The choice of a flight instructor sets the stage for your success as a student pilot. On the surface, choosing a flight instructor may seem akin to selecting any other business service—for example, a golf instructor. However, during the course of pilot training, the flight instructor will be more than a teacher; he or she will be your mentor, coach, cheerleader, and friend. Your flight instructor will be at your side during one of the most memorable times of your life, so it’s wise to be choosy in the selection process.
When selecting a flight instructor, ask yourself the following:
Is the instructor enthusiastic about training?
Is the instructor truly interested in teaching others to fly or merely logging hours to meet the hour requirements for an airline job? If a potential instructor seems reluctant to embrace your goal, find someone who isn’t. Remember, it is your money you’re investing to become a pilot, so you have the final say.
How well are the aircraft and facility maintained?
Well-maintained aircraft and flight school facilities are strong indications that the instructor(s) and training facility have a professional attitude and approach to training. A flight school that is struggling financially may not be able to retain quality flight instructors and may be tempted to defer maintenance items. That’s not the kind of place at which you should train.
How much training experience do the flight instructors have?
All flight instructors must meet the FAA’s stringent training requirements. Some instructors, however, have just begun their aviation careers. Look for an instructor with an established record of teaching new students to fly. Ask for a list of previous students with whom you can speak to or ask your Eagle Flights pilot for a personal recommendation.
Are you compatible with your instructor?
After discussing your goal of becoming a pilot with the potential flight instructor, ask yourself if this is someone you will enjoy training and flying with. Flight training is challenging, but it should be fun and enjoyable. If you doubt whether this instructor’s training style will mesh with yours, trust your instincts and keep looking for an instructor.
How far do you live from the training facility?
The closer you live to the training site, the better. Time spent commuting to a distant facility is time that is not available for training. Several flight schools have developed accelerated courses where you travel to the school and stay nearby for several days to complete your training. That may be an option to consider.
One item missing from the above list is the cost of instruction. Selecting an instructor by price is always the wrong reason. Cost is a factor, but you’ll find most instructors have comparable rates, so saving a few dollars an hour by going with your third or fourth choice is false economy.
The right instructor will know when to push you and when to back off. He or she will know how to coach you to maximize the amount you learn. If, after a few lessons, you realize the instructor isn’t working out, look for a new one. Remember that you are not married to your instructor; you are a consumer, and you have the right to make different choices.