5 TOP reasons to be a Flight Instructor. How to become a Flight Instructor, jobs and salary

Flight Instructor and student

Top 5 reasons to become a Flight Instructor

  1. Enjoy your passion and ensure high professional satisfaction. The levels of fulfillment reported by Flight Instructors are often at the highest level. Indeed, guiding and training junior students in their piloting while stimulating their motivation and values is a very impactful job. As one of Quality Fly’s instructors said: This is the type of job I never want to quit, as it is transformational; instead of transporting people or goods from point A to point B, a flight instructor helps people achieve their goals and dreams, which is an important contribution to the future of the students.
  2. Acquire experience and attractivity for a future career as an airline pilot. Airlines value your piloting experience including hours flown and related instruction experience. Indeed, airlines don’t just hire today’s First Officer but tomorrow’s Captain; and a captain needs to continuously train his First officers. Additionally, airlines need a considerable amount of simulator instructors, and instructor certification and experience reduce the time to be ready for such endeavours. Additionally, the instructor job requires maturity and professionalism, which is valued in all cases but in a particular way for very young candidates completing their ATPL fresh after high school. Therefore, for all these reasons, airlines value in a very significant manner the Flight Instructor Experience.
  3. Enjoy a more comfortable job-life balance versus an airline job. Have you heard about jet-lag difficulties after long-distance trips? Have you been changing schedules, including wake-up at midnight and variable sleeping times? Have you been sleeping in hotels for long periods of time? Is it difficult to be based in the town you want to live in? Those are not necessarily included in an airline pilot’s life, but it is a possibility. Additionally, the effects of such changes can be non-existent for a while, and start to show a significant impact in your late thirties and forties. Some pilots prefer to enjoy a more consistent schedule and see their families every day while working as flight instructors. The salary cannot be compared with the one of a B777 captain in the middle east, but with enough experience, as a postholder and with an examiner licence, the income is often comparable to an entry-level captain’s.
  4. Ensure a safe job in case of medical licence loss. The risk of medical loss is an important reason many pilots decide to pursue a career as FI, even while still flying as an airline pilot. While the risk of not passing such an exam is small, it grows slightly over the years. One solution is to pay insurance to cover such risk, another is to develop a parallel career in instruction where you can afterward capitalize on the experience acquired as an airline pilot. Medical licence loss implies you cannot fly as an instructor either, but you can instruct in the simulator in IR and MCC phases, as well as deliver theoretical training and be a post-holder within an Airline Training Organization.
  5. Enjoy a side job while working in an airline. You might not be willing to have a second job during the first year in an airline, but over time you might have a decent amount of free time, depending on the length of the flights. Many airline pilots miss flying a piston engine, the sensations of flying visual, taking off and landing in a small airport, feeling the airplane… Combining airline jobs with instruction allows you to enjoy the best of each different aviation environment.
View over Madrid
The views instructors get to see every day never get old


How to become a Flight instructor

There are generally two paths to becoming a Flight Instructor:

  • The most common one involves the completion of a Flight Instructor course once you have obtained your ATPL. You can read information about our course here.
  • Another possible path involves joining the instructor path after having gained experience in commercial aviation. Indeed, after a significant amount of hours in Instrumental flying and in multi-pilot aircraft, you can opt for the licences of IRI and MCCI instructor. Such licences will not allow you to instruct in SEP VFR, thus becoming a less flexible asset for the school, but your experience in the airline will be valued by the school and your students.

Flight Instructor Career Path – How many hours to become a Flight Instructor?

The Flight instructor professional path has a number of steps, in a similar way as airline pilots progress through the 2nd officer, 1st officer, and captain positions, and gain seniority and eventually new Type Ratings.

  1. FI Restricted. You can work as Flight Instructor following the completion of the FI course, in Visual Flight Rules, and with some restrictions like requiring supervision until reaching a minimum number of hours. Upon completion of such hours, you can work without supervision.
  2. Night Rating. You can start instructing at night after flying with a night rated instructor
  3. FI CPL. When reaching 200 instruction hours, you will be able to instruct CPL students
  4. Instrument Rating. Once you have completed an Instrument rating instruction and if you have 200 hours of IFR you can instruct for an Instrument rating.
  5. Multi-Engine Class Rating. Following completion of the multi-engine class rating instruction and having 30 hours as a pilot in command of multi-engine piston aircraft, you will be able to instruct for multi-engine piston rating.
  6. Fi of FI. Once you achieve 500 hours of flight experience as an instructor, you can obtain an upgrade to be able to train flight instructors
  7. Postholder positions are often available for senior FI, such as Chief Flight Instructor (CFI), Head of Training (HT), Safety Manager (SM), Compliance Monitoring Manager (CMM), and Chief Theory Knowledge Instructor (CTKI).
  8. Once enough experience is gained, and following the required additional training and exams, the position of flight examiner can be accessed.

Needless to say, there is plenty of development within the FI career.

Salary of a Flight Instructor

The salary of a Flight instructor increases with seniority and capabilities as it does for an airline pilot. For the values of the following table note that it is standardized for Spain, and that the equivalent salary with the same Purchasing Power in countries such as Sweden, the UK, or Germany is approximately double, same as living costs.

  1. Basic level, from restricted FI to CPL. The basic starting salary is similar to any other entry-level position, clearly above the minimum salary, but not by a huge margin.
  2. Night Rating FI and FI of FI. As experience is gained the following steps are typically the NVFR Instruction and the FI of FI rating. The salary for such type of instruction increases significantly by about 30 to 50% compared to the basic salary, plus in some cases, there is a bonus for the night flight. Important to note though that only some of the flight hours are done as NVFR FI or FI of FI.
  3. Instrument Rating. Instructors with privileges to instruct instrument rating will have an important increase in seniority, not just for the increased capabilities but the experience required to achieve this rating. The salary increases by 40 to 50% from that of an entry-level flight instructor and a higher number of hours can be performed in IR simulator instruction.
  4. ME Instructor. This is the most senior level of flight Instruction. The salary increases by another 40 to 50% compared to the IR compensation. Other ratings such as UPRT FI are also considered high seniority, but the volume of work is usually not as high.
  5. Following a high level of seniority, there is the option to combine the FI position with the functions of postholder in a flight academy, in positions such as CFI, HT, CTKI, CMM, and SM; which adds not only interest but salary to the FI position. These acronyms stand for Chief Flight Instructor, Head of Training, Chief Theoretical Knowledge Instructor, Compliance Monitoring Manager, and Safety Manager.
  6. Once a pretty significant experience has been gained, one of the last steps that can be achieved within the Flight Instructor career is to become a Flight Examiner. Not only is it a position with an important responsibility to ensure that anyone with a licence is capable to fly the relevant licence or rating, but the additional salary makes a significant addition to the FI compensation, as any pilot reading this article knows after having paid a few examiner fees.

In conclusion, while an aircraft with 180 passengers can obviously pay for more than one-to-one training, the retribution increases with increased levels of seniority. In particular, salary can get to a significantly good level when combining a senior instruction position, with a postholder position and or with an examiner rating. And all that with a stable base, without the need to leave home for long trips, and seeing your husband or wife every night. That last point is judged by many as an upside, but that’s for you to decide!

Tecnam P2008 cockpit in flight

Can I combine a FI position with airline or executive flying?

Yes. Not only the can FI position be combined, but it offers an excellent experience to bring the knowledge from the Executive aviation or the airline to the SEP cockpit. That is something highly desirable by the flight schools in terms of training, and it is often the goal for those FI who are passionate about instruction but want to continue flying big aircraft and developing as pilots.

It is important to consider that Flight Time Limitations (FTL) and roster requirements make it often difficult to combine Airline requirements with FI positions. That depends, though, on the intensity of the roster and the type of load as FI, either being in flight or in a simulator, which allows more flexibility.

Executive aviation and airline long-haul positions usually offer a much higher amount of free time, allowing the combination with flight or simulator instruction or even teaching as Ground Instructor.

Furthermore, having a flight instructor certificate will help you achieve instructor positions in the airlines. Having it will reduce the amount of training necessary for the courses to become an airline instructor.

Finally, you can get pilot-in-command hours (PIC) that are required for an unfrozen ATPL License.

Can I combine Flight Instruction with Ground Instruction?

Yes, you can, and it is recommended by many instructors if you like it. However, do not expect to deliver 5 hours of ground training in the afternoon after having flown 4 hours in the morning. Flight instruction is a demanding task, and there is only so much additional work you can do following your Flight Instructor dedication. In any case, it is not only interesting for the instructor, but also for the student, as there is a stronger link between ground and flight training. The school can have a compact team of instructors with very high knowledge of the students.

Flight Instructor epaulettes

How do I choose the best Flight school to become a Flight Instructor?

Theoretical part

It is interesting to find a school that places enough importance on the theoretical part. Since the regulation is only specific to the syllabus of Teaching and Learning, theoretical training is often disregarded. A good FI course can include some of the following elements:

  • Teaching and Learning, ideally taught by a very talented instructor with experience in both general and commercial aviation.
  • ICAO Core competencies.
  • Soft skills
  • UPRT
  • KSA
  • Instruction regulations
  • Instructor shadowing
  • Practices in both classroom and simulator
  • In any case, we strongly recommend you to ask for the detailed ground school syllabus of the FI course.

Flight part

It is also important to be sure that the instructors you’ll train with have the right experience. Learning from a variety of instructors will allow you to absorb more information.

In general, it is advisable to complete the Flight Instructor course in a School with a strict level of adherence to Standard Operating Procedures, a high level of digitalization, with practices that include the best from both General aviation and commercial aviation.

Entry requirements to become a flight instructor

  • Hold a CPL(A)
  • 30 hours in single-engine piston-powered aeroplanes of which at least 5 hours shall have been completed during the last 6 months
  • Pass the pre-entry assessment