JOY: Finding the right instructor

At age 20 I considered a career as a commercial pilot but the cost was more than what I felt I could manage so I pursued a different path instead. A number of years later I heard a retired pilot sharing about his flying experiences and the desire to fly bubbled up within me again. I wasn’t interested in changing careers at this point in my life but as I thought about it I realized I had another option - pursue a private license and enjoy it as a hobby.

I had no contacts and didn’t know where to start but found a phone number for a flying club in the area and called them. The man that answered was very friendly and helpful and within a couple days I was registered for the ground school. One of the biggest problems I ran into while training was time. With an already heavy work and family schedule and various other commitments it was hard to manage everything and often I felt over-stretched and exhausted. One of the things I did from the on-set was prioritizing things in my schedule. A few things such as work and some family things had to take priority over flying but where possible I made my flying training the priority in my life. It meant I didn’t see my friends much during the training period and I missed out on some other opportunities but that was a cost that I’d recognized and decided to accept ahead of time.

One of the areas where I grew discouraged was choosing a good instructor. When I was training the popularity of flight training was high which resulted in tight competition among the students for the better instructors. Also, instructing is often just a stepping stone toward the instructors ultimate career goals (such as flying for a major airline) so the instructor turnover at many facilities is frequently high. Often I would just get a good start with an instructor and they would leave for greener pastures. Other times the instructor I selected was not a good match and that affected my progress.

If I can offer any suggestions it would be to set priorities and stick with them. If flying is important to you than make that level of importance reflect in your decisions regarding how you spend your time. Also, pick an instructor who you respect and who respects you. If your instructor leaves, listen when they suggest who you should switch to. They know you, and they know the other instructors in a way that you don’t and they often know best who will be a good fit for you. I made the mistake of not following an instructor’s suggestion and it cost me in terms of time, money, and self-confidence.

Above all, don’t give up. Push through and you’ll eventually get there. As long as the training period may sometimes seem it will be worth it at the end of the day. If you’re training experience extends longer than normal – like mine did – think of all the training time as experience that is adding to your repertoire that will make you a better pilot in the end.

- Joy Stuckle