How To Become a Flight Instructor

After a sizable investment of both time and money you’ve finally become a pilot and obtained your commercial rating and are ready to earn some income as a pilot.

One of the most common however, is that of flight instructor. When I first learned that most flight instructors were rather new pilots themselves I was rather shocked.

Shouldn’t someone with a few thousand hours of flight time be the one to teach me to fly?

But when you step back for a moment, it makes quite a bit of sense. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” I’ve found this is absolutely true.

As we take the knowledge we have recently gained and teach it to someone else, it becomes solidified in our own mind. (This has been dubbed the “protege effect,” – students who teach, score higher on tests than students learning only for their own sake)

But becoming a certified flight instructor is no easy task. It takes considerable effort and there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet before you can become one.

In this article we’ll walk you through the requirements you’ll need to meet along with some tips on working through a certified flight instructor academy and passing your checkride.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements to Become a CFI?
  1. Be 18 years of age.
  2. Hold either a commercial pilot certificate or airline transport pilot certificate and an instrument rating.
  3. Have logged at least 250 hours of flight time.
  4. Hold a valid FAA 3rd Class Medical Cerificate (or higher)

How To Become a Flight Instructor

What does a flight instructor do?

Flight instructors teach aspiring pilots the basics of flying an aircraft. They ultimately help them prepare for a written test they take when applying for their pilots license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Here are some of a flight instructors duties:

What is a flight instructor?

As a member of the aviation community, flight instructors teach individuals how to operate an aircraft. They provide students with educational material they may not find in textbooks, ensuring they understand every aspect of the lesson plan. Flight attendants essentially serve as a role model for aspiring pilots.

How to become a flight instructor

Not only does becoming a flight instructor provide you with a primary source of income, but it can also serve as the first step toward becoming a commercial or airline pilot. Knowing the steps for pursuing this career can help you find greater success in this field. Use these steps to become a flight instructor:

1. Meet and understand the eligibility requirements

Before pursuing a career as a flight instructor, make sure you meet the eligibility requirements. Here are some requirements you need to meet for this profession:

2. Update your medical certificate

In order to start flight instructor training, you need a commercial pilot certificate. Therefore, you likely already have an aviation medical certificate. If you do, consider updating it. You need a current medical certificate to act as pilot in command in order to earn your certified flight instructor certificate.

3. Pass the FAA and Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) exams

Take the FAA Certified Flight Instructor Knowledge Exam and the FOI Exam in your pursuit of the certified flight instructor certificate (CFI). While the latter exam covers teaching topics, the former focuses on general knowledge youve obtained up until this point. This can include recreational, commercial, private and high-performance topics.

4. Create lesson plans

Prepare lesson plans you intend to use as an active flight instructor. Print visual elements to aid your discussion such as charts, diagrams and drawings. You can also purchase gadgets like miniature airplanes to help you explain certain topics more easily. Make sure to include the FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS) in your lesson plans.

5. Practice instructing

Undergo CFI training to practice your instructing skills. During this time, youll review every maneuver up to PTS standards and work toward staying up-to-date with local area operations and flight acceptance reviews. In addition, youll practice instructing a fake student. For example, youll demonstrate maneuvers to a pretend students, watch pretend students demonstrate these maneuvers and provide coaching and evaluation. On the ground, youll teach a variety of topics and provide your “students” with briefing and debriefing before and after a flight.

Continue to practice your instructing skills until youre comfortable teaching in different scenarios. When youve mastered your role as a flight instructor, your own instructor may allow you to move on to the check ride.

6. Take the check ride

Once you receive approval from your instructor, take the check ride. Depending on the examiner, your check ride may cover a lot of material or only a few items. Prepare to cover as much material as possible. Make sure to act professionally and wear appropriate attire in order to make a good impression with the examiner.

Average salary

As a flight instructor, you need a variety of skills to help you provide proper aviation instruction to your students. Not only can a strong skill set improve your chances of getting a job, but it can also help you perform your duties more successfully. Here are the common skills for a flight instructor:


Is it hard to become a flight instructor?

Working as a flight instructor is extremely challenging. It is said that the flight instructor certificate is one of the most difficult check-rides in all of aviation. While for some international students, this might not be much of a draw, many people who are drawn to the aviation field are looking for a challenge.

How long does it take to become an instructor pilot?

To become a flight instructor, you need to have a commercial pilot license. As previously discussed, getting your CPL takes between 190 to 250 hours, at a minimum. Luckily, you only need 25 hours of training time (at a minimum) to become a certified flight instructor, or CFI, on airplanes.

Do flight instructors make good money?

Income for a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) generally ranges from $30,000 to $60,000 per year ($15 to $30 per hour), but this depends greatly on experience, location, weather, hours flown, and demand. The greatest factor in compensation is how many hours you are able to fly.

Is it worth becoming a flight instructor?

Constant development of skills and experience

One of the greatest benefits that becoming a flight instructor offers is a possibility to continue to learn through teaching, and one of the best ways to learn more is through teaching. Becoming a flight instructor allows you to build your flight hours while getting paid.

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