Whether you’re a student working toward your sport pilot certificate or an existing pilot transitioning to a new type of aircraft under sport pilot rules, obtaining proper instruction is crucial. Your choice of a flight instructor is key, and will set the stage for your success - or otherwise - as a pilot.
During the course of training, the CFI (certified flight instructor) will be more than a teacher; they will be a mentor, coach, cheerleader, and friend. The instructor will be at your side during one of the most memorable times of your life, so it’s wise to take care in the selection process.
Keep the following things in mind when selecting a CFI for sport pilot instruction:
- Is the instructor enthusiastic about sport pilot training? Believe it or not, sport pilot is fairly new in the aviation world, and some instructors have little interest in teaching sport pilots. It’s up to you to find someone who does. EAA’s Sport Pilot Instructor database can help.
- Is there an aircraft available? Not all aircraft can be flown by sport pilots, and you need an LSA for your training. Make sure that at least one LSA will be regularly available.
- How is the aircraft and facility maintained? Usually, a well maintained aircraft and flight school are indications that the instructor and training facility have a professional attitude and approach to training.
- How much training experience does the CFI have? All CFIs meet the FAA’s stringent training requirements to be a flight instructor. However, experience honing their teaching skills is very important, and some instructors have just begun their aviation careers. Look for an instructor with an established record of teaching new students to fly.
- Are you compatible with your instructor? After discussing your goal of becoming a pilot, ask yourself if this is someone you will enjoy training with. Flight training is challenging, but it should be fun and enjoyable. If you question whether this instructor’s training style will mesh with yours, trust your feelings!
You’ll notice one item missing from the list: the cost of instruction. Low price alone is the worst reason for selecting an instructor. Most instructors have comparable rates so saving a few dollars an hour is false economy.
The right instructor will know when to push you and when to back off. They will know how to coach you to maximize the amount you learn. Remember that you are not marrying your instructor; that is, this relationship doesn’t have to be permanent. If after a few lessons you realize your instructor isn’t working out, seek out a new one. You’re the consumer, and you have the right to make your own choice.
With these things in mind, your next step is to find an instructor near you.