Flying Instructor

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Courtesy - Western Air (Thruxton) Ltd.

Flying instruction is often (incorrectly) seen as the unglamorous side of civil aviation – no shiny jets, no layovers at some exotic spot and generally much lower wages. Flying instructors are currently in high demand, not least because of the need to meet the demand for commercial pilots.

The reasons for choosing to become a flight instructor for many reasons. For some it is a dream job and main source of income. For many it is the route to becoming an airline or corporate pilot. For others it is an activity they can enjoy alongside a main career. Often as not a flying instructor is only paid by the hour he or she flies so the incentive is on to get as much flying as possible. Not unsurprisingly given the English weather, take home pay in winter is usually much less than in summer.

Despite all that, a good flight instructor is a valuable commodity in the aviation world since he is the person who will train and shape the next generation of pilots.

Further details can be found in ESA Part-FCL, Subpart J and scroll down to page 281. However they are summarised below.

Courtesy - Western Air (Thruxton) Ltd


To become a flight instructor an applicant must have:-

  1. At least 10 hours instrument instruction (5 of these may be in an FSTD)
  2. 20 hours cross country as PIC
  3. Hold a CPL(A)
  4. Hold a PPL(A)and have
    • Passed the CPL theoretical exams
    • Completed at least 200 hours flying of which 150 must be as PIC
    • Completed at least 30 hours on SE pistons of which at least 5 must be done in the six months prior to the pre-entry flight test (more of which later)
    • Have completed the CPL qualifying cross country

Within the six months prior to starting the course all applicants must do a pre-entry flight test with a suitably qualified instructor (usually an FIC instructor or an FIE) to assess his competence to go ahead with the course.


Variable depending on where the training is done and what aircraft the training is done in, but expect to pay between £8500 and £10000 for the course. In addition there will be a fee for the hire of an aircraft for the test plus the examiner’s fee (approx. £200-£250).

The Course

Ground School: 125 hours total which includes the following subjects:-

  1. Techniques of ground and airborne instruction
  2. Fault recognition, analysis and correction
  3. How to brief and debrief
  4. Teaching and learning theory
  5. Licence administration
  6. Self-study

Student instructors will be expected to prepare and give lectures on a number of subjects related to flying.

Courtesy - Western Air (Thruxton) Ltd
Courtesy - Western Air (Thruxton) Ltd

Flying Training

A minimum of 30 hours of which at least 25 must be dual. Up to 5 hours can be mutual flying with another student. Note that spinning is a mandatory part of the syllabus and applicants will be expected to carry out spinning as part of the final test. This means that unless the aircraft used is cleared for spinning two flights will be required. There is a get-out clause in that if the spinning on the course is done by an FIE he can sign off this element so it does not have to be done on the test. The flight where the spinning is assessed does not count towards the 30 hours although spin training does.

Most syllabi merely show what is to be covered on any particular flight. On the instructor course each flight/manoeuvre should be done by an FIC instructor (give) to teach the student instructors how to teach followed (on another flight) by the students teaching the instructor (give back). It is well worth discussing with the training school exactly how this is done and the interval between the give and give back. Ideally they should never be done on the same day in order to give the students time to think about it.

It is best to do the course as a pair of students, not only for the mutual flying but if the school uses a four seat aircraft the students can take it in turn to sit in the back and observe/make notes.

Licence Privileges

On completion of the course and test the applicant will have an FI(R) rating. The R stands for restricted. To upgrade the instructor must do 100 hours of instructional flying and train 25 students for their first solo. Having said that, an FI(R) is not allowed to send students on their first solo or first solo navigation exercise. No instructor may teach for a rating that he does not hold himself and must hold the appropriate instructor rating (see below)


There are a number of additional instructor ratings that can be obtained once suitably experienced and trained. In no particular order they are:-

  1. Night Instructor
  2. Instrument Instructor (IRI)
  3. Multi-Engine
  4. Aerobatics
Courtesy - Western Air (Thruxton) Ltd


The rating is valid for three years from the date of issue and may be revalidated at any time within the 12 months of expiry. The revalidation has to consist of any two of the following:-

  1. At least 50 hours of flight instruction in the appropriate aircraft class during the period of validity of the rating.
  2. An Assessment of Competence flight done by an FIE.
  3. A refresher seminar at any time within the period of validity of the rating.

Note, however, that at least every other revalidation must include an Assessment of Competence flight.

If the rating has lapsed then it can only be renewed by a seminar and Assessment of Competence.

Pilot profiles

Phil Mathews
Flight Instructor

A flight instructor for 36 years and examiner for 32, Phil has amassed 25,000 hours on Single Engine Propeller (SEP) and Multi Engine (MEP) aircraft.  In that time, he has instructed or examined thousands of pilots. The  owner and Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) of The Cotswold Aero Club Ltd based at Gloucestershire Airport

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