Flight instructors are pilots who teach the theory and practice of flight
to aspiring pilots. Lessons take place on the ground and in the air, using
dual remote-controlled planes and helicopters.
So what makes a great flight instructor? "One is a passion for teaching,"
says Greg Brown, a flight instructor from Phoenix, Arizona. "Two is a passion
for flying. And three is a great deal of patience because [flying] is taught
Flight instructors must have excellent communication skills. "That is what
is going to either make or break the instructor," says flight instructor Anton
Tammpere. "You can be a good pilot, but if you can't communicate with your
students, it is not going to rub off on them."
They must also be safety-conscious. "If you have students on board, you
really have to follow the book, make nice conservative decisions and be really
safety-minded," says Tammpere. Otherwise, students may get the impression
that cutting corners is OK.
Flight instructors work for private flying schools as well as colleges
and universities that offer flying programs. Seasoned instructors also work
for the federal government to inspect and certify other instructors. Former
instructors also work as pilots for commercial airlines.
Working hours for this career may vary significantly, says Dorothy Schick,
a master flight instructor in Eugene, Oregon. "So I can work a 15-hour day
on some days, and a five-hour day another day," she says. "It depends on the
schedule I have with the students."
Weekend work is common, adds Manfred Loos, a senior flight instructor.
Flight instructors may also have to work at night to test students who want
to be trained in night flying. There may also be seasonal differences. The
summer months are busy while the fall and winter months are not.
Physical requirements for this career may be significant.
Aspiring flight instructors in the U.S. must pass a medical exam and undergo
routine medical tests, says Brown. But physical requirements for this career
are not as stringent as they appear to outsiders, he says.
For instance, you do not have to have perfect vision to become an instructor.
Indeed, medical requirements for flight instructors in the U.S. are becoming
more relaxed. That's partly because the shortage of qualified flight instructors
and pilots is growing.
Surprisingly, flight instructors do not travel a lot. Lessons usually end
where they started. And unlike most commercial pilots, flight instructors
can go home after they are done for the day. That's a point that flying schools
stress when they search for new instructors.