Nature of the Work. Flight Instructors teach students to fly. They demonstrate and explain two basic principles of flight, aerial navigation, weather factors and flying regulations both on the ground and in the air. They demonstrate operation of aircraft and equipment in dual-controlled planes. They observe solo flights and determine each students' readiness to take examinations for licensed ratings. They also assist advanced students in acquiring advanced ratings such as commercial, instrument, multi-engine, and air transport ratings.
Working Conditions. Hours of work are irregular and seasonal depending on students' available time and the weather. Flight Instructors may work as many as 80 hours a week during the summer and can expect to work every weekend having good flying weather anytime during the year. The ground school classes may be scheduled during evening hours. Instruction duties rarely require being far from home base. When not teaching, flight instructors may supplement their income by working as an air taxi pilot or operating an aircraft repair station.
Where The Jobs Are. About 57,000 women and men in the U.S. hold flight instructor ratings but only 12,000 are actively working. They usually fly from airports having general aviation aircraft repair stations or an air taxi service where the operator provides flight instruction as an additional source of income. Flight instructors in areas with major airports having heavy air traffic usually operate out of the smaller airports in the community so beginning students can avoid heavy air traffic patterns.
The job of flight instructor often is considered a stepping stone to higher paying flying positions. Thus there is a large turnover in personnel and job openings. It should be noted that certified flight instructors (CFI) work long and irregular hours for low pay, $8.00 an hour, or less than $10,000 per year. Flight instructors who accumulate the necessary flight hours and experience often move on to jobs as corporate or airline pilots, but some remain in the teaching field. If they attain certain high standards, they can qualify for the Federal Aviation Administration's "Gold Seal" which identifies them as superior teachers and can lead to higher salaries. When the number of students is large enough, a flight instructor might organize a flying school, directing the activities of a number of instructors.
General aviation is presently experiencing little or no growth in the number of people who want to learn to fly. The recent recession combined with elimination of the G.I. Bill Flight Training Benefits has had a detrimental effect on civilian pilot training. In the long run today's general aviation fleet of approximately 220,000 aircraft is expected to increase to 315,000, creating a demand for more pilots and increased opportunity for flight instructors.
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