A common problem that student pilots have is the ability to put aside the excitement of flight training and instead prioritize selecting their instructor. Unfortunately, there is a large misconception that your flight instructor is just an individual you employ to teach you how to manipulate the controls of an aircraft, until their services are no longer needed. This is false. A flight instructor is your mentor. He or she is the one that you want to emulate or rather become a better version of.
There are many types of flight instructors, from good ones to those that don't have your best interest at heart and only want to further their careers by building hours or ‘taking your money,’ ignoring the teaching value. This may occur because the instructor wants to build hours to go to the airlines and sees you as the primary way of reaching that goal. Or as simple as it may be, they need to pay their bills so will charge you as much as possible whilst teaching minimally. It is important to spot the “red flags” during your early stages as a student pilot. I highlight below certain aspects to look out for and hopefully educate student pilots on the crucial factors to be aware of, prior to commencing flight training.
As an international student I arrived at my flight school with optimistic hopes, with the stress of visa requirements combined with gaining TSA approval to start flight training (a very lengthy process) behind me. I arrived at the flight school ready to start flight training and was ushered by the gentlemen at the front desk to a flight instructor.
I advise you to talk with every instructor that the flight school has to offer before selecting one. Talk to students in your same position about the various instructors at your school. You don't want to fall into the trap of accumulating a lot of flight hours with one instructor and then changing. It will cost you a lot financially, more importantly you can't get that time back.
One red flag to spot could be, the flight instructor lets you take control of the aircraft but as soon as you make a mistake or do not do a maneuver to the flight instructors standard he does not proceed to show you what you did wrong. Instead he takes the controls and boasts how well he can do it.
Another possible red flag would be the ‘macho’ attitude showcased by your instructor which can waste precious time and money. Make sure your instructor goes through what you did wrong and where you should look to improve. At the end of the day you want to see progression.
Next, make sure your instructor is a fan of flight simulators. I couldn't quite comprehend why at the time but let me tell you this; flight simulators are one of the best investments you can make as a student pilot. You can familiarise yourself with the controls, practice manoeuvres and practise using the comms without paying aircraft rental fees or paying an instructor. They help prepare you for what you can expect in the aircraft which again saves money and time. Furthermore, know your requirements. You need 20 hours dual training and 10 hours solo. The 20 hours dual are comprised of night flights, IFR under the hood time and more.
My final piece of advice is that you should constantly evaluate your training, if you are not happy with one aspect: take action. You are the client. You are paying for a service.
Having a career as a pilot is extremely stressful and you learn that at the very beginning of your flight training. If you have the right mentor you'll be less stressed and crucially more confident.
I hope that this post has shown you some of the key factors to look out for when beginning your training. Be intuitive, ask as many questions as you can and take responsibility for your training.