How to Choose a Flight Instructor

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Choosing the right Flight Instructor can be the difference between efficiently learning how to fly or having an exasperating experience.

Steps

  1. Airports usually have a Fixed Base Operator (FBO). The FBO manages the airport and hosts (or may own) flight schools. Flight schools have Certificated Flight Instructors (CFI) with training aircraft for rent.
  2. If no one has recommended a CFI, the school will assign one to you.
  3. Some questions you might want to ask the CFI:
    • What is your schedule and general availability?
    • What is your training philosophy?
    • What is your billing policy? Do you charge every 15 mins? What is your cancellation policy?
  4. After the first couple of flights youll get a feel for how the training is going. Ask yourself if you feel the CFI is: too laid back, too stern, genuinely concerned about your learning, or distracted. Hey, its your money! If it doesnt feel right request another CFI.
  5. If the school is operated under Part 141 (the FBO will tell you or ask) you will normally fly with one CFI. Periodically, youll have what are called Stage Checks. Stage Checks are done with a different CFI. This is to ensure you are progressing in accordance with the training syllabus.

Tips

  • Assuming you have studied for your flight lesson, your post flight debrief may be the most important part of your lesson. Insist on a thorough post flight debrief.
  • For home practice: Take a picture of the instrument panel. Load it on your computer and use the checklists to go over procedures. Even if you dont have the ability to turn switches or move the yoke - pretend. Youll probably come up with questions for your CFI.
  • Flying can get intense. If you make a mistake, learn from it and press on (hopefully not to ever repeat it). Be sure that youre not projecting your frustration on the CFI.
  • Remember your CFIs time is just as valuable as yours. Show up on time and be prepared for the lesson.
  • Its important to feel comfortable with your CFI. Youll be spending a fair amount of time in a small enclosed space with them. If for any reason you dont feel comfortable with them, be it their style, personality or whatever, remember that you can ask to train with a different CFI. While the overwhelming majority of CFIs are extremely professional, there are a few that arent. Sadly, many aspiring pilots never get there because they were unfortunate enough to get matched up with the wrong CFI.

Warnings

  • Throughout your flying career you will have to fly with many different types of CFIs and Examiners. As a pilot you will be routinely checked for proficiency. And in the event you want additional ratings, you will invariably fly with persons you may not necessarily get along with. So be flexible, listen, and try to make every flight a learning experience.
  • To optimize your training, you should probably be available to fly at least twice a week. Doing this will allow you to learn proficiently.

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