So you’re thinking about becoming a certified flight instructor? That’s one of the best things you can do in your young aviation career! There’s no better way to learn the intricacies of flying than by teaching someone else how to do it.
You’ll also be building valuable hours for your résumé, paying off that flight training loan, and taking steps to ensure that future employers put your job application at the top of the stack. But how do you go about completing flight instructor training?
First, let’s take a look at the basic FAA requirements from Part 61. This is the minimum criterion from the FAA to get your flight instructor certificate, and it’s this criterion that flight instructor training syllabi are based on.
Before beginning your flight instructor training, it’s important to consider a few important things.
First, you’ll have to realize that no two students learn the same way. The techniques that helped you learn may not help another student learn. You’ll need to be prepared to offer up different ways of teaching the same thing.
Second, you’ll need to be ready to teach to the lowest common denominator. You may have a technical four-year degree, and that helped you during your own training, but soon you’ll be teaching someone who barely graduated high school and isn’t strong in the sciences. They may turn out to be great pilots with the right training, but it’ll mean that you’ll really need to be able to break things down to the most basic level.
Third, if you don’t know something, admit to it. There’s nothing worse than making up an answer to a question that a student may ask you. Look up the answer together; it’ll be a learning experience for both of you.
Why do I bring all of these things up? Because it’s the foundation that you’ll be evaluated on during your flight instructor training.
You’ll most likely be going through your flight instructor training at the school you wish to teach at. There are exceptions, but this is the most common scenario. Some schools have a syllabus while others do not. If you’re at a Part 141 school, they are required to have a flight instructor training syllabus. Get your hands on it and take a look at the curriculum, making notes of the following:
Remember the only “aeronautical experience” requirements from the FAA are a commercial certificate and 15 hours PIC in category and class. Schools will require more training on top of that.
Hopefully, you had an opportunity to get up in front of the classroom and teach during your private or commercial training. This is a great way to learn as a new pilot – get up in front of an instructor and teach them about the pitot-static system, for example.
If you didn’t get a chance to do this during previous training, it’s going to start now! But before you get up in front of the classroom for the first time, go to an office supply store and buy a small whiteboard and some dry-erase markers. Go home and teach various subjects to your significant other, a friend, or the mirror if you have to! This will help you identify weak areas and build confidence in speaking about the subjects.
Depending on where you’re doing your training, you may only have to demonstrate that you can teach certain subjects once through. Other, tougher schools may have you demonstrate an ability to teach every subject up to a commercial level. The latter will set you up better for your checkride, where any subject in the FAA regulations is fair game with the examiner.
Doing your ground training with different instructors will give you an opportunity to get different techniques for teaching certain subjects. As mentioned earlier, what works for one student may not work for another, so it’s important to have a few different teaching methods in your bag of tricks.
The flight portion of your flight instructor training will have you demonstrating maneuvers from the opposite seat. Again, every subject is fair game during your checkride, so you should have ample opportunity to demonstrate each maneuver required in the regulations with the instructor who will be endorsing you.
This can be an especially tough transition for Robinson helicopter instructors, who have to fly with the T-bar cyclic up in the air and not resting on the lap. This becomes second nature after a number of flights.
It helps to go on some of these training flights with different instructors if they’re available to fly with you. You’ll be able to pick up different instructional techniques that you can put in your instructional tool bag. It’ll greatly help you when you’re flying with the student who just doesn’t understand the method you’re trying to teach. If you can offer another method, they may pick it up instantly.
It’s difficult to say how many hours you’ll fly during your flight instructor training. On average it’ll be somewhere around 20 hours. A lot of this depends on you.
Just remember that you’ll need to be comfortable enough with your flight instruction to be able to teach the guy who doesn’t know the aileron from the rudder! Assume that your instructors, and the examiner, are at this basic knowledge level when you demonstrate maneuvers to them. Keeping this in mind will improve your instructional technique.
Go forth and conquer! You’ll soon be teaching new pilots who, as you’re reading this, can’t even drive a car yet. It’s a big responsibility, one that requires nothing but excellence! Your flight instructors are a wealth of knowledge. Learn from their experience, take their instructional techniques, and develop your own. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but you should always be looking out for new ways of teaching things. Hopefully, you’ll discover a few of these during your training!