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Flight Instructor: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

A flight instructor requires a significant amount of formal training. Learn about the training, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Flight instructors are responsible for teaching students how to fly aircraft. This normally includes instruction both on the ground and in the sky, and may include instruction in cockpit instruments, aerodynamics and similar subjects. Flight instructors must have a pilot's license and be certified by the FAA as a flight instructor.

Required Education Pilot training, instructor certification
Other Requirements Pilot license for teaching aircraft, 18 years of age
Projected Job Growth* 1% decrease between 2012 and 2022 (airline and commercial pilots)*
Median Salary (2013)* $115,190

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Flight Instructor

Flight instructors are responsible for teaching students how to fly in a variety of settings using methods that include textbook education, simulators and live flight training. Flight instructors use ground-school classes both to teach students the basics of flying an aircraft and to help them prepare for the written test they can expect to face when applying for their pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

After students complete textbook education, flight instructors often use simulators or dual-controlled aircraft to acquaint them with the experience of flying an aircraft. Finally, flight instructors accompany their students on live flights to complete their training. Some instructors specialize as examiners or check pilots and fly with applicants or pilots to ensure proficiency.

Job Duties

Flight instructors develop curricula, instruct students in a classroom setting, conduct training flights, determine student proficiency, report on student progress and develop new teaching methods. They are responsible for training students in subjects such as aircraft systems, operating procedures, handling emergencies, problem analysis, aircraft navigation, radio operation and aerodynamics.

Education and Career Requirements

Most flight instructors must have either Commercial Pilot Certification, which requires 250 flight hours, or Airline Transport Pilot Certification, which requires 1,500 hours, before applying to become Certified Flight Instructors. All certifications are overseen by the FAA. In order to gain certification as a flight instructor, it is necessary to be at least 18 years old, to be able to communicate fluently in English and to hold a pilot's license for the type of aircraft that is appropriate to the flight instructor rating they seek. Other requirements--including passing knowledge and practical tests as well as demonstrating a number of total flight hours--also apply. A flight instructor must have rating for the type of aircraft used in student instruction. For specialty aircraft such as helicopters, the flight instructor must have at least five pilot-in-command hours logged for that particular make and model.

In general, a 1% decrease in employment for airline and commercial pilots was projected from 2012-2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The demand for instructors may also decrease due to the training needed for student pilots. BLS data shows prospects are better for those wishing to teach commercial pilots, as positions for those pilots are predicted to increase by 9% in that time period. In the BLS' category of airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers (which includes flight instructors), the median salary in 2013 was $115,190.

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