flight instructor shortcut: combine your commercial pilot and flight instructor training

If you’re an instrument-rated private pilot planning to become a flight instructor, save time and money by combining your Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor training (Part 61 only). Here’s how:

1. Combine study for your Commercial Pilot, Flight Instructor, and Advanced Ground Instructor written Knowledge Tests*

Few pilots-in-training realize how similar certain FAA written Knowledge Tests can be. It turns out that you can save yourself a good deal of time and effort by studying for and taking related tests at the same time. 

In particular, the Commercial Pilot-Airplane, Flight Instructor-Airplane, and Advanced Ground Instructor Knowledge Tests are similar enough that all three can easily be prepared for and completed simultaneously*.

Assuming you’re studying for your Commercial pilot certificate and plan to progress through your CFI ratings within the next two years, taking them all at once will save you the effort of restudying the same material down the line. (An additional “Fundamentals of Instruction” Knowledge Test is also required to earn your first CFI or Ground Instructor certificate, but that covers different material so you needn’t necessarily take it with the others.)

2. Train for your Commercial Pilot Practical Test from the right seat

Next, ask your CFI and pilot examiner to allow you to take your commercial pilot training and checkride all from the right seat. (Normally, commercial training is done in the left seat.) That way, upon passing your Commercial you’re already sharp flying from the right seat, and can immediately begin mastering teaching techniques for the Flight Instructor Practical Test. That’ll save you 5+ instructional flight hours that other CFI applicants spend relearning all the commercial maneuvers from the right seat.

3. Combine study for your Instrument Rating, Instrument Flight Instructor, and Instrument Ground Instructor written Knowledge Tests*

The Instrument-Airplane, Flight Instructor-Instrument, and Instrument Ground Instructor Knowledge Tests are also very similar to one another.


1. Knowledge Test results are good for two years, so combining test-taking only makes sense if you plan to achieve the next certificate/rating within that period.

2. Many pilots will find they can pass the named multiple Knowledge Tests in short order without further study. If in doubt, however, run through some Test Questions for the additional tests to build confidence and determine if further study is justified. For example, following study for the Instrument Pilot Knowledge Test, sample some test questions for the Instrument Flight Instructor Knowledge Test.


©2013, 2022 Gregory N. Brown

For more guidance on this topic, see Greg’s book, The Savvy Flight Instructor 2nd Edition.

6 thoughts on “flight instructor shortcut: combine your commercial pilot and flight instructor training

  1. Hey Greg,

    If people are in an area with Sport training, they can become a Sport CFI
    with only a pilot’s rating and 150 hours TT. This way, they can get experience and pay, too.


    1. Thanks for the great suggestion, George! Are you actively involved with sport training? If so, where?

      1. I have done some Sport instruction but there are no Sport Planes in the Kingman,AZ area at this time. Presently,
        I have a PPL and Instrument student.

        I soloed a Sport Plane (11AC Chief) about 50 years age.

        1. Same here at Flag. I just haven’t been around sport planes enough to be very familiar with them. Hopefully we’ll soon see more in N. AZ!

  2. Do you have a phone number? My phone is 775-843-6133. I’m looking for a SEL CFI add. Thanks, Dan.

    1. Hi Dan, Unfortunately I am not currently in the business of offering dual, though I sure appreciate you thinking of me! Sincerely, Greg

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