Ballpark Estimate: $3,000 to $7,500 (Winged aircraft); $4,000 to $11,000 (Helicopter)
Are you a commercial pilot with hundreds of hours logged-in flying in stunt shows across the country? Perhaps you’re having a blast and the money’s good, yet you feel something in your career is lacking. Or maybe you think you’re capable of something more challenging than just flying tourists in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon or the Niagara Falls. If these scenarios hit home, you may want to consider becoming a flight instructor and sharing your skills, knowledge and passion for flying with others.
Learning to Be a Good Teacher
While your commercial rating already attests to your excellent flying ability, the goal of the CFI training is to give you the tools you will need to be an effective teacher. The fact is that many people who are extremely accomplished at what they do find it almost impossible to teach their skills to others. In most cases, they simply lack the necessary verbal and motivational techniques to effectively communicate with their students.
The purpose of this training, therefore, is to introduce you to the world of teaching, particularly the critical fundamentals of flying an aircraft. It’s a skill that should not be taken lightly since a certified flight instructor is responsible for providing his or her students with a very unique form of education. And one never knows when his lessons might be relied upon in a life and death situation.
What You Will Need
Prequisites for CFI training include an FAA commercial pilot’s license and a current FAA medical certificate.
At the school, the CFI curriculum will usually include such subjects as fundamentals of instructing, preflight preparation, ground and airport operations, take offs and climbs, stalls and spins. Also in the lesson plan is training in psychology, common mistakes student make, slow flight maneuvers, basic instrument maneuvers, performance maneuvers, ground reference maneuvers, emergency operations, approaches and landings and post-landing procedures. The aircraft that are often used for such lessons include the Cessna 172, Piper Arrows and theBeechcraft Sierra.
Some schools may also recommend that their teaching students study a number of flight manuals for at home in order to be prepared to pass their own pre-admission exam.
What Airplane Pilots Can Expect to Spend
The majority of your training cost will depend entirely on three factors:
- The number of hours you rent the aircraft
- The number of hours of instructor time
- The hourly rate charged by the school.
Like all flight training, the length of the course is not fixed. Instead, the number of hours it takes depends on the ability and motivation of each individual. As a result, all flight training schools estimate the final cost based on what they consider to be the average number of flight hours needed to gain proficiency, usually around 10 to 15 hours. Likewise, ground instruction ranges from 30 to 40 hours and is provided to prepare the student for the FAA written test. The hourly rate for these hours is another matter. The rates will vary widely from school to school and for this reason your search for the right school should insist not only for an itemization of all rates but also inquiries about any hidden costs such as landing fees, insurance, early termination fees, fuel costs, etc. .
Estimated individual costs for a winged aircraft pilot:
- $900 to $2,100 – Dual-control aircraft rental for 10-15 hours at $90 to $140/hour
- $600 to $1,050 – Flight instructor at $40 to $70/hour
- $1,200 to $2,800 – Ground instruction at $40 to $70/hour
- $600 to $1,100 – Misc. FAA tests, books, etc.
Total estimated costs: $3,300 to $7,100 to get a CFI airplane license
Once your training is completed, you will earn a CFI license that will be good for two years before needing to be renewed.
Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are also held in many U.S. cities. These seminars discuss the fundamentals of instruction, regulations and airspace, recurrency training (maintaining current proficiency), teaching flight maneuvers, teaching aerodynamics, practical test standards, publications, collision avoidance, human factors, teaching flight safety, weather, instructional concerns and instructor professionalism.
The cost is $170 to participate in a Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic.
What Helicopter Pilots Can Expect to Spend
For a helicopter pilot, a commercial license is also a prerequisite for CFI training, as is an FAA Medical Certificate. Also, you must be 18 years old and speak English. Flight training is often provided in aRobinson-R22 dual-controlled helicopter and ground instruction is also included for preparing the student for the FAA exam. In order to become a CFI for the Robinson R-22, the FAA requires that during the course of your career you must have logged in at least 200 hours of helicopter flight time with at least 50 hours in an R-22 helicopter and at least 10 hours of dual instruction.
The majority of the training cost, like in a winged aircraft, will fall into the same three categories so the longer it takes to become proficient, the more it will cost. When estimating training costs, however, helicopter schools will combine both the aircraft rental and the instructor fees together. Flight training hours are usually estimated at between 10 and 25 hours and ground instruction at 10 to 50 hours.
Estimated individual costs for helicopter instructor training:
- $2,400 to $7,500 – Dual-control aircraft rental/instructor at $240 to $300/hr.
- $400 to $2,750 – Ground instruction at $40 to $55/hr.
- $600 to $800 – Misc.
Total estimated cost: $3,400 to $11,000 to get a CFI helicopter license.
Upgrading a private pilot’s license, whether it’s a helicopter or a winged aircraft, is actually a stepping process. For instance, you need to hold a private pilot’s license to get a commercial license. And once you have a commercial license, you are qualified to either upgrade to an instrument flight rules rating (IFR) or obtain a CFI license. If you have a CFI license but don’t have an IFR rating and wish to teach instrument flight rules, you must enroll in the instrument certification course to upgrade your CFI license to CFI-I. A multi-engine rating is also another add-on to your CFI license that requires extra training for the ME-I upgrade.