The June “Since You Asked” poll: How many instructors?

June’s “Since You Asked” digital poll dealt with a subject that’s been of particular interest to those of us who monitor the flight training industry. We asked, “How many flight instructors have you had/did you have in primary training?”

For years we’ve heard horror stories of people dealing with multiple instructors. I wrote about how to cope when you have to change CFIs in the September 2008 Flight Training article, “Same Dance, Different Partner.” When the airlines are hiring, flight instructors leave flight schools—sometimes very abruptly—because they’ve racked up enough time to become attractive hires. Sometimes people wind up with multiple flight instructors because of personality issues. Sometimes it’s a run of bad luck—nobody’s fault, really. But the end result can be disruptive to your training progress. Just ask Brook Heyel, who told me that it took her a whopping 23 flight instructors to finish her private pilot certificate. (Her story is its own sidebar in “Same Dance, Different Partner.” She shocked the normally unflappable Rod Machado at an aviation event when she told him the number.)

Accelerated flight schools like Tailwheels Etc. in Florida see a lot of frustrated students who can’t handle yet another change in instructors and they just want to push ahead and cross the finish line without having to start all over. American Flyers (which has several locations in the United States) has a private pilot “finish-up” program.

I was gratified–and a little surprised–that our small and unscientific sample turned out as well as it did. Forty-two percent of those who responded said they had just one flight instructor. Just over half–53 percent–said they’d had two to five CFIs. And just 5 percent reported learning to fly with more than five flight instructors. (Those respondents deserve a medal, in my book.) If I’m drawing conclusions, I’d say that the relatively stagnant state of airline hiring had something to do with this. Flight instructors tend to stay put when the airlines aren’t hiring; hence you’re more likely to start and finish with the same person. That could change, given that we’re starting to see hiring ramp up again.

I was lucky to have just two flight instructors over the course of 18 months (this was back in 2000-2001, to give you an idea). My first CFI left for the airlines, but she was thoughtful enough to hand me off to an instructor she believed would be a good match for me. Turns out, she was right. And even though he also left full-time instructing at the flight school to go to another aviation job, he stayed on as an independent instructor so that he could see me to the checkride. For that, I’m eternally grateful to John Sherman.

How many flight instructors did you have? Please let us know in the Comments section.—Jill W. Tallman

Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • Pasturepilot

    I had a lot more than five instructors. As an airport kid, I think I flew with every CFI on the field over the 7 years it took me to get around to my private checkride. I can come up with 13 names off the top of my head, not even looking back to my logbooks. Then I had one instructor for the instrument course, three instructors for multi/commercial, and at the airline, I usually fly with two instructors at each recurrent training session. Granted, working as a mechanic at two flight schools, I’d often just grab an instructor and go flying after work, not worrying much about who went along for the ride. It’s not typical, but I feel that having seen the insight and tricks from so many helped give me a better perspective on things.

  • Patrick Collins

    I have flown with 8 different flight instructors iin my short 2 years of flight training. Why do you ask…why so many instructors??? Every instructor has a little different look into the mix which in my eyes is a good thing. I have never experianced an instructor where we did not jell and continue to sprwad the instruction with all of them at one time or another. I actually was the one that had this type of instruction implemented at my flight school.

  • will

    i have 12 hours of training and am on my second instructor

  • Dave

    I am very fortunate to have had only one CFI through private and about 25% through instrument so far. Of course not including the occasional flight with a few others for scheduling issues, etc. On the flip side, I do enjoy flying with other CFI’s occasionally to pick up different tips and experiences.