Learning to fly is a life-changing experience. Not only is flying fun, but it’s also an enriching opportunity that can lead to many rewarding travel and career possibilities. And when it comes to flight training, there are many paths to choose from. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to earn a new rating or endorsement, one of the most important decisions to make is choosing the right flight instructor. While all flight instructors must be certified by Transport Canada, each of them will differ in their training style, personality, and areas of expertise. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a flight instructor.
There’s no need to stick to the first instructor you meet if they aren’t a good fit. Take your time to look for an instructor, whether you go through a flight school or look for a freelance instructor. Once you’ve tracked down a few potential instructors, contact them to schedule an introductory meeting. This will give you a chance to get to know them and determine if your personalities match well. Remember, you’ll be spending a great deal of time in close quarters with this person. Your lessons will be much more enjoyable if you get along with your instructor! And I’m speaking from experience: there is no way I could have achieved my own flight training with someone I wouldn’t get along with.
Your first meeting with a flight instructor, whether on the phone or in-person, is an opportunity to ask questions and talk about your goals. Find out more about the instructor’s background and experience, and make sure you feel comfortable with his or her training approach and philosophy. For example, some instructors, like me, prefer to teach in a classroom setting before taking students up in the air. Others believe students should gain hands-on flight experience right away and learn as they are flying. It’s also important to ask about the instructor’s schedule and availability. You don’t want to have to delay lessons just because your schedules don’t align.
Go beyond personality and pay attention to details: do they use a syllabus and assign you study material? Are they prepared for every flight? Do they conduct preflight and post-flight briefings? You can ask about the syllabus upfront during your interview. If the answer is, “What syllabus?” then you can essentially take your business elsewhere. Even if the instructor uses one of their own creation, that’s an indication of structure within the training that will serve you well.
Once you’ve found a potential instructor, ask if they can provide you with a list of references and follow up with their past students. Do their former students speak highly of them? How many of their students started and completed their training? Positive reviews from former students are a strong indication of a quality instructor.
Once you’ve narrowed your list to a few potential instructors, ask to schedule a short, introductory flight. This way you can observe the instructor’s teaching style first-hand before you fully commit.
A good instructor will make flight training safe and fun, yet challenging as they guide you to meet your goals and become a better pilot. The first instructor you work with could feel like the perfect match, but make sure that personality isn’t all that’s driving the relationship. Good instructors will demonstrate their attention to detail through the use of a syllabus (or standard course of training), their pre-flight preparation, and feedback to you during the post-flight briefing. A couple of red flags: if an instructor takes you out to the airplane without any pre-flight discussion or ends the lesson when the engine stops and rushes on to the next student. Trust your instincts, and you’re bound to have a positive, enriching experience.