Education and Training Varies—see profile
Salary Median—$31,530 per year
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Flight instructors teach students to fly airplanes and prepare them for tests to get licenses. Instructors are highly skilled pilots who have special ratings that allow them to teach.
In ground-school classes, they help their students learn specific flying skills—how to read airplane instrument panels, for example. They also explain the principles of math and physics that are important in flying. Other classes include supervised flying time, during which they provide feedback and may have students perform the same tasks or maneuvers many times. Some instructors use simulators or dual-controlled airplanes and helicopters.
Education and Training Requirements
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires flight instructors to have high school diplomas. High school courses in geography, science, math, and shop are good preparation. Airlines require that their instructors have at least two years of college. Many prefer instructors who have college degrees.
Instructors must have private pilot's licenses and commercial pilot's licenses, which have specific age, vision, and skill requirements. The licenses also require several FAA-administered examinations, including flight observation.
Applicants for flight instructor's ratings must pass FAA tests similar to those for commercial pilot's licenses: a rigorous physical examination; a written test that covers federal aviation rules, navigation techniques, radio operation, and meteorology; and a flying performance test. They must also pass tests in flight training maneuvers and both written and practical tests on flight instruction. Pilots who want to be instructors prepare for these tests by reading flight instruction
handbooks and taking courses. Prospective instructors must have several hundred hours of flying experience as well.
Flight instructors receive ratings to fly and teach pilots of specific classes of aircraft. They must get additional ratings to fly and teach pilots of other kinds of planes.
Getting the Job
Flying schools usually have placement offices that help their students find jobs as instructors. Job seekers can also apply directly to airports, flying schools, and flying clubs.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Flight instructors can advance by taking courses that lead to additional credentials. For example, they may seek ratings to fly additional types of airplanes or qualify for instrument ratings. These advanced skills can be learned while they are already teaching basic flying courses. Some become chief instructors or directors of training for flight schools. Others become flight examiners for the FAA, giving licenses to students who pass various flying tests. With enough experience and flying hours, they can move to jobs as corporate or airline pilots.
Employment of flight instructors is expected to increase as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. Anticipated growth of the airline industry, especially the growth in no-frills airlines and cargo traffic, should create a demand for more pilots, who need flight instructors.
Flight instructors divide their time between classrooms on the ground and the cockpits of training planes. They must be patient and remain calm even in difficult situations. They work no more than eight hours per day, but their schedules are irregular: instructors work when their students are available. Weekend and evening work may be required.
Where to Go for More Information
National Air Transportation Association
4226 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22302
National Association of Flight Instructors
PO Box 3086
Oshkosh, WI 54903-3086
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings for flight instructors vary according to the aircraft they use and whether they are freelance instructors or work for companies, airports, or flight schools. In 2004 the median salary of all flight instructors was $31,530 per year. Benefits varied by employer.