Even Though it seems far away, flying a jet is closer than you think. Time literally flies. This is what Andres, Merrick and Sheik, all s at our school, whom we are very sad but also very proud to see go on to the regionals & other airlines, have to say about their time being an flight instructor.
You have to get a lot of licenses to become an instructor. From all the ratings that you had to get done, which one was the hardest? “I think my private was hard, and after that my CFI-Initial” was Andres’s answer. “I’d have to say the CFI without a doubt. You have to build lesson plans, and know how to teach. The CFI-oral during my checkride was 8 hours.” Merick explains while casually eating his sandwich. One of our other CFI’s, Sheik, did the whole process a bit differently. He did his CFI-I as his initial. “It was the only one I had failed. To me none of my checkrides were hard. But it was just the nervousness that got me. I was just frozen.”
There are a lot of ways to build your hours, why do pilots choose to build their hours flying cessna’s and teaching? Why would you choose the CFI route if it’s possible to fly a charter or maybe a Cessna Caravan somewhere in the Bahamas? “My training was part 141, college based and was provided by Delta Airlines. Very airline oriented and they were training sharp pilots. My instructors were really sharp. I always looked up to them. So, when I got to the point how I was going to build my time I committed to the CFI route.” Besides looking up to instructors like Andres, Merick choose the CFI route because he thought he’d learn a lot from teaching. “I thought about doing banners, and other things. I chose the CFI route because I thought I would learn more. Which is true. The thing I like about Wayman is they have senior instructors, they can always guide you.” Sheik, on the other hand, explains that at the time there were no other options available, and that he just likes to share his knowledge in general; “I just wasn’t aware of the other opportunities. I did attempt banner towing but after one flight I thought this is not worth the risk-to-pay factor. If anything goes wrong your reaction needs to be really sharp. While being a CFI, it kept me sharp and relearning certain things.”
“I loved it, I really did. We have a lot of international students here. Every culture is different in how they react to criticism. You are also a bit of a psychologist”.
These guys are almost heading to the airlines. Which is great! Congratulations, now that it’s almost ‘over’ how did you enjoy your time being an instructor? Andres explains that it’s not always a ‘smooth flight’. “It’s good, it’s has it’s days of glory and days where I need to take time off. Watching my students solo for the first time, or private pilot students passing their checkride is a feeling that is unique. You turned a person into an airmen. On the other hand it is a lot of responsibility. You're making a call to let a person go flying. And there are factors there that are not in your hands. It is rewarding, but it has tough days.” Merick had a great time being an instructor “I loved it, I really did. We have a lot of international students here. Every culture is different in how they react to criticism. You are also a bit of a psychologist hahaha”.
Sheik also had a blast being a CFI, “I enjoyed being an instructor for students who were able to listen to my instructions. Flying with them was enjoyable. And with some students I completely questioned myself why I became an instructor. They don’t listen and then they tell you that they are not learning. But all the students that learn what they had to learn and fix what they had to fix, it was great flying with them.”
A lot of new commercial pilots choose the CFI route to build hours. You learn, teach, and build a lot of hours fast and most airlines actually prefer instructors. Looking back, what is the biggest tip these ‘almost new’ airline pilots can give to future instructors? Andres explains that this shouldn’t just be a stepping stone; you should really want to teach. “If you're doing it just for your hours, your exposing yourself one; not to be successful as an instructor and you might turn pilots away from the industry if you are not into this for the challenge of turning people into pilots. Every trick that you know; don’t hold it back, teach them. I used to be a swim instructor. I know that I could teach and share my knowledge. I took it as a challenge. If you do this just to build hours it could be a double edged sword. Also, you have to prepare for those lessons. You don’t want to be mediocre in delivering the knowledge.”
Merick explains that it is a smart idea to follow somebody who has been doing this for a while already. “Shadow an flight instructor who has been doing this for a while. How he debriefs, preflights etc. And always ask questions”. Sheik always tries to understand his student’s situation and teaches from there. “If you understand them then you know how to teach them. There are many instructors who only do this for the hours.”
Besides having a great time teaching students, flying and learning there are some difficult aspects to the CFI life. “Working from 7 to 11 is tough, it just takes a huge toll and It’ll catch up to you. If you have a family or spouse it’s hard. Number two; when you send somebody to the checkride and they don’t pass. It’s tough.” Andres explains. “The first time you sign somebody of for a solo. It’s probably just as nerve-wracking as the first time you went solo yourself.”
Are you planning on becoming an instructor? Or are you an instructor yourself? Feel free to leave comments to further this discussion or get more tips & tricks from our CFI’s.