How to Become a Certified Flight Instructor
Are you a commercial pilot certificate holder interested in advancing your career? Consider earning your Certified Flight Instructor Rating. Becoming an FAA-approved flight instructor can add another important skill to your resume—one that employers want. It can also give you the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping to keep the aviation dream alive, by helping other pilots earn their wings.
Additionally, the industry is going to need more instructors over the next several years, according to some industry experts.
A global shortage of airline pilots, plus the addition of new requirements for co-pilots, means that more instructors are needed to train new private and commercial pilots. Also, the current lack of experienced airline pilots may entice experienced flight instructors with the right qualifications back into regular flying jobs. There may never be a better time for you to earn your CFI.
In this article, we explain the steps towards earning your CFI.
Who Can Apply for a CFI Rating
First, it’s important to consider whether you’re even eligible to apply for a CFI. You need to:
- Be a licensed commercial pilot license with current medical certification
- Have at least 250 hours of flight time (although more is better)
- Have appropriate instrument ratings for the craft you intend to teach on
You can begin training as a CFI right after you earn your commercial pilot license, or you can wait until you have some work experience to draw on. It’s up to you.
Your FOI and CFI Exams
To earn your CFI, you need to take two written tests. These cover the Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) and the FAA Certified Flight Instructor Knowledge Exam. Both exams require intensive study—even the knowledge exam, which covers a great deal of material you will have encountered as you studied to become a recreational, private, and then a commercial pilot. The FOI exam covers the teaching and learning process, including instructional techniques.
After you have taken and passed these exams, you’ll want to begin practice teaching with an experienced flight instructor. In your practice teaching, the experienced instructor will act as a “student”, and you will “teach” him or her what to do. You will:
- Brief the “student” before practice flights
- Demonstrate pre-flight checks
- Ride in the right seat and coach the “student” through in-flight maneuvers
- De-brief the student after landing
It will be your responsibility to develop lesson plans that teach everything your student will need to know, based on the FAA Practical Test Standards. Take the time to prepare your lessons, and you will have a better chance of success.
After a minimum of 15 hours practice teaching (but probably more) your supervising instructor should sign you off as ready for your checkride. Make sure you show up looking the part of a professional flight instructor, and do your best to behave exactly as you would in a teaching situation. Explain things thoroughly. Watch the examiner as if he really is a student, and don’t let him get away with anything. With proper preparation, you should pass your checkflight and earn your certificate.