Why You Should Definitely Earn a Flight Instructor Certificate

Part of the Positive Rate Series

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Professional  Pilots  of  Tomorrow’s “Positive  Rate”  series  focuses  on  ways  to  continuously  improve  our  careers  as  aviators. “Positive  Rate” is  the  callout  used  by  most  airline  crews  to  indicate  the  aircraft  is  moving  in  the  correct  direction  and  the  gear  can  be  raised  for  flight.  As  such,  the  series  focuses  on  ways  to  ensure  our  careers  are  continuously  moving  in  the  best  direction,  or  in  a  “positive  rate.”

Professional Pilots of Tomorrow’s “Positive Rate” series focuses on ways to continuously improve our careers as aviators. “Positive Rate” is the callout used by most airline crews to indicate the aircraft is moving in the correct direction and the gear can be raised for flight. As such, the series focuses on ways to ensure our careers are continuously moving in the best direction, or in a “positive rate.”

A common fork in the road for many pilots-in-training comes after they finish their Commercial Certificate. From this point, a pilot pursuing a career in aviation has several options. Assuming someone received a Commercial Certificate with a Single-Engine Rating (which is many pilots’ situation) they could try to jump right into professional flying in a “low-time” opportunity such as aerial mapping, flying skydivers, banner towing, etc. Another option is to add a Multi-Engine Rating to their newly minted Commercial Certificate quickly and pursue a similarly low-time opportunity with a twin-engine operator doing charter SIC, night cargo, or corporate flying. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the option to keep the training mindset and begin working on a Flight Instructor Certificate.
All are perfectly viable options and each has advantages and disadvantages, but I believe one of them to be the definitive best choice. And while I don’t know every pilot’s individual situation, I offer this advice to anyone who might be currently making this decision, or is coming upon it in the future. I firmly believe that earning a Flight Instructor Certificate is one of the best decisions you can make in your flight training and aviation career.

Before I break down a few reasons why I believe this, let me speak to the people who are already arguing with me in their heads, and address a few reasons why it might make since to pass up grabbing your Instructor Certificate at this crossroads of your career. First, and maybe most obviously, is if you have a great job opportunity waiting. I would never discourage anyone from pursuing an awesome opportunity that will gain them valuable experience and broaden their career horizons. Now, notice how I said “great” opportunity. At this point in your career, I would not recommend that you settle for an average position that isn’t going to give you significant résumé and logbook building opportunities. Another unfortunate reason pilots may stray away from an Instructor Certificate is for personal or financial reasons. Flight training is expensive and by this point, most people have likely already paid for about 250 hours of flying. If this is the case, and money for flight training is tight, then by all means, take a job that will get you into a pilot’s seat and get the money flowing in your direction.

Now, even if you fall into one of the situations just discussed, I encourage you keep reading. Though becoming an instructor may not make sense now, the reasons we’re about to discuss may come to be of value at another point in your career. I will explain why a Flight Instructor Certificate is one of the most valuable tools in your aviation toolbox.

Personally, my favorite reason for becoming a flight instructor is because it strengthens your abilities as a pilot in a way that nothing else can. Obviously, continuing your flight training will improve your skills, and because teaching any skill demonstrates a deep level of learning and understanding, as a flight instructor, you realize that you still have a lot to learn about flying and identify what needs work. Through instructing, you gain added proficiency in those areas. Further, sitting in the right seat of a training plane while observing and coaching the person to your left provides a whole new perspective of the way you fly. As you instruct students through the various maneuvers of flight training, you notice mistakes that you make yourself and you have the opportunity to observe different styles of accomplishing many tasks. During instruction, you continuously critique yourself, and work to improve your own aviation skillset. There are so many influences that contribute to your own development as a pilot and as an instructor.

Another great reason to add Flight Instructor to your résumé is that many companies love to hire people who are experienced flight instructors. The airlines often award points to applications for those having spent time as an instructor. Many people wonder why airlines value this experience and the answer relates to what we discussed above. In pretty much every flying job, pilots can heavily leverage skills they learned as a flight instructor. Just because someone is going to fly for an airline for 30 years doesn’t mean they’ll never use and rely on the experiences they gained while instructing. In fact, many in positions, such as Airline Captain and Line Check Pilot, essentially act as flight instructors, in a way. Captains, while working as a part of the crew, are often mentoring and helping both new and experienced first officers as they grow as pilots. An even better example, line check pilots are tasked with teaching brand new first officers the ways of the airline, and developing their skills to a point where they can fly the line on their own. Considering this, it seems pretty clear why airlines – and other companies for that matter – might want a person who not only has a proven track record as a pilot, but also as a teacher and mentor.

A final but equally important reason an Instructor Certificate can prove valuable is that aviation will always need instructors. Even if, in 100 years (or however long it might take) we get to a point where airliners are flying themselves, I believe people will still want to learn how to fly. The numbers might vary and the industry might ebb and flow, but I feel pretty confident in saying that flight instructors will be needed for many decades to come. And even if you plan to camp out at your dream airline for several decades, you never know when a job as a flight instructor might be your best or only choice. Furloughs happen, pilots lose First Class Medicals, and many other situations could arise that land you at a point when flight instructing is your go-to option. Many people enjoy long and prosperous careers as full-time flight instructors. If your full-time job will always be flying for an airline, you might occasionally find great enjoyment in flight instructing friends or family on your days off. The bottom line is that holding that Flight Instructor Certificate may open doors to many opportunities you might not otherwise have.

These are just a few of the reasons I consider earning your Flight Instructor Certificate a great decision, and one you can make at any point in your career. Regardless of where you are in your aviation journey, I strongly encourage you to consider taking this path. Training to become an instructor can be long and challenging, perhaps without immediate reward in sight. However, I see it as another of many times in aviation when the long-term benefits outweigh the substantial effort it takes to get there. Keep this in mind, and I guaranteed that if you become a flight instructor, you will remember it every time the skills and experience you gain as an instructor pay off down the road. ACN

SOURCEAero Crew News, May 2018
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Cameron Shulak
Cameron Shulak is deeply connected to the aviation industry as an airline pilot, mentor, author, and volunteer. He’s a graduate of Southern Illinois University, with degrees in Aviation Management and Professional Flight, and full-time he serves as a First Officer for a large regional airline. Outside the flight deck, Cameron mentors future airline pilots through the Professional Pilots of Tomorrow organization. He is Editor of PPOT’s career development blog, Flightline. Additionally, he contributes to several aviation publications and speaks at various pilot development seminars. On his days off from work he’s probably on the golf course, or stuck somewhere trying to non-rev back from vacation.

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