I have overcome my resistance and reluctance
When I began flight training as a teenager, I was adamant that I did not want to be a flight instructor … ever. Maybe I’d get the license for extra training and extra proficiency, but I definitely did not want to teach other people how to fly.
After all, my private-pilot training had taken far longer than expected. The FAA requires 40 hours of flight time to become a private pilot, and many Americans who become pilots get the licenses somewhere between 70-90 hours. Mine took double that owed to a number of factors, such as schedule restraints that had me flying only twice a week; winter weather limitations in the midwest; and changing instructors multiple times for reasons out of my control. It was tough for me to grasp the fundamentals of flying, and to their credit, my instructors had to show me immense patience while I worked through fundamental flight characteristics over a long period that I thought made me unsuited to the training environment.
Rather, I took to the detail, intricacies, and flow of IFR training. I thoroughly enjoyed, and still do, learning how to file IFR flight plans, accept clearances, and fly instrument approaches. After a drawn-out private-pilot training, I loved IFR flying. I loved my instructor, I loved the plane I was flying, and I loved being able to fly long cross countries in another part of the national airspace system.
So, during commercial training, when I was naturally asked how I would build my hours towards ATP minimums, my answer was, logically, that I wanted to fly Part 135, flying for someone such as the essential air service carriers that can hire first officers at relatively low time to fly propeller aircraft into big airports. Though everyone seemed to tell me that instructing would get me hours quicker than flying for many Part 135 airlines, there was no question in my mind that instructing was simply not in my path.
Though I often had an eloquent answer for why I didn’t want to instruct, ultimately the biggest reason I didn’t want to was because I didn’t quite believe in myself. I didn’t trust myself to be a good enough pilot to be as impressive to my students as my instructors had been to me. I didn’t trust myself to impart proper flying techniques to my students, and I didn’t trust myself to teach them what I had to, not only to pass checkrides, but to be safe, proficient, and skilled pilots. The task of instructing the next generation of professional pilots just felt too daunting for someone like me to take on.
Over time, I became acutely aware that, as previously mentioned, instructing could prove to be one of the fastest paths to get the hours I need to get to the airlines. But that alone didn’t sway me from my path; I would need a bit more convincing than that if I wanted any hope of becoming an instructor.
In retrospect, the turning point that truly opened me up to becoming an instructor came from the instructor preparing me for my commercial single-engine checkride. On the way back to our home airport after practicing maneuvers, she told me that she had purposefully gone out of her way to instruct as a challenge. Instead of letting teaching be a daunting, dangerous task, she wanted to use the job to improve her own knowledge and skills so she could attain the amount of knowledge and reach the level of skill and precision I’d admired in all my instructors.
Cautiously, I began testing this theory with other instructors at my school. Indeed, many said that they had learned more in their first 100 hours of teaching than they had during their initial training. And, thinking back, this is a theme I’d heard from previous instructors at my first flight school as well: that there is a notable trend where instructors will be more knowledgeable about flying, and often better pilots, because they had taken time to fine tune their knowledge and skills in order to better train their students.
Suddenly, my mind was changed. Now, not only am I open to instructing, but the idea excites me. I say this not because I want to use it as a method of improving my own skills – though that will be a nice added benefit – but instead because I didn’t feel it was the same daunting task I once thought it to be.
An instructor’s responsibility is still high; that’s not any less lost on me now as it was before. Rather, what isn’t lost on me is that instructors don’t go into teaching as perfect pilots with complete knowledge superior to mine. Teaching feels more accessible to me, and I feel that I am not only qualified to become an instructor but am also capable of becoming one.
Again, what changed wasn’t my perception of the steep task of instructing or the challenges it will bring. Rather, I’m more ready to accept that I don’t need to be completely perfect in order to do it. I still have all of my CFI training ahead of me, so I’ll have plenty of time to learn and grow as I prepare for my checkrides. I’ve also accepted that I will have to grow while I’m an instructor. Instead of feeling like I need to go into instructing with the experience of a 30-year industry veteran, I am more ready to trust the training I have received and the training I will have received. Plus, I am ready to trust my overall experience to guide me through my instructing journey.
Being a flight instructor will certainly be challenging work. With long days, weather delays, maintenance cancellations, and more, guiding a brand-new student to become a competent, proficient pilot is a high order. But it’s an order that I’m up to and excited for. I won’t be perfect in every second or on every flight, but even the DPEs who have been captains at major airlines and charter operators remind me that even they, with tens of thousands of hours, are still learning on every flight.
So, instead of my nerves and trepidation getting the better of me, I am ready to take the next step in my career. I want to instruct, not to accumulate many hours fast, but because I’ve learned that I love to teach, I love to learn, and I love to fly general aviation. So, I challenge my flight-8instructor training to bring it on, for I’m ready to learn, I’m ready to grow, and I’m ready to take the next step towards being the best pilot, best teacher, and best mentor I can be.