne Martin

Don't Treat CFI As A Way To Simply Build Hours

We've all had a poor instructor. It was most likely someone who was more focused building time than teaching students to fly. There are other ways to build flight time besides becoming a CFI, so don't do it unless you truly want to teach. For every hour in the air, you'll spend at least an hour or two on the ground preparing for lessons with your students. It's hard work.


The Fundamentals Of Instructing Really Work

The high-level learning processes, teaching tools, and instructional strategies listed in the FAA's Aviation Instructor's Handbook really do help. Some of the topics may seem vague and outdated (which they probably are), but the book still contains the basic principles that will make you a great instructor. Find a way to make the FOI content apply to your goals as instructor, not just as a way to pass the FOI Written Exam.


Write Your Own Standards

How will you determine when your student is ready to fly solo? Are you going to use ACS standards? Probably not... Because if they flew to ACS standards, they'd be ready for their checkride!

FAR 61.87d lists out the required training and maneuvers prior to flying solo, but it doesn't list out any specific standards. That's up to you as the instructor. Create your own set of objective guidelines that you'll use to determine when your student is ready to fly solo.

Do you want them to land with the runway centerline consistently between the main wheels? Add details like that.

Keep It Fun

You and your student are in the airplane for one reason: you both love flying. Don't forget that. As much as you can, mix a little fun into the lessons with food stops, news destinations, and different scenarios.


Reaching an instructional level of aviation knowledge is no easy task. But with the right preparation and motivation, becoming a CFI will be one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do as a pilot.

Who was your favorite CFI? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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