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What They Do

Commercial Pilots Career Video

Insider Info

Flight instructors are pilots who teach the theory and practice of flight to aspiring pilots. Lessons take place on the ground and in the air, using dual remote-controlled planes and helicopters.

So what makes a great flight instructor? "One is a passion for teaching," says Greg Brown, a flight instructor from Phoenix, Arizona. "Two is a passion for flying. And three is a great deal of patience because [flying] is taught one-on-one."

Flight instructors must have excellent communication skills. "That is what is going to either make or break the instructor," says flight instructor Anton Tammpere. "You can be a good pilot, but if you can't communicate with your students, it is not going to rub off on them."

They must also be safety-conscious. "If you have students on board, you really have to follow the book, make nice conservative decisions and be really safety-minded," says Tammpere. Otherwise, students may get the impression that cutting corners is OK.

Flight instructors work for private flying schools as well as colleges and universities that offer flying programs. Seasoned instructors also work for the federal government to inspect and certify other instructors. Former instructors also work as pilots for commercial airlines.

Working hours for this career may vary significantly, says Dorothy Schick, a master flight instructor in Eugene, Oregon. "So I can work a 15-hour day on some days, and a five-hour day another day," she says. "It depends on the schedule I have with the students."

Weekend work is common, adds Manfred Loos, a senior flight instructor. Flight instructors may also have to work at night to test students who want to be trained in night flying. There may also be seasonal differences. The summer months are busy while the fall and winter months are not.

Physical requirements for this career may be significant.

Aspiring flight instructors in the U.S. must pass a medical exam and undergo routine medical tests, says Brown. But physical requirements for this career are not as stringent as they appear to outsiders, he says.

For instance, you do not have to have perfect vision to become an instructor. Indeed, medical requirements for flight instructors in the U.S. are becoming more relaxed. That's partly because the shortage of qualified flight instructors and pilots is growing.

Surprisingly, flight instructors do not travel a lot. Lessons usually end where they started. And unlike most commercial pilots, flight instructors can go home after they are done for the day. That's a point that flying schools stress when they search for new instructors.

At a Glance

Produce qualified pilots

  • You need excellent communication skills
  • Working hours can vary
  • You must hold a commercial or airline pilot's license before you can begin your instructor training


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