How to Choose the Best CFI (Certified Flight Instructor)

How to Choose the Best CFI (Certified Flight Instructor)

By Josh Page, CFI

One of the most important things to consider when starting your flight training is who will be your flight instructor (CFI). Your CFI will set the tone for your training, and they have the ability to make or break this special journey to earning your private pilot certificate. The last thing you want is to end up with someone who’s not right for you. I would recommend taking a few minutes to sit down with your prospective CFI and ask them a few questions. This will help you gauge if they’re indeed the best fit for you. Let’s face it — flight training is too expensive to end
up with the wrong CFI!

How long will they be sticking around?

If they’re about to head off to the airlines, they probably won’t be the best option for you. In a short matter of time, you’ll have to switch to a new CFI and that can definitely disrupt the learning process. It’s never good jumping around from instructor to instructor. You want to find someone who can be with you for the long haul.

What is their philosophy of teaching?

Teachers aren’t created equal, and CFIs are no exception. You’re going to want to find out how your CFI handles teaching. This applies to both inside the cockpit and in the classroom. Do they have a more hands-on approach in the cockpit or are they hesitant to give controls to the student? Back on the ground, how do they teach in the classroom? What tools do they use as part of their teaching process? Do they assign study work between lessons? Remember that what works for one student might not work for another. As you listen to their response, consider if their approach to teaching is something that will work for you.

What’s the structure of a typical lesson — and the flight training overall?
You want a CFI who has a well thought out structure and plan for your flight training. I’ve found it so helpful to take an hour with my new students and go over exactly what they can expect in their training with me. I don’t want them to be surprised in any way. I take that opportunity to go over everything from what they’ll actually be learning, to what order we will go in, to what costs they should anticipate, to how long this journey will likely take based on how much
they’re able to fly and study... I also like to walk them through what a typical lesson will look like and give them my best tips for their success in training. To me, this is the most important lesson they will have with me. As a student, you really want to know what to expect with your CFI. If they can’t paint you a good picture into what the next few months (and thousands of dollars) will look like with them, it’s time to look for a different CFI.

What’s their student checkride pass rate?

If a lot of students have failed their checkrides after training with them, this is an immediate red flag! It indicates that something isn’t right. You don’t want a CFI who struggles to convey difficult concepts, nor do you want an instructor
who’s impulsive and signs off students for checkrides when they aren’t ready. Don’t get me wrong — You don’t need to go searching for a CFI who’s never had a student fail a check ride! Students do fail checkrides at times, and for a variety of reasons. What you want to look for is a trend. Do a lot of students fail after training with this person? If so, look for someone else.

What is their availability?

This is crucial! You’re going to want to find an instructor who can
meet with you when you’re available. I’ve had to give up a couple of students because their work schedules changed and no longer matched with my teaching schedule. It wasn’t fair to them if we only flew once a week when they really wanted to fly several times a week, so it was imperative finding a CFI who could match their availability.

What options do they recommend for ground school and study?

Many students use a ground school to help them prepare for the FAA knowledge test. This is very cost-effective method because it limits the amount of classroom time they need to have with an instructor. Does your CFI have some good options they can recommend for ground schools after working with students and seeing what tends to work? What other tools do they recommend and use in their training?

I’ve had a number of students come from other flight schools who had terrible experiences with their CFIs and wasted a lot of money and time in the process. I feel for them! Many times, new flight students simply don’t know the kinds of things they should consider when choosing a flight instructor — or that they even have the option of choosing their flight instructor! This is your choice and it’s an important one. Flight training is a partnership between CFI and student. You want to find a great partner who can help you succeed and reach the skies confident and safe!

By Josh Page, CFI

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