Whether you’re a beginner pilot or looking to earn a new endorsement, you’re going to need to find a good flight instructor. However, while all flight instructors are FAA-certified, each one will differ from the next in terms of personality, training style, and area of expertise. So how do you choose a flight instructor that’s right for you? Here are a few things to consider:
Meet with More Than One
Treat the process of finding a flight instructor just like you would if you were interviewing someone for a job. Don’t settle for the first one you find – meet several, so that you can compare them to one another. You can seek out flight instructors at flight schools, or by looking for an independent CFI through an online directory such as SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators). Contact several to schedule an introductory meeting, which will give you the opportunity to get to know a little bit about them and gauge if their personality will be a good fit with yours.
Ask Questions – and Lots of Them!
Whether you meet with a CFI on the phone or in-person, you’re going to want to make sure you talk about your goals and ask plenty of questions. Don’t be shy about asking about the instructor’s credentials and background. Get a feel for his or her training philosophy (will you be taught in a classroom before you go up in the air, or will you be given hands-on experience from the get-go and learn as you fly?) and make sure it’s one you feel comfortable with. Be sure to ask about the instructor’s schedule and availability, and compare with your own to see if they align. And it’s always a good point to note their billing and cancellation policies.
Do Your Research
When you find an instructor you feel has potential, ask them for a list of references. Contacting their former students will give you a sense as to whether or not they think highly of the instructor, and how many of their students actually completed their training. Positive reviews are the currency of confidence.
Schedule an Introductory Flight Lesson
If you have the means, once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few contenders, ask if they’ll schedule a short, introductory lesson. This will give you an opportunity to test the waters (or, the skies, in this case!) with regard to the instructor’s teaching style, before fully committing. The goal is to determine whether the instructor makes flight training both challenging and fun, and whether or not they are genuinely invested in helping you to meet your goals.
Flight training doesn’t come cheap, but it can be a very worthwhile investment with the right instructor. It’s your money, so make sure you know what you’re looking for in a CFI, and that you’re proactive with your research. And, in the worst-case scenario, have no qualms about switching instructors should you find that, even after all of your research, the one you finally chose didn’t end up being a good fit. Once you DO find the right instructor, you’ll be very glad you kept up the search.