Chapter 7. Instructor Responsibilities and Professionalism

Flight Instructor Responsibilities

Learning to fly should provide students with an opportunity for exploration and experimentation. It should be a habit-building period during which students devote their attention, memory, and judgment to the development of correct habit patterns. All aviation instructors shoulder an enormous responsibility because their students will ultimately be flying, servicing, or repairing aircraft, but flight instructors have the additional responsibilities of evaluating student pilots and making a decision of when they are ready to solo. The flight instructor’s job is to “mold” the student pilot into a safe pilot who takes a professional approach to flying. Other flight instructor responsibilities can be found in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61 and FAA advisory circulars (ACs). [Figure 7-5]

Flight instructors must provide the most comprehensive ground and flight instruction possible. They should be current and proficient in the aircraft they use for flight instruction, encouraging each pilot to learn as much as he or she can and to continually “raise the bar.” Flight instructors have the responsibility of producing the safest pilots possible with the overall focus on education and learning. It is also important to convey an understanding of why pilots are trained to standards and how they are set.

Instructors should not introduce the minimum acceptable standards for passing the check ride when introducing lesson tasks. The minimum standards to pass the check ride should be introduced during the “3 hours of preparation” for the check ride. Keep the PTS in the proper perspective, with emphasis on the Practical Test Standard (PTS) increasing later in the training.

Physiological Obstacles for Flight Students

Although most student pilots have been exposed to air travel, they may not have flown in light, training aircraft. Consequently, students may react to unfamiliar noises or vibrations, or experience unfamiliar sensations due to G-force, or an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. To teach effectively, instructors cannot ignore the existence of these negative factors, nor should they ridicule students who are adversely affected. These negative sensations can usually be overcome by understanding the nature of their causes. Remember, a sick student does not learn well.

Ensuring Student Skill Set

Flight instructors must ensure student pilots develop the required skills and knowledge prior to solo flight. The student pilot must show consistency in the required solo tasks: takeoffs and landings, ability to prioritize in maintaining control of the aircraft, proper navigation skills, proficiency in flight, proper radio procedures and communication skills, and traffic pattern operation. Student pilots should receive instruction to ask for assistance or help from the ATC system when needed.

Mastery of the skill set includes consistent use and continued growth as well as increased accuracy of performance. The instructor determines when a student is ready for his or her first solo flight. Generally this determination is made when the instructor observes the student from preflight to engine start to engine shutdown and the student performs consistently, without need of instructor assistance.

Flight instructors need to provide adequate flight and ground instruction for “special emphasis” items listed in each PTS for airplane, helicopter, and light sport aircraft. The student needs to be knowledgeable in these special emphasis areas because examiners and authorized instructors place special emphasis upon areas considered critical to flight safety. Special emphasis items include, but are not limited to:

  • Positive aircraft control
  • Procedures for positive exchange of flight controls
  • Stall and spin awareness (if appropriate)
  • Collision avoidance
  • Wake turbulence and low-level wind turbulence and wind shear avoidance
  • Runway incursion avoidance
  • Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT)
  • Aeronautical decision-making (ADM)/risk management
  • Checklist usage
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Temporary flight restrictions (TFR)
  • Special use airspace (SUA)
  • Aviation security
  • Wire strike avoidance

Flight instructors should be current on the latest procedures regarding pilot training, certification, and safety. It is the flight instructor’s responsibility to maintain a current library of information. These sources are listed in the appropriate PTS, and other sources can be located on the Internet at and The FAA website provides comprehensive information to pilots and instructors. Other aviation organizations also have excellent information. However, an instructor is bound to follow any procedures in the manner prescribed by the FAA. If an instructor needs any assistance, he or she should contact a more experienced instructor, an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), or the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).

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