Steve from New York just sent me a question about how to become an flight instructor:
I want to train to be a CFI as a second career and I’m perplexed about the steps to take. I want thorough training so that I can be a professional CFI and be able train with confidence. I’m currently hold a Private with Instrument but I am not current for IFR. What should I do? I live in NYC area cost and time are important.
Well, first of all Steve, you have made a great choice to be a flight instructor. General aviation right now is really hurting for CFIs, especially those who might make flight instruction their profession and treat the position with respect instead of just a stepping stone in a career.
If I were to meet with you and give you a career coaching path that would take you from where you are today to a CFI, here are the steps that I would recommend. This is assuming that you have the commercial pilot time requirements met, and your goal is to instruct primary (private) students in airplane single-engine land only.
1) Find a good, experienced professional flight instructor. Ask at your local FBO, pilot club, and airport for someone who has a few gray hairs and very flexible hours. You’ll want someone who comes highly recommended. In order to train potential CFIs, they need to make sure they meet the requirements of 14 CFR 61.195 (h).
2) Start work on your commercial certificate ASAP. Sit down with your instructor and go over the commercial pilot experience requirements and then set a realistic goal and the steps for completion. If your goal is to get into the right seat quickly as an instructor, just focus on your single-engine commercial license for now. Reference 61.121 thru 61.133 for more information about the commercial pilot requirements.
3) Immediately begin work on your CFI. The requirements to be a CFI is that you are 18 yrs. old, a commercial pilot’s license and a third-class medical (for airplanes). You’ll have to complete TWO knowledge tests. One on FOI (fundamentals of instruction) AND an addtional flight / ground instructor knowledge test. You can see the rest of the requirements by visiting 14 CFR 61.181 thru 61.199.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention anything about becomming instrument current or getting a multi-engine rating. That’s because neither of those things are necessary to become a CFI. As long as you have a instrument rating, you will be able to get both a commercial and flight instructor certificate. Of course, at some point you will still need to become instrument current to act as a PIC on a instrument flight plan but you can probably work your instrument recency requirements during either your commercial or instructor training.
You’re also not required to have a multi-engine rating to instruct either. You won’t be able to instruct or fly a multi-engine airplane, but if your goal is just to instruct in a single-engine airplane, all you need is a commercial and instructor certificate (they are seperate) and a third class medical.
Once you have your CFI, you’re ready to start teaching! A flight school will make sure you get checked out in their airplane. Once your employed (even part-time) you may also find that the flight school will help you with your multi-engine ratings and additional instructor instrument rating so you can give instrument training.
If you goal is to become a successful and in-demand CFI, there is a great book written titled “The Savvy Flight Instructor” by Gregory N. Brown. Great book about the business aspect of being a flight instructor. Highly recommended read if you want to know about how to treat student pilots as customers and clients, instead of just “students”. (I wish more schools required their CFIs to read this book)
Again, I appalaud the steps you are willing to take to become a CFI. If you have any questions, you can comment on this post and I’ll be happy to address them.