So you want to be a Flight Instructor?
October 11, 2018
Kay Vereeken

So, you want to be a "Flight Instructor"?

In my job as the Head of Training of an ATO (Approved Training Organization, which is the equivalent of a Part 141, for our American readers), I am frequently confronted with both very experienced and inexperienced pilots, who want to become Flight Instructors. 

My first question always is: Why? 

Answers usually range from: "I like to work with people, I’d like to become a better pilot, or the most terrifying ones: I’d like to build hours or gain some extra money next to my airline job."

I’m sorry guys, but you‘ve got it all wrong. If these are your aspirations, spend your time (and money) on becoming a team leader at your local football team, go read some aviation books or novels, but please do not get involved in aviation training. The aviation industry already has plenty of those… and we don’t need any more.

What does it really mean to be a flight instructor?

Let me tell you that it should be a "passion of an equal (or even higher) level as your initial dream to become a pilot". In other words, you’ve always felt the need/desire to teach in everything you did in your life. You should possess autodidactic skills and have a big interest in how to develop social skills, including a tremendous amount of empathy. Besides this, having a background in psychology may have a greater impact than being an engineer. Most importantly, you should really be eager to learn and grow, not only as pilot but also as a social human being, knowing and realizing how your actions may have an impact on someone’s life. Learning how someone else learns, should be a part of your daily life and you should accept that you will never reach your final goal.

Put your pride aside

Being a flight instructor involves "putting your pride aside" and putting all your efforts in achieving goals together with your candidate. Yes, people who know me, know that I hate the word “student”, as it puts your candidate immediately in an inferior position, while your goal is to teach him or her to become future decision makers. 

Expect nothing, and you'll gain everything you deserve

When it comes to the financials, I always say: “Expect nothing, and you’ll gain everything you deserve…” If you choose for a certain profession with the only goal of earning tons of money, you’ll never get it. You should not be content if you are “good” at your job, but should continuously strive and do everything possible to become “the best”. First of all, you will have much more fun in what you do, and secondly, guaranteed, you’ll never have to worry about money. Hard work, true effortless engagement, pure dedication and loyalty are key.

Working with "People"

What about, you like to work with people? Well, first of all you shouldn’t ‘like' to work with people, you should love it. Teaching a candidate to fly will frequently cause disappointment. Students will not always have the level of energy or motivation you had when you first learned to fly. It should be your goal to figure out how to trigger this motivation, and why this person really wants to do this. When a candidate doesn’t continue his or her training for whatever reason, learn to develop skills that help you understand why you weren’t able to help him or her, and most importantly, learn to cope with a break-up. Yes, it’s similar to having a relationship, at least that is how important learning someone to fly should be to you as a future instructor.

Not a side job!

Last but not least, don’t do this just as a side job, you’ll disappoint yourself and your candidates. You expect your candidate to show up 100 percent prepared, but what about you?  

"So, next time you think about becoming a flight instructor, think about your true teaching ambitions, think about all the things you’ve already taught other people in your life and how you enjoyed doing that!"

If you can’t possibly think of any similar experience, then please … don’t consider it even further. You really don’t want to be sitting in an airplane not enjoying the great time you could have had.

"If you feel thrilled and excited on the other hand after reading this post, and you can hardly wait to tell me about your teaching experiences, then please get in touch with me, because I am looking to share my ultimate teaching passion with you!"

We'd love hear from you, please post your comments and feedback!

Kay Vereeken
Kay started his Aviation Career at the age of 16 and did his first commercial flight at the age of 21. He worked for 3 different Airlines in Europe, flying the F50 and BAE146. Ten years and 8,000 flying hours later, he decided to dedicate his life to his ultimate passion: Professional Pilot Training. Together with his wife, he founded, EuroPilot Center (Antwerp) and SoCal Pilot Center (Southern California).