Flight instructor

A flight instructor and his student


Flight instructors train both new and experienced pilots seeking to gain licenses or experience in flying new aircraft, and how to properly operate an aircraft according to regulations. They teach their students both the theory and practice of flying and maintaining an airplane optimally, and they observe and evaluate student techniques. They also focus on the regulations relating to operational and safety procedures specific to different (commercial) airline aircraft.

Includes people performing air force training and recreational flight instruction.

The duties of a flight instructor typically include, but are not limited to:

  • evaluating student progress through tests and exams, and addressing areas of concern
  • teaching communications, instrument reading, principles of aerodynamics, airport operations, and equipment malfunctions
  • teaching emergency procedures
  • teaching flight manoeuvres such as taxiing, take-offs, and landings
  • teaching how to inspect aeroplanes before each flight
  • teaching night-flying techniques
  • teaching students current laws, regulations, and safety standards.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to flight instructor:

pilot trainer
flight instruction practitioner
aviation instructor
flying trainer
practitioner of flight instruction
instructor in flight
flying instructor
occupational flight instructor
pilot instructor
flight simulation instructor

Working conditions

Flight instructors divide their time between classrooms on the ground and the cockpits of training planes. They must be patient and remain calm even in difficult situations. They work no more than eight hours per day, but their schedules are irregular: instructors work when their students are available. Weekend and evening work may be required.

Minimum qualifications

Flight instructors must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some airlines require that their instructors have at least two years of college. Many prefer instructors who have college degrees.

Flight instructors must have private pilot’s licenses and commercial pilot’s licenses, which have specific age, vision, and skill requirements. These licenses often require examinations by aviation authorities.

Applicants for flight instructor’s ratings must pass tests similar to those for commercial pilot’s licenses: a rigorous physical examination; a written test that covers federal aviation rules, navigation techniques, radio operation, and meteorology; and a flying performance test. They must also pass tests in flight training maneuvers and both written and practical tests on flight instruction. Pilots who want to be instructors prepare for these tests by reading flight instruction

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Flight instructor is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Flight instructor career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to flight instructor.

first aid instructor
aviation data communications manager
private pilot
outdoor activities instructor
vessel steering instructor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of flight instructor. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of flight instructor with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

hospitality vocational teacher
occupational railway instructor
digital literacy teacher
maritime instructor
travel and tourism vocational teacher

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of flight instructor.

  • Aircraft flight control systems: Know the setting, features and operation of aircraft flight control systems. Manage flight control surfaces, cockpit controls, connections, and operating mechanisms required to control the flight direction of an aircraft. Operate aircraft engine controls in order to change aircraft speed.
  • Assessment processes: Various evaluation techniques, theories, and tools applicable in the assessment of students, participants in a programme, and employees. Different assessment strategies such as initial, formative, summative and self- assessment are used for varying purposes.
  • Common aviation safety regulations: The body of legislation and regulations that apply to the field of civil aviation at regional, national, European and International levels. Understand that regulations aimed at protecting citizens at all times in civil aviation; ensure that operators, citizens, and organisations comply with these rules.
  • Curriculum objectives: The goals identified in curricula and defined learning outcomes.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of flight instructor.

  • Guarantee students’ safety: Ensure all students falling under an instructor or other person’s supervision are safe and accounted for. Follow safety precautions in the learning situation.
  • Prepare lesson content: Prepare content to be taught in class in accordance with curriculum objectives by drafting exercises, researching up-to-date examples etc.
  • Monitor developments in field of expertise: Keep up with new research, regulations, and other significant changes, labour market related or otherwise, occurring within the field of specialisation.
  • Observe student’s progress: Follow up on students’ learning progress and assess their achievements and needs.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Adapt teaching to student’s capabilities: Identify the learning struggles and successes of students. Select teaching and learning strategies that support students’ individual learning needs and goals.
  • Apply teaching strategies: Employ various approaches, learning styles, and channels to instruct students, such as communicating content in terms they can understand, organising talking points for clarity, and repeating arguments when necessary. Use a wide range of teaching devices and methodologies appropriate to the class content, the learners’ level, goals, and priorities.
  • Operate cockpit control panels: Operates control panels in the cockpit or flight deck according to the needs of the flight. Manage on-board electronic systems to ensure a smooth flight.
  • Assess students: Evaluate the students’ (academic) progress, achievements, course knowledge and skills through assignments, tests, and examinations. Diagnose their needs and track their progress, strengths, and weaknesses. Formulate a summative statement of the goals the student achieved.
  • Give theory lessons to pilots: Instruct futures pilots on flight-related theoretical subjects such as the aircraft structure, the principles of flight, the flight controls and instruments, weather theory, and air law.
  • Teach flying practices: Instruct students in the practice of flying different types of planes safely, provide instruction on the on-board instrumentation, required board documents, and the checklist to ensure safe flight operation. Prepare the flight and monitor the exercises.
  • Ensure student welfare: Ensure that the needs of students in educational organisations are met, and that any learning issues are addressed, as well as potential problems outside of an educational context.
  • Give constructive feedback: Provide founded feedback through both criticism and praise in a respectful, clear, and consistent manner. Highlight achievements as well as mistakes and set up methods of formative assessment to evaluate work.
  • Apply technical communication skills: Explain technical details to non-technical customers, stakeholders, or any other interested parties in a clear and concise manner.
  • Assist students in their learning: Support and coach students in their work, give learners practical support and encouragement.
  • Apply intercultural teaching strategies: Ensure that the content, methods, materials and the general learning experience is inclusive for all students and takes into account the expectations and experiences of learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. Explore individual and social stereotypes and develop cross-cultural teaching strategies.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of flight instructor. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Visual flight rules: Types of flight rules which are a compilation of regulations that allow pilots to fly aircrafts in clear as well as unclear weather conditions whereby it is declared that outside visual reference to the ground and other obstructions are not safe.
  • Air force operations: The operations, procedures and compliant behaviour of a military air force, and of a specific air force base.
  • Aviation meteorology: Understand aviation meteorology to deal with the impact of weather on air traffic management (ATM). Understand how thorough changes in pressure and temperature values at airports can create variations in head and tail-wind components, and may impose low visibility operating conditions. Knowledge of aviation meteorology can help to reduce negative impact on the ATM system by diminishing disruption and the consequent problems of disturbed flow rates, lost capacity and induced additional costs.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of flight instructor. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Undertake procedures to meet helicopter flight requirements: Ensure that operation certificates are valid, guarantee that take-off mass is a maximum of 3,175 kg, verify that the minimum crew is adequate according to regulations and needs, ensure that the configuration setting is correct, and check if engines are suitable for the flight.
  • Facilitate teamwork between students: Encourage students to cooperate with others in their learning by working in teams, for example through group activities.
  • Operate radio navigation instruments: Operate radio navigation instruments to determine the position of aircraft in the airspace.
  • Train air force crew: Train a crew of air force personnel in activities specific to their duties, in air force regulations and operations, and ensure their welfare.
  • Evaluate education programmes: Evaluate ongoing training programmes and advise on potential optimisation.
  • Apply air force procedures: Apply the procedures present in a military air force and on a specific base and being compliant with all the regulations and policies.
  • Perform flight manoeuvres: Perform flight manoeuvres in critical situations, and associated ‘upset’ manoeuvres, in order to avoid collision.
  • Manage resources for educational purposes: Identify the necessary resources needed for learning purposes, such as materials in class or arranged transportation for a field trip. Apply for the corresponding budget and follow up on the orders.
  • Apply military aviation regulations: Apply the procedures and regulations present in military aviation operations and missions, ensuring compliance with policies, safety and security.
  • Perform take off and landing: Perform normal and cross-wind take-off and landing operations.
  • Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
  • Supervise crew: Supervise and observe the behaviour of employees.
  • Adapt instruction to labour market: Identify developments in the labour market and recognise their relevance to the training of students.
  • Perform classroom management: Maintain discipline and engage students during instruction.
  • Prepare syllabuses for vocational courses: Prepare syllabuses for use in different kinds of vocational courses. Compile, adapt, and integrate important study subjects in a course to assure integral teaching programs.
  • Provide lesson materials: Ensure that the necessary materials for teaching a class, such as visual aids, are prepared, up-to-date, and present in the instruction space.
  • Provide advice on pilot licence application procedures: Provide advice on the specificities and particularities of applying for a pilot’s licence. Provide advice on how an applicant can submit an application that is more likely to be successful.
  • Coordinate rescue missions: Coordinate rescue missions during the event of a disaster or during an accident, ensure that all possible methods are being used to ensure the safety of the people being rescued, and that the search is as efficient and thorough as possible.
  • Prepare examinations for vocational courses: Prepare examinations that test both theoretical and practical understanding of the content and the procedures imparted during a course or teaching programme. Develop exams that assess the most important insights that trainees should have gained from participating in the course.
  • Perform routine flight operations checks: Perform checks before and during flight: conduct pre-flight and in-flight inspections of aircraft performance, route and fuel usage, runway availability, airspace restrictions, etc.

ISCO group and title

3153 – Aircraft pilots and related associate professionals

  1. Flight instructor – ESCO
  2. Flight Instructor – Post Matric
  3. Flight Instructor Job Description – StateUniversity.com
  4. Flight Instructor: Requirements – Firsthand.co
  5. Featured image: By Walt Weible – http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imageRetrieve.action?guid=d4f3f53da6618027210ae09c868860d2886fe616&t=2, Public Domain
Last updated on March 12, 2023