Life as a Flight Instructor
After completing my Commercial Pilot License, my first flying job was as a Sky Dive Pilot. I did this for a couple of summers before completing my Flight Instructor Rating. After this, I worked part time for a few years as a VFR and then as a Multi and IFR Flight Instructor at one of the busiest flight schools at one of the busiest training airports in Canada. While I was instructing I completed my University degree. I have recently been hired as a First Officer on a twin turbo prop in a charter operation.
As with any job, there are pros and cons to being a Flight Instructor. The working conditions and the demands of the job can work well for some, but not for others. Your schedule can be really flexible at times, but really demanding at other times. The pay can be decent if you are busy enough. However, the busier schools are usually in more populated cities where the cost of living can be higher. Being a flight instructor requires more than just being a good pilot and not all pilots have the people skills required. Not only must you like working with people, but you must have good communications skills, be intuitive to the needs of your students and have a professional manner when dealing with them as customers. Working at a reputable, well-established school can make the difference of whether or not you have a positive experience as a flight instructor. Therefore, it is important that you research different schools and interview instructors that work there, to get a clear idea of the working conditions at that school before signing up to do your rating. Most schools will tend to favour hiring instructors who do their Instructor Ratings with them. But, this is not always a guaranteed job and may depend on need.
There are differing opinions about how desirable it is to hire someone with mainly instructing experience and little operational experience. It is true that the flying you do as an instructor is within a controlled training environment. However, the skills you gain and the experiences you will take with you can go a long way for preparing you for dealing with the demands of an operational environment. Attention to detail, disciplined flying habits, good communication skills, effective conflict management abilities, and a professional manner are skills that are highly valued by employers. These are skills that you can hone as you work as an instructor. Although I have only been flying in an operational environment for a short time, I feel that instructing well prepared me for the transition to the demands of a two crew environment in a complex, twin turbo prop airplane. Already having the experience of leading by example, this can translate into a good work ethic that will be acknowledged. Doing a thorough weather analysis and briefing, completing accurate paperwork and using disciplined standard operating procedures and effective communication in the cockpit have been recognized and appreciated by my Captains.
For me, working as a flight instructor was a rewarding experience that in many ways prepared me for my present job, and no doubt, for my future career in aviation. Although it definitely helped me build my flying hours, this is only a small part of the value I experienced working as an instructor. Not only did it help me become a master in the basics of flying skills and concepts, it allowed me to gain experience working with different people having different personalities and communication styles who came from a variety of different cultures. As a result, I learned much about the importance of effective communication and standardization in the cockpit. At the same time, I learned how it is possible to be flexible and creative in order to achieve the learning goals of my students in an effective and safe manner. I worked with students of all ages and walks of life. The youngest being 13 and the oldest 82!! They were from all over the world, having different goals and were at different phases of their flying careers. From the student who just began their journey of achieving their dream of becoming an airline pilot, to the seasoned airline and bush pilot, I learned something from all of them. Although it can be challenging times, it is extremely rewarding to see someone who knows nothing about flying, who, with your help achieves their dream of becoming a pilot. Bumping into a former student who tells you what a positive impact you made on their career, or helping someone with years more experience than yourself improve their skills, are extremely satisfying. These are people that may be out in the industry and can help you later in your career. Not only can they provide you with useful information about the industry, they can be great future contacts or references for future jobs. The best thing about my experience as an instructor is that I have made many really good friends who are all over the world, who I continue to stay in contact with. It is great to know so many people who can share so much advice and insight about their own experiences that can inspire and motivate you.
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