Finding a flight instructor
Choosing a flight instructor can be a daunting task. Take several introductory or discovery flights to evaluate aircraft and potential instructors. Climbing into an unfamiliar light-sport aircraft (LSA) with someone you don’t know could prove hazardous to your health. So before you go up for that first exciting flight in any aircraft, ask the questions listed here. Asking these questions will show the flight instructor that you have done your homework. Any good instructor will be happy to answer these questions.
Questions To Ask The Instructor:
Are you a FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or are you an Ultralight Flight Instructor?
As of January 31, 2007 the Ultralight instructor program ended and all dual training for fixed-wing airplane Ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft must be provided in a fixed-wing airplane Light-Sport Aircraft by a FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). So, the appropriate answer is, “I am a FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and this training is also applicable to Ultralights.
Do you have a training program specifically for sport pilots?
The appropriate answer is “Yes.” If the CFI is un-enthusiastic or un-informed about Sport Pilot, you’ll know right away. If the CFI tries to talk you out of becoming a sport pilot, this is not a good start either. Some reasons the CFI may resist instructing you for a Sport Pilot license: a. You’re following a career path to becoming a commercial pilot.
- The CFI may suggest you go for a Private Pilot license rather than a Sport Pilot license because they are un-familiar with the Sport Pilot license process.
- The CFI feels they will make more money if you go for the Private Pilot license rather than a Sport Pilot license.
- The CFI doesn’t have a Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) to instruct in.
Can I see your training program?
The appropriate answer is “Yes.” FAA certified flight instructors (CFI’s)are required to have a training syllabus for an efficient and effective system. Most good instructors will be happy to show you their training program and explain how you will proceed from first flights to FAA certified Sport Pilot. You should be able to get a copy of the instructor’s training syllabus.
Do you have an airplane LSA available for training?
The appropriate answer is “Yes.” Even though a Sport Pilot can receive training in a standard category aircraft (not a qualified LSA), it would be best for you to learn to fly in an LSA because they are much simpler aircraft. You’ll get experience in the aircraft you’ll take your checkride in and also fly as a Sport Pilot.
Can you provide references from some of your previous students?
The appropriate answer is “Yes.” Good instructors will be happy to provide references. Students are proud to be used as a reference and you will learn quite a bit during your conversation.
How much experience do you have training Sport Pilot students?
Although the Sport Pilot program is new, the CFI should have some experience training sport pilots. Schools that have historically trained Private Pilots and beginning Sport Pilot training are fine, as long as all of the other questions in this questionnaire are answered suitably.
Do you use “Scenario-Based Training” in your training program?
The appropriate answer is “Yes.” The FAA and insurance companies have found that a significant number of accidents happen after a pilot receives their pilot certificate and is out on their own in real-world hazards. Some typical hazards are:
- Pilot mental/physical condition.
- Aircraft condition or maintenance issues and situations.
- Pilot in command environment such as weather, passenger, airport, etc, or
- External pressures such as arrival deadlines, racing the bad weather conditions, rental time constraints, etc.
Scenario-Based Training (SBT) addresses these potential hazards and how to deal with them utilizing Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM), risk management, and situational awareness to minimize the risks by determining the best course of action for a given set of circumstances. Schools are adopting SBT to develop well-rounded pilots. In some instances, insurance companies are requiring schools to show that they have incorporated SBT safety practices into their program.
What aircraft will I solo in? If your instructor will not allow you to solo in the Light Sport Aircraft you’re receiving training in, what aircraft will you solo in?
Often, once you are signed off for solo, you are ready to purchase your own aircraft and will solo in it. Otherwise, you will need to make arrangements for an aircraft that meets the requirements to solo for Sport Pilot.
What are the safety and training systems in the light sport aircraft (LSA)?
Look for, or, ask about safety items that may include: helmets and eye protection for open cockpits; a pilot/passenger restraint system; parachute; strobe lights; and/or radio/intercom.
Is this Light Sport Aircraft protected from the weather when it’s not being flown?
Continuous exposure to the elements leads to the rapid deterioration of composite and fabric aircraft unless it is hangared or properly covered and protected from the weather. Metal airplanes are more tolerant to weather and being tied down outside if properly secured.
Is required and preventative maintenance performed on the Light Sport Aircraft? Can I see the maintenance records?
A safe airplane LSA is one that is properly maintained. This involves routine inspection and replacement of worn components. Maintenance logbooks must be available to any qualified pilot who wants to fly the aircraft. A good pilot, instructor, or aircraft mechanic should know where the logbooks are and be proud to show you the basic annual and 100 hours condition inspections. Additionally, routine maintenance is of little value if the pilot/CFI/mechanic cannot remember when he or she last changed the spark plugs or replaced the fuel lines! Maintenance records help to ensure that proper maintenance has been performed in a timely manner.
How do I evaluate the instructor’s responses to the questions?
Was the CFI patient and happy to answer the questions? Did he provide good answers? How the CFI answers these questions can clue you in to how you and the CFI will get along. If the answers are informative and the instructor exhibits the patience to answer them to your satisfaction, take an Intro/Demo flight to learn more. Otherwise, look elsewhere for another instructor/school.
Questions you should ask yourself after the first flight:
Did I have fun?
You should have fun on your first flight with your instructor. If you did not, find someone else. You should have been able to control the aircraft much of the time with the CFI helping you.
Was I challenged?
The instructor’s job is to challenge the student, yet not overburden or throw to much at the student to frustrate or overwhelm the student. After your first flight, you should feel like you do not know everything, but you can get it over time.
Did I learn anything?
You must have learned something for the lesson to be of value. The official definition of learning is “a change of behavior as a result of experience”. Did you learn something about how to control the aircraft or anything based on the experience? You should feel as though you can generally control the aircraft, yet know that you have much to learn to be a proficient pilot.
Did the instructor make it seem that a sport pilot license was obtainable?
Do you feel as though you can do it? If you do that this instructor will help you. If you feel like it is to difficult and you are not capable, try another demo/intro flight school instructor.
Did the instructor offer to sign your logbook for this training time?
It is a courtesy and a requirement for a Sport Pilot CFI to sign your logbook for training time. If you don’t have a logbook, then they should provide one to you (possibly at a cost) for logging this official training time.
Use the Sport Pilot Locator to find a flight instructor near you.