The single most important factor in good flight training is lining up an excellent flight instructor (“CFI”). Since flying is largely taught one-on-one, the right instructor will greatly enhance your quality of learning, your safety and competence, and your ultimate enjoyment of flying.
Good training can be found at flight schools of any size — quality should be your key factor in making the decision. Start by asking acquaintances who fly locally if they can recommend a good instructor or flight program. Good referrals always mean a lot. The next step is to visit several different flight schools at nearby general aviation airports, and interview flight instructors at each one. (While you’re at the airport, approach some pilots you see operating light aircraft, and ask if they have any instructor or flight school recommendations.)
To evaluate each instructor you interview, ask him or her to:
- Detail the process for completing your training, and for a few thoughts about her or his instructing philosophy. There will be overlap but it will become clear who is organized and who is not.
- It’s also wise to ask for explanation of a technical point or two, like “What exactly are these stalls I keep hearing about?” and “How does a plane turn?” You want an instructor who can explain things clearly and concisely in terms you understand.
- Ask about approximate completion date to earn your pilot certificate. If you have some date objective in mind, say next summer’s vacation, share it and ask if that’s possible and what training schedule would be required to attain it. You want someone with a syllabus and agenda to get you finished promptly and cost-effectively.
- Ask each to share realistic flight-time and cost estimates to complete your certificate. You will need a ground-study program and pilot supplies, plus few people earn a pilot certificate anywhere near the FAA minimum hours. Knowing ahead of time what to realistically expect will be invaluable for your time and budgetary planning, and in comparing instructors and training programs.
Along with being knowledgable, your instructor should be patient, calm, and thorough, someone who listens well to you, and has a relaxed sense of humor. After all, you’re going to spend lots of time together in close quarters, so you’d better understand, respect, and like this person! ©2009, 2016 Gregory N. Brown