Make your own great instructors

The thrill of explaining what makes an airplane fly, what the flight controls do, and going over a thorough preflight while your new student eagerly awaits their chance behind the controls is an honor. That excitement you feel from that forty-forth touchdown, when your student actually pulled the airplane into the proper flare with the nose aligned with the centerline, is hard to explain. The ecstatic energy you feel when your student, after his first solo, shuts down the airplane, opens the door, has a huge smile on his red face, and says, “That was awesome!” These are just the beginning of the fulfillment that comes with being a flight instructor.

Airline, corporate, and military pilots were all taught by someone. That someone that changed their lives forever was a flight instructor. The FAA knows the importance of a flight instructor. A person who wants to become a flight instructor has to pass two written exams and many go directly to the Flight Standards District Office for the practical checkride. These examiners at the FSDO aren’t playing around either. They expect the examinee to be a meteorologist, mechanic, physicist, psychologist, and teaching professional.

Left to right: Greenville-based instructor William Bowen, Spartanburg-based instructor Adam Lockamy, Director of Operations Michele Rash, Chief Flight Instructor Cyndy Hollman, and Shane Martin, operations and future CFI

As more people realize the importance of quality flight instruction, there is a growing demand for professional flight instructors. In the past some people may have thought, “I’m just a flight instructor.” But now really good flight instructors are sought out and paid top dollar for their contribution to aviation.

As Airwolf Aviation Services in Anderson, South Carolina, was expanding our flight school, we thought it would be easy to find these career flight instructors. We posted “professional career flight instructor wanted” on our website. We were asking for a minimum of 500 hours dual given to be able to offer the best flight training for the public. After all, we had that passion and drive to be professional flight instructors for a living; there must be more of us out there somewhere. When no resumes showed up on our doorstep, we decided to advertise. We advertised through word of mouth, put ads in the paper, and posted flyers at more than 40 airports. We did finally get a response and I even interviewed several and hired three.

I was shocked at some of the individuals I interviewed. I would ask simple questions to see where the applicants’ knowledge base was and how clear they were at explaining concepts. Let me just summarize by saying it is amazing how many people don’t really know why we use the rudder to help steer or why pressure altitude is important. The three hired quickly dwindled to one because the other two, although very knowledgeable, did not have their heart in teaching with the student’s interest in mind.

In the meantime, we received one response to our flyers, Adam Lockamy, a newly certificated Instrument Flight Instructor. During the first telephone conversation, we knew Adam had all of the qualities to become a super instructor. He is well-educated, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, professional and has a passion for teaching. Within the first few minutes of Adam’s interview, we knew he would be worth mentoring and wanted him to be a part of our team. Adam flew with the chief flight instructor for several hours in each of Airwolf’s aircraft and had comprehensive discussions of all subject matter. To this day; he continues to exceed all of our expectations as an excellent super instructor. Airwolf is currently assisting Adam in obtaining his multiengine rating and multiengine instructor certificate.

Still searching for more professional career flight instructors for our team, we decided to entice William Bowen, one of our favorite students. We asked him to a meeting where we invited him to leave his “real job” and work for us. William had previously earned his private certificate and instrument rating with Airwolf. He was slowly beginning to work on his commercial. William has many incredible qualities that would make any employer envious. He is dependable, honest, intelligent, dedicated, detailed and has a passion for aviation. William thought it would take him the next three years to build the time to become a commercial pilot. Instead, it took him only three months to complete his commercial, CFI, and CFII. William accepted 90 hours of ground and flight training and 125 hours of aircraft rental to complete his training through his CFII. This training would have cost William about $25,000 out of pocket. In return, William has become an important team member to Airwolf  Aviation as a professional career flight instructor, and we are further assisting William in obtaining his multiengine rating and multiengine instructor certificate. We’ve asked nothing back from William, other than to serve the school well in his teaching.

As we continue to grow by offering professional flight instruction by career flight instructors we are committed to adding more super instructors to our team, even if we have to train them ourselves. Flight Instruction should be recognized as a professional career, not a stepping-stone. Instructors are the crucial component to aviators, from the first flight through their aviation destination. Airwolf will continue to give career flight instructors the credit they deserve as the gateway to aviation. Heck, some people even become rich and famous being “just a flight instructor.”

–Cyndy Hollman, chief flight instructor

  • Don Knight

    Seeing that CAPC is trying to enter the scene, I decided to start reading back articles on the “Learning Curve” blog. I started from the oldest article and am working my way forward.
    The second article “Make your own great instructors” by Cyndy Hollman has some great wisdom in it.

    The first point for a school to recognize is that finding potential super instructors is not easy.

    Secondly she points out the qualities of two of her instructors.
    In Adam Lockamy it’s ” well-educated, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, professional and has a passion for teaching”. In William Bowen it’s “dependable, honest, intelligent, dedicated, detailed and has a passion for aviation”.

    These bear repeating so I did. We need to study instructors like this and circulate the results of such studies to others so that they can see first hand what makes a good instructor. Of course there are many good instructors, but far fewer than there are instructors!

    To turn aviation around we need to work toward making all instructors ‘super ‘ instructors (to use Cyndy’s adjective!).

    We also need to go far beyond improving the instructor ranks. We need to reinvent or significantly improve the flight training process.

    I will save that topic for another blog.

    In closing – great stuff Cyndy. This should be republished and/or expanded.

    Don Knight