Life as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

Life as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

On a very personal level, training for and subsequently working as a Flight Instructor has been one of my most proud and fond experiences, and in some ways, it was my greatest accomplishment. I do not say this lightly as I have also earned the title US Marine. The difference however was revealed in personal responsibility.

The journey of a Flight Instructor is challenging and for good reason too. There is a common saying the CFI Checkride is the “hardest checkride”. It should be a high bar of expectation see as how a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) is responsible for the safety of their students’ lives, not just on each training flight, but for every flight that student will ever take.

Learning how to be and then actually becoming a CFI requires much self-discipline along with the ability to humbly develop in efficiency and effectiveness with each student interaction. As another saying goes, “a good pilot is always learning”.

By the time you are about to begin your training as a CFI, we as aviation students are already familiar with the large amount of material required to study and preparation required prior to each flight, and although it is never our favorite pass time, we have developed with increased maturity the ability to study and understand the material beyond simple memorization. We are now in the realm of having some experience in application and have been humbled in flight enough times to know how valuable it is to not just memorize this material but to know it, and we now need to know it well enough to teach it simply.

As if the large amount of material to know wasn’t challenging enough, the next challenge is learning how to fly from the right seat. For the last 250+ hours all of your flying was in the left seat and now everything is backwards. The control yoke is in your right hand, throttles and prop-levers in your left hand, and you will feel like a brand-new student pilot again. I’ll never forget those first hours in the right seat wishing I could just switch seats feeling embarrassed in front of my Instructor as I struggled to perform what were once simple maneuvers, and on top of the backwards controls, I was also required to describe each step of the maneuver while performing them. However, in time my brain recalibrated and communicating while flying is a comfortable task.

Finally, after hundreds, if not thousands of hours spent on studying aviation material and improving upon your skills, you have now come upon the hardest checkride you will take. For me I was so nervous that I choked during my Oral Evaluation. My Examiner was patient and eventually decided to finally let me free from my misery. Two weeks later however, I passed with much stronger confidence.

With my certificate in hand, it was time to take my first student up. I’ll never forget how nervous I was while ensuring by all appearances I was absolutely confident, and as an ironic side note, my very first student was a former Marine Corps Drill Instructor. Gratefully the flight went well, and I realized how similar the training was from the actual flight with a student. Soon I found myself at a hundred hours of Instruction given and I found my groove.

Shortly after I earned my CFII (Instrument Instructor) and then my MEI (Multi-engine Instructor). By this time, I was nearing 500-hours with Instruction given and I looked back on all of my dedicated work and energy into this life as a Pilot and I felt a level of pride unlike anything I had felt before. The journey to this point was filled with many brave moments where I learned to trust my training, trust my abilities, and even at times swallow my pride and admit my mistakes as well. I took ownership of every flight, even the flights where I signed off a student for solo. I took pride in every signature I put down, knowing that signature symbolized both legally and personally that I am responsible.

For me a pinnacle moment came as I was staring out the window at 6,000 feet. It was an early morning flight; the air was perfectly calm and the radio was silent. The hum of the engine was steady and everything in that moment was as it should. I felt as though I had “arrived” it seemed. I accomplished so much of the hard work and became confident in myself as an Instructor. No matter the aircraft or student, I knew that I was capable of teaching, but even better, I knew that as far as it was up to me, that I could keep my students safe while in the sky, and I knew that every endorsement I signed, I was confidently signing them with full trust that my students were prepared and capable.

My joy as an Instructor almost never came. I was timid and afraid beneath my sometimes arrogant surface. After my first few hours with Instruction given, I often experienced moments of great discomfort. I was constantly worried about breaking a FAR (Federal Aviation Regulation) or being completely responsible in the event of a real emergency or finding my own self disoriented on a night flight with all of the terrain around. However, through some good mentorship and simply being an Instructor I quickly realized that my fear was a great reason why I studied so hard and why I was so safe. I soon settled naturally into my position as a CFI and I soon found immense joy and pride in my job.

If you too want to take your flying to the next level and experience greater joy as a pilot while increasing your skills and simultaneously giving back to the aviation community, forever influencing the next generation of pilots. Then contact Royal Flight Academy where you can get the quality training necessary to become a Certified Flight Instructor.


About Tucker (Flyer Tuck)

Tucker is a US Marine Corps Veteran and Airline Pilot who has both volunteer and professional experience in teaching, mentoring and instructing.  He is an avid runner, dog lover and creator of the blog, Inner Discipline. You can find his blog at

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