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What Is a Flight Instructor?

Helicopter flight instructors are pilots who provide training to other people.
A senior captain may instruct new pilots or those transitioning between aircraft types at an airline's flight training school.
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  • Written By: Jessica Hobby
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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A flight instructor is an individual who teaches people to fly aircraft. Regulations about flying and instruction are created and enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA sets specific standards for three different types of flight instructor certifications that a flight instructor may acquire.

When a pilot decides that he would like to instruct others to fly he must become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). To obtain his CFI rating, a pilot will already hold his commercial pilot's license and a second class medical. He will be required to take two written tests and achieve a passing score that is over 70 percent. One of the tests covers ground school material, while the other is concerned with teaching principles. After he has completed the written portion of his tests, he may take a check ride to obtain his CFI rating.

Once a flight instructor obtains his CFI rating, he is only to instruct students in what is commonly called “VFR weather.” VFR (Visual Flight Rules) is a set of regulations which dictate specific minimum weather conditions and airspace which a pilot may operate in. Instructors and students are visually responsible for maintaining separation from other aircraft and from bad weather.

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If an instructor wishes to teach a student to fly in increment weather, or weather that is below VFR minimums, he is required to obtain a Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII) rating. CFIIs fly in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) weather, which requires them to depend on only their instruments when operating an aircraft. Additionally, they help their students in acquiring their instrument pilot's rating by teaching them to fly “under the hood.” A hood is a large plastic piece that fits on a student’s head and forces him to look at his instruments and not outside the airplane. A pilot must also pass all the requirements for a CFI rating to obtain his CFII rating.

The final type of flight instructor rating is a Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI) rating. CFIs who choose to teach students how to fly aircraft that have more than one engine need to obtain their MEI rating. To obtain a MEI rating, a flight instructor must already have his CFI rating and five hours of pilot-in-command time of whichever multi-engine plane he is instructing in. A flight instructor who holds his CFII and MEI is called Multi-engine Instrument Instructor (MEII). It is also important to note that flight instructors may obtain and instruct other ratings, such as glider and hot air balloon.

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