Flight instructors; we learn from them, we fly with them, but what is it like to be them? Take a look at a day in the life of a certified flight instructor and what it is they do.
It isn’t easy becoming a CFI. Before earning a CFI rating a pilot must put in hours of training and studying. The acceleration of the training is exhausting, but it is worth it. The flight instructors sit through a long, sometimes 8-hour oral examination with a certified FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. The final result after all of the hard work is that they are now certified to teach and inspire others to fly.
It’s the hustle and bustle of a Wednesday morning, and the sky is cloudless with a high heat temperature, typical Florida weather. Instructor James Davey takes me through his daily schedule and what happens on a typical day as an instructor.
“Usually if I’m in the morning I open up shop and get things dispatched and ready to go before my student gets here. Once my student shows up I usually send them out to preflight or we head out together. The first flight of the day is usually the best because it’s smooth skies and the sunrise is really pretty.” Being in early has its perks and the Florida sunrise makes the top of the list. “After that first two hours, rinse and repeat.” A demanding part of instructing is the constant movement between flights and ground lessons. Flying with one student for two hours and then turning around to do it again for the day seems like it would be tough to handle, but Davey says it’s all worth it. “ Seeing the progression in students is cool. I see it most in private students because it’s their first time learning this stuff, so by the end of it you can tell they know what they’re talking about.”
An aspect of instructors that stands out is their ability to build personal relationships with students. As each student enters Paragon Flight, it’s an immediate feeling of connectedness and friendships. The environment is a big part of flying, not only in the outdoors but indoors too. Instructors and students have a relationship like no other, building trust and gaining experience through one-to-one learning. Davey explains a cool part of the day is always when a student first solos. “When they solo for the first time it’s nerve-wracking but such a good feeling seeing them succeed.”
It wouldn’t be summer in Florida if it didn’t rain every afternoon. “We’re pretty lucky here in Florida, because it’s mostly sporadic storms and not full coverage, so, for the most part, we’re able to still go out and fly, it’s a lot of see and avoid. The more you fly, the more comfortable you get in knowing your limitations and the plane’s limitations and just not pushing those.” If planes aren’t going out, most lessons move to ground. Flexibility is key on these rainy days as our ground operations building now becomes the hub for lessons and flight planning.
Although the time and effort, running from place to place may feel tiring or difficult to keep up with, the outcome is rewarding. Seeing students succeed and building a relationship makes it all worth it. Without instructors, we wouldn’t be able to fly. It is easy to see that each instructor, though varies in teaching style, gives 110 percent effort in everything they do. As you learn from them, they learn from you. Flight instructing is a job in a pilot’s aviation career that is unforgettable