Getting Good Info
The way to begin the search for a flight instructor you can be comfortable with and confident of is to gather names of active instructors. Ask pilot friends and acquaintances for recommendations. Visit area airports and talk to pilots and aircraft owners.
An airport open house or airshow is a great opportunity to talk to pilots, airport businesses, and flight schools. Pilot clubs and organizations also are a good resource for information about local flight instructors. As aviation ground school course offered at an area community college or adult education program is another good place to gather instructor recommendations.
Since student pilots must successfully complete a check ride with an FAA examiner to earn a pilot's certificate, it stands to reasons that examiners make judgments about instructor performance and quality. Examiners may be reluctant to rand instructors in their area from best to worst, but if questioned they should provide statistics on hoe many students each instructor has recommended for check rides, and how many passed on their first attempt. The examiners also may elaborate on his or her view of what makes for quality instruction. That would provide an excellent checklist for evaluating instructors.
The FAA also designates experienced local pilots as accident prevention counselors to assist other pilots in maintaining safe operations. An instructor who also is an accident prevention counselor is a good candidate to make your list of preferred instructors. Accident prevention counselors also should be familiar with all of the active instructors in the area, and my be willing to recommend the best to you. The names of accident prevention counselors are available from FAA standards district offices (check the U.S. Government listings in telephone book blue pages for the area Flight Standards District Office ‚FSDO). Local airport fixed-base operators (FBOs) also should know the names of accident prevention counselors in their area.
The FAA also recognizes active, successful fight instructors with a "Gold Seal" designation. To achieve Gold Seal status, a flight instructor must have recommended at least 10 students for practical tests in a 24-month period, with a minimum 80 percent first-time pass rate. The instructor also must have a ground school instructor certificate, which is awarded upon passing an FAA written test on instructional methods and aeronautical knowledge. You can get the names of Gold Seal instructors in your area from the local FAA FSDO office.
An alternative to identifying individual instructors is to first locate a good flight school, which will assign you one of its flight instructors. After all, a primary determinate of the quality of a flight school is the quality of its instructors. "Choosing A Flight School" will help you find the right flight school.
If, as a result of your research into instructors, you find that one or more names keep popping up as recommended, that's a good indication that the cream does indeed rise to the top. You'll want to put those names at the top of your list.