Professional Flight Instructor

Flight instructors are responsible for teaching others the skill of flying aircraft. In order to become a professional flight instructor, a pilot must undergo a rigorous training program and pass all the required examinations. Continue reading to find out more about being a flight instructor, what the job market is like, and what steps are necessary to enter this career field.

Is a Career as a Professional Flight Instructor for Me?

Career Overview

Professional flight instructors are certified to teach students how to operate and fly aircraft. A Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) program must be completed in order to become a professional flight instructor. There are different types of training programs for various types of flight instruction, including multi-engine, single-engine, commercial and instrument.

As a flight instructor, you would teach most of your students on the ground in a classroom setting and through the use of simulators. You can expect an irregular work schedule, as flying an aircraft is greatly affected by current weather conditions. Also, you would need to work based on the availability of your students. This results in working frequently on weekends and during the evenings. One option is to begin your career as a pilot by working as a flight instructor after earning your certifications to earn both money and coveted flight hours.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers may experience a 7% decline in employment from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov), while commercial pilots could expect 9% growth in jobs during that same time. The median salary for flight instructors as of April 2014 was $93,046, according to Salary.com. On the other hand, as of May 2013, airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers earned a median annual wage of $115,190, per BLS reports, and commercial pilots earned $74,470.

How Can I Become a Professional Flight Instructor?

Training

Only licensed pilots can undergo professional flight instructor training. Eligible pilots must have a commercial pilot license or an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. While not required, one option is to earn a bachelor's degree in professional pilot operations. This type of degree program will require college coursework and over 100 hours of experience with multi-engine aircraft. Once you have earned your single- or multi-engine airplane certificate, you can pursue a certification as a certified flight instructor (CFI), which includes an intensive sequence of ground and flight instruction, safety training, exams and flight instructor training.

As a flight instructor, you must pass a flight physical approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You would also need to complete written and flight training tests to assess your knowledge of flight maneuvers and performance, radio operation, aviation regulations and flight observation. In addition, you must log at least 15 hours as the head pilot of the class of aircraft you plan on using as a certified flight instructor. You must also provide a logbook of these flight hours that has been authorized by a certified instructor to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the operations of multiple types of aircraft and equipment. No postsecondary education is required, but many flight schools and airlines would prefer to hire you as an instructor if you had some college education.

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