… or how I came a long way from Hospitality and Web Design industries to a Freelance Flight Instructor career.
The decision was made to start a new professional chapter in aviation after previous careers and 12 years in the web industry. I started my part-time pilot training at 43 while still working for my clients.Aug 2008
Private Pilot License passed on CESSNA 172M GILC in December 2008, following a one year and a half part-time training.Dec 2008
Commercial Pilot Licence rating passed on CESSNA 172M GILC in May 2009 following a 10-month training.Aug 2009
Like most pilots, the child I once was always looked up as an airplane would fly by. And like most of them, I said the exact same words they said someday: "When I grow up, I’ll fly an aircraft!”. I found out later that fate is a bit more complicated than these few words and, most of all, I was not given the opportunity and encouragement to dream big enough to pursue that kind of career. This quickly put an end to the basic right of being who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do with my life.
Until that night of 2003, when I got my hands on the sacred Flight Training Manual… I dared reading the Theory of Flight chapter and got the unexpected feeling I had a good understanding of my reading. This moment was the spark that lit up the fire and changed my future. Yes, it only took a boring friend’s party, a couple of drinks, and a book almost randomly grabbed from a shelf to make me change my life dramatically.
I eventually made the decision to become a pilot back in 2005, following several years in web design and other previous careers in ITs and hospitality industry. This process all started with a private license that I did not finish at the time for various reasons, which actually left me with a taste of underachievement that undermined an already low self-confidence. Two years later, as I was getting tired and extraordinarily bored with spending my life behind computer screens, I decided to not only finish this private license but also go commercial. Just that! At this point, I had no clue whether I had the potential or not and I wasn’t even close to knowing exactly how much work it would require. What I knew though, is I was probably not quite wired the way pilots are and that my background was not a typical one to work in that field. I also knew it would be exceedingly challenging, but that is exactly what I needed as I was reaching my 43 years of age. And most of all, I thought that succeeding on that path would help me build-up the self-confidence and the recognition I needed at the time. I kept my freelance web designer job to finance the training that I did in part-time mode for the most part, between 2008 and 2011.
I graduated as a flight instructor in 2011 but got my first position in 2012 as the industry was much slower than it is today. Since then, I have worked for various flight schools from one coast of Canada to the other. These flight schools were all very different in terms of size, culture, philosophy, and goals. Some of them were one to three aircraft owned Flight Training Units with only myself as a flight instructor teaching a very local clientele, while others would have a 25 to 30 airplane fleet and a little flight instructor army taking care of a very international clientele. This means I can adjust quite easily to different procedures, student profiles, and ways of working. Both in English and French.
I have also worked part-time in an aircraft maintenance sister company of a flight school where I was in charge of reorganizing the communication with the flight school, the workflow, the invoicing system, and the IT department.
And of course, I often took care of these flight schools’ web communication, marketing, and social media strategies since this was part of my background.
I decided to work as a freelance flight instructor back in August 2019. This new status of freelance flight instructor makes room in my busy life for other personal and aviation-related projects that I have been planning for a long time now.
have always thought there is something very noble about flight instruction. Not just because an instructor teaches others how to operate an aircraft (as Wikipedia would phrase it!), but because ultimately, it is all about teaching our students how to stay safe and alive in an environment they are definitely not meant for and that will sometimes get quickly and unexpectedly hostile. And that is my first concern as I start working with a student. Safety and my students’ lives come first, whatever is going on, and whatever the plan is.
It’s also about taking others under your wing and helping them to reach their goals and sharing all the information they’ll need to do it. I have to make sure that, in order to succeed, they have all the adequate and necessary knowledge. As Wilbur Wright said, “It is possible to fly without engines. But not without the knowledge and skills.”.
Very often, some students are not initially quite wired to fly an aircraft. Does that mean we, instructors, should dissuade them to do it? Certainly not! At least, they deserve the chance to give it a try and it is part of my mission to help them determine whether they should pursue their dream or not. And my experience (starting with myself) has taught me that most of them, with the help of desire, work, passion, curiosity, and a good dedicated instructor, will make their way to success.
As a none typical pilot and instructor with a very different background, my approach of aviation and flying is probably a bit different from others’. Aviation is a very serious world, relying on a multitude of rules and procedures, where everything seems to be black OR white. Although I understand we do need a framework to guarantee the safety and proper, smooth functioning of the industry, I do not quite adhere to that concept. I do believe there is a whole range of greys between those two extremities. And I think there lies the fun of life.
I have always tried to get as much pleasure and fun as possible out of my job, whatever it was. I know it’s a luxury not everyone can afford, but that’s what I need to work well without ending up bored and alienated by my job. This means I try to work as seriously as possible without taking myself too seriously. And I don’t see any problem with that as long as the outcome meets everyone’s expectation and things get done with our number one concern in mind: SAFETY.
Of course, as a Freelance Flight Instructor, I have more flexibility and more opportunities to complete my mission the way I envision it and I consider this as a great privilege.
I guess my instruction type directly ensues from my philosophy. For just because I’m a pilot and an instructor, it doesn’t mean I am some sort of guru, as some pilots seem to think about themselves. And just because I am the Pilot in Command and I keep authority in a cockpit, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t let my students express their own personality. This means that, while respecting the safety rules and principles, and as much as circumstances allow it, I adjust to my students to keep them at ease. The goal behind this flexibility is THEIR performance and pleasure. I believe in learning through pleasure and fun which, I think, make experiences and taught material much more memorable. If it takes good insane laughter before starting the aircraft (I’ve had that) to have a student relaxed and proficient during a pre-flight-test, I am totally fine with that. If they need to give me “Yes Sir, Will do Sir” (yes, I’ve had that too…) and be submissive to learn and perform more efficiently, I am totally fine with that as well. I will determine and exploit every trait of their personality that I think can be a good trigger to make them learn and perform the best they can. And you’d be surprised how some negative personality traits can sometimes turn out to be a good help in a teaching process.
I pride myself on having a fairly good sense of human psychology and I am the kind of person who always needs to know who he’s dealing with. As an introvert type of guy, I listen a lot more than I talk. This means I give myself time and space to learn who I deal with, how to adjust to them, and adapt my teaching. I usually figure out quickly enough who is a fast or slow learner; who is anal about the numbers or flies instinctively; who needs to crack a joke to relax or needs to think and focus seriously and intensively from first to last second to give the right performance; who is totally comfortable in the cockpit or tends to get scared easily by wind conditions or tricky maneuvers. It’s all about sensing, listening, observing, and sharing the moment. All about empathy and knowing which personality I’m dealing with. But don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean I get complacent and lenient. I remain the P.I.C. whatever happens and I’m the one who sets the boundaries. I am a “cool instructor” but I am not a buddy or a father.
All through my instructor career, I‘ve had excellent relationships with my students and I remained in touch with a lot of them.
I work with 21st-century tools. This means no old school confusing schedule board on the walls, very little use of paper as much as practicable. I use computers and adequate software, smartphones and apps to communicate, schedule, teach, share, inform, innovate, etc…
As a flight instructor, it is often tempting to pretend one knows it all. The truth is even the most experienced pilots and instructors have their moments of awkward solitude in front of someone asking a tricky question. And even with a good knowledge level, the tremendous amount of information one needs to retain will always trick the memory at some point. Of course, this happens to me once in a while and the use of modern tools helps me do my homework, retrieve and share the information quickly with my students.
To answer that question, the best would probably be to consider the following list:
But you might also want to consider these other reasons in the next section…
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