So you want to become a flight instructor?! Becoming a flight instructor can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your professional career. Some decide to join the realms to share their passion for teaching, others use it as stepping stone to gain more experience and move onwards with their career. No matter what your end goal is, becoming a CFI is a privilege in itself that comes with many responsibilities.
So after those months and for some years of training and finally ending up with that CFI ticket in your hands, you may be asking, what exactly does a CFI do? That may sound like an obvious question, but there’s more to being a CFI than simply just teaching. Meeting new potential students, scheduling lessons for the week, sending out homework assignments, these are all other aspects that make up the job. This blog hopes to give you a better insight into what being a CFI entails and what the daily timeline of a CFI looks like.
07:00AM: Wake up and check the weather. Due to the nature of our job, Mother Nature plays a major role in determining whether we are flying that day or not. Thunderstorms, snowstorms, low level clouds, high winds and many other factors can turn your full day of scheduled flying into ground lesson and Sims, or sometimes even your day off! One of the best apps I have found that is great for checking weather without having to boot up your whole computer and get a general idea at least if we are good to go for the day, is aero weather. You can check it out here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aeroweather-lite/id288286079?mt=8
7:15AM: We are good to go for the day! Time to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and again check the weather before leaving home. I often like to text students too if we have an early morning launch, to make sure they are on their way and haven’t slept past the alarm clock.
8:00AM: Always try arrive at the airport 15-30 minutes before meeting student and prepare for the lesson. If your schools airplanes are hangered overnight, ask the line crew to have the plane pulled and make sure the fuel is sufficient for your flight this morning! This will save a lot of valuable time for students to make full potential of their scheduled lesson.
8:30 -10:30AM: Spend some time with student on the ground to discuss what we are going to do before sending them out to preflight. One more check of the weather before heading out. What you will do with each student on that specific day really depends on what the syllabus consists of or who you are working with. Working with a new private student? Perhaps today is steep turns, some stalls and maybe emergencies. Instrument or Commercial student? Some approaches or Lazy 8’s may be on the agenda today. ALWAYS do a post brief after each lesson as well to critique your students, this will give them a good idea of how they did today, and explain to them as well what they need to work on next lesson. I take a lot of notes during each lesson to make sure I cover everything here.
10:30AM -5:30PM: Meet with 2 or 3 more students for their lessons. Depending on where you are working, most schools allow instructors to build their schedules so use this to your advantage! I try to schedule students back to back, so that I do not have big gaps in my schedule. Of course, this is not always possible, so if you do have a large gap in between your schedule on a day, maybe spend some time hitting the books, or use it for networking with others around at the airport. Don’t forget to at least put a small lunch break in between!
6:00PM: It’s either time to go home or stay for a night flight. It’s often hard to schedule these during daylight savings especially when you are in the midst of summer and sunset only ends up being after 9PM. Try work this around your schedule as well, instead of having your day start at 8, start at noon. Instructors have lives too (Well at least we think we do), so having some time off for yourself is important. Again, use the advantage of being able to set your own schedule here. Don’t be afraid to ask students as well if they have some flexibility in scheduling, more than often I find moving them around is not a problem at all, and sometimes works even better with them!
6:30PM: If we don’t have a night lesson scheduled tonight, its home time! But work doesn’t stop then. When I get home, once again, I check the weather! This will give me a good idea to start thinking about tomorrow’s schedule and start planning ahead. Sometimes I will spend some time on the schedule, move some stuff around or schedule future lessons with students. Homework assignments for students also play an integral part of ensuring they progress in their training, I use this time usually as well to send my students their assignments. Just a small worksheet or an assignment to read a chapter or two in their textbooks, will save both you and them time to help them prepare for their next lesson.
This is not the typical 9-5 work schedule.
Some days we work 6AM-2PM, others 11AM to 10PM. And when it’s time to go home, your job is not yet done. We are responsible for ensuring students are staying on track and progressing in their training, being on top of that is a big responsibility. A bad instructor creates a bad student . Don’t just show up to the airport with the student with no plan or idea as to what you are working on that day. If they have no guidance as to what to expect or what to come prepared for, this will only make things more frustrating for both of you.
Yes, we are pretty much constantly “at work”
In the sense that we are always monitoring weather, sending emails when we are home, connecting with new potential students, or scheduling future lessons, but that doesn’t mean we have time to ourselves too. In fact, I probably have more time off than the average “desk job” most people work. It really depends on you as an individual, you have the power to set your own schedule!
Having the ability to teach others to fly comes with great responsibility, but at the end of the day, it truly is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. From sending your students off for their first solo, seeing that smile on their faces when they pass their check ride, or even just in general seeing your students’ progress on each lesson.
Becoming a CFI is a great privilege in itself, and yes, we truly do have the best “office view” out there.