How to Choose a Flight Instructor

Flying a plane is perhaps the most elating thing that one can ever learn because height is ultimate challenge. Doing this requires both determination and skills so that one can make sure that he gets a good career in the aviation industry.

Flight Instructors are like Doctors or Accountants... they are not all created equal. If you want to fly, your first task is to choose the flight instructor who is right for you. That step alone can make the difference between a fun, challenging and fulfilling experience and one which leads to a dead end... and maybe the end of your dream of becoming a pilot. Know why you want to fly. Be honest with yourself. Your answers will define what you need in an instructor (and a flight school)


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    Airports usually have a Fixed Base Operator (FBO). Larger general aviation airports may have several to choose from. The FBO usually hosts (or may own) a flight school. Flight schools have Certified Flight Instructors (CFI's) and training aircraft for rent.
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    If no one has recommended a CFI, the school will assign one to you. (see introduction above)
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    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? What is your cancellation policy?
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    After the first couple of flights you (and your CFI) will start to 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, it's your money! If it doesn't feel right have a discussion with your instructor, or request another CFI.
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    Flight schools are authorized by the FAA to operate under two sets of regulations known as FAR part 141, or part 61 (the FBO will tell you or ask) Many schools can offer you a choice. There are advantages to both.
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    If you are are with a part 141 school you will normally fly with one CFI. Periodically, you'll 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.
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    The training under part 61 is less structured in some ways, but can be more suitable for some students. It depends on your situation and what your aviation goals are. Your CFI and/or your school will be able to help you decide which course is best for you.


  • Flight training can get intense. You will make mistakes, learn from it and press on (hopefully not to ever repeat it). Be sure that you're not projecting your frustration on the CFI.
  • Remember your CFI's time is just as valuable as yours. Show up on time and be prepared for the lesson.
  • It's important to feel comfortable with your CFI. You'll be spending a fair amount of time in a small enclosed space with him/her. If for any reason you don't feel comfortable, be it style, personality or whatever, talk about it frankly with your CFI. Also remember that you can ask to train with a different instructor. While the overwhelming majority of CFIs are extremely professional, there are a few that aren't. Sadly, many aspiring pilots never realize their dream because they were unfortunate enough to get matched up with the wrong CFI. Be proactive, don't let that happen to you.
  • Assuming you've 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 don't have the ability to turn switches or move the yoke - pretend. You'll probably come up with questions for your CFI.
  • Another possibility is an instrument panel poster. Put it on your wall and engage in "desk flying". It's a very effective and cheap way to enhance your training... and your fun.


  • To optimize your training, you should probably be available to fly at least twice a week. You will progress more quickly and with less effort... not to mention the cost savings.
  • Throughout your flying career you will get to fly with many different types of CFI's and Examiners. As a pilot you will be periodically checked for proficiency. And in the event you want additional ratings, you will invariably fly with persons you may not necessarily like or get along with. So be flexible, listen, and try to make every flight a learning experience.

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Categories: Flight Training