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A flight instructor is a person who teaches others to fly aircraft. Especially Rotor/Helicopter Flight Instructors. Specific privileges granted to holders of a flight instructor qualification vary from country to country, but very generally, a flight instructor serves to enhance or evaluate the knowledge and skill level of an aviator in pursuit of a higher pilot’s license, certificate or rating.
A person who holds a flight instructor certificate (called a “certificated flight instructor” or CFI) is authorized to give training and endorsements required for and relating to;
- a student, private, commercial or other pilot certificate;
- the three hours of training with reference only to instruments in preparation for a private pilot certificate, note that this does not need to be a CFII.
- an instrument rating, only if the CFI has an instrument instructor rating (CFII); This cannot be given by a “safety pilot“. A safety pilot can only be used to help maintain instrument proficiency with an instrument-rated pilot by flying the required six instrument approaches-holding-intercepting and tracking courses, within the preceding six calendar months.
- a flight instructor certificate is only given if the experience requirements have been met (detailed below);
- a flight review, endorsement (previously called BFR) (currently referred to as flight review see 14 CFR part 61.56), or recency of experience requirement;
- preparation for a practical test (typically three hours within the preceding 60 days in preparation for a certificate or rating); or
- endorsement for a knowledge test (written examination)
Certain limitations are placed on the instruction a flight instructor may give. For example, flight instructors wishing to train applicants for a flight instructor certificate must have held their own flight instructor certificate for at least 24 months and must have given at least 200 hours of instruction. Specific training programs have additional requirements or limitations.
The occupational privileges of instructors employed by flight schools regulated under 14 CFR parts 141 and 142 are further restricted. Specific authorization is often required from the local controlling agency (Typically the flight standards district office) in order for instructors to conduct evaluations, for example.
Choosing a Flight Instructor
The student instructor relationship is one of the most critical factors affecting pilot performance, yet choosing an instructor is not an exact science. First, you will have to select a flight training facility that meets your needs. The right flight school will have the best combination available of well maintained aircraft, a convenient airport location, and prices that meet your budget. Each flight school will have flight instructors on staff or a list of flight instructors that are approved to conduct training there.
Once you have selected a training facility, there are many factors that a student should consider when choosing an instructor. The student and instructor will spend long hours together, often in the tight confines of a general aviation aircraft, so it is important that the student feels comfortable with any potential instructor. The student should also be confident that his or her instructor is not just knowledgeable, but is a pilot that can efficiently and effectively relate that knowledge to the student. Learning how to fly can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be a chore, so a student should enjoy spending time with their instructor.
An instructor should also be chosen whose availability matches the needs of the student. The right instructor will be available to fly during the time of day and on the days of the week that a student has allotted for flight training. Since many instructors are aspiring airline pilots, the student may wish to ask the instructor if he or she will be applying for a new job within the time frame that the student expects to be working towards his or her license.
Students should also make sure their instructor understands and accepts their priorities as a student. For example, some students wish to learn to fly in order to pursue a career in a aviation, while others merely wish to fly recreationally. A good instructor will tailor their lessons to meet the individual needs of a particular student.
Selecting the best instructor is one of the first and most important tasks a student undertakes before becoming a pilot. By taking the time to choose the best instructor for your needs, you can find an instructor that will partner with you in your pursuit of flight.
Flight instructors in the United States must hold at least a commercial pilot certificate or ATP (airline transport pilot) certificate. Individuals wishing to give instruction in airplanes or powered-lift aircraft are additionally required to hold an instrument rating in the desired category and class. Holders of a sport pilot certificate may obtain a flight instructor certificate with sport pilot rating, allowing them to give instruction for the sport pilot certificate in light-sport aircraft.
All individuals desiring flight instructor privileges must pass two additional written exams (fundamentals of instruction, or FOI; and a knowledge test specific to the category of aircraft in which instructional privileges are desired, such as fixed-wing) as well as a practical test.
Flight instructors must be at least 18 years of age to be eligible. Those airmen who hold commercial privileges in lighter-than-air aircraft (balloons and airships) have flight instructor privileges in those category and classes they have on their pilot certificate. Lighter-than-air flight instructor privileges do not get placed on a flight instructor certificate.
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