About the Author

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Southport, Manitoba, Canada
Steve Pomroy is a professional flight instructor and aviation writer. He has been teaching since 1995 and holds an Airline Transport Pilot License, Class 1 Instructor and Aerobatic Instructor Ratings, military QFI, and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He's written and published three flight training books through his company, SkyWriters Publishing, and has several other books under development. Steve currently teaches RCAF pilot candidates on their Primary Flight Training course.

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Be or Not To Be -- An Instructor, That Is

One of the questions that often gets asked by new Commercial Pilots or Commercial Pilot candidates nearing completion is the dreaded, "Should I get my Instructor Rating?". It shows up again and again on online aviation forums (for example: here), and practicing instructors are constantly getting the question from students.

I refer to the question as "dreaded" because there really isn’t a right answer. The answer is different for everyone. Should you or shouldn’t you? Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m inclined to say that if you have no experience beyond your own training, then you shouldn’t be instructing. But that view ignores the present reality of the industry, and I’ll leave it aside for now. Perhaps it will make an interesting future post.

The main question you need to ask yourself is, "Do you want to be a flight instructor?". This shouldn’t be confused with, "Do you want to build hours at someone else’s expense?", which , alas, is a far-too-common motivation for people who don’t actually want to instruct. There are other ways to build hours. If this is what you’re looking for, do some homework and find them. But do your homework early, the direction you choose may influence choices you make during your CPL training (e.g. – do you need float time? taildragger time? multi-engine time? mountain experience?).

So, do you want to be a flight instructor? Think before you answer.

Think about it another way: If your instructing flight hours didn’t count in your logbook, would you still be interested? If your answer is no, that’s a red flag. Perhaps it’s not a show stopper, but it’s definitely a red flag. There are in fact some charter and airline companies that don’t recognize instructing as "real" experience. Frankly, I don’t agree, but again, this is a topic for a future post. But you have to realize that these companies are out there. Of course, there are also charter and airline companies that show a (usually small) preference to ex-instructors—at least partly because they make promising future instructors (i.e. - training captains, company check pilots, and various pilot/manager positions).

The bottom line here is that if you’re just instructing to get hours and move on, it’s a bad idea. Even if you ignore ethical and professional considerations—such as the instructional commitment and quality of instruction received by your students—you will be miserable. Instructing, done right, is hard work. It’s very rewarding for those who have a genuine desire to teach, but it’s tedious and frustrating to those just building hours. Between the classroom, simulator, and administration (i.e. – paperwork), your actual flight time is less than half of your work. Again, this really isn’t a problem for those who want to teach. But if you just want to fly and don’t care so much about the development of others, this can be a painful existence.

So if you want to instruct and believe you will find it rewarding, do it! If not, move on. Get an entry level position towing banners, doing pipeline patrols, or working the dock in anticipation of flying floats (which will require you to get float experience first—do that as part of your CPL!).

Happy Flying!

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