Bad Instructors: How They Behave and Why You Should Know

I'm curious about your experience with bad flight instructors and hope you'll add to this blog with your comments. Of course, most flight instructors do a fantastic job. I just can't say that LOUD enough: Most flight instructors do a fantastic job. But not all do! And when they don't, they cause a lot of damage to the flight training industry. So I'm curious if you've ever experienced a really bad flight instructor. Did this person scream a lot? Hit you with a sectional chart? Or a "whack" chart? Did he or she make calls and text friends while giving you dual? Call you a nasty name? Talk about you behind your back while standing in front of you? Overcharge you? Did this person drink or smoke while flying with you? Humiliate you? Berate you? Belittle you? Tell me about what he or she did or didn't do. Spare no details. 
   The main reason I'm posting these initial responses to my query is to make sure that anyone interested in flight training recognizes bad instructor behavior and then does something about it. Specifically, find another instructor. And, if at all possible, give the bad instructor some good feedback on how his or her behavior can rub an entire city the wrong way.
   Then again, there's an old Chinese saying that goes as follows: It's better to spend three years looking for a good instructor than spend just three minutes with a bad one. This always sounds better when spoken by an older and wise Chinese person, but you get the point, right?

Here are some responses to my query (unedited): 

Adam: First 5 or so flights he failed to notice I never touched the trim wheel once I set for take off for the entire flight. I had larger than normal control pressures because of never using trim. He also was so desperate for flight time he found any excuse to keep the Hobbs meter running like being overly courteous in letting other airplanes taxi, take off and land in front of us.

John: Okay, let's start with going under the hood on my first lesson. I had no clue what vertigo was, and the CFI never told me. All he did was scream at me and tell my what a loser I was for not being able to hold my heading.

Chris:  I know a couple in Caldwell NJ that specialize in keeping as quiet as they can during dual training so you have to keep flying and flying in order to get the knowledge you need. They will only "release" you until they have milked you enough to be evident. Stuff like getting a BFR for them represent milking a sucker -like me apparently- for no less than 10 hrs until we are fed up and go to another place and get the damn BFR done in one day.

Jim: I had a younger CFI when I was going through Multi Commercial. We were flying over congested area and that's when he said, "My plane" and began doing barrel rolls in our Seminole. I took the aircraft back and told him I would throw his happy ass out of the airplane if he ever even attempted something so stupid. I was serious!

Jeffrey: I had one CFI try to teach me how to roll a Cessna 172 as a Primary Student. It was poorly executed and scared me into finding another instructor. The first instructor later had a gear-up landing in a twin and it freaked him out and he quit flying for many years until he recently reached out to me to see if I knew of any flying jobs. I couldn't think of any I would recommend him for.

David: The only bad CFI I've had was the one who gave my first BFR back around 1978. He was a recent grad of an instructor mill. We got into the C-150 and I while running the checklist I noticed he had not put on his shoulder harness (this was before wearing them was mandatory). Thinking he was razzing me, I asked if he was going to put on the shoulder harness and he said "No". Thinking he was still razzing me I asked him "Wait a minute, who's the pilot in command here?" His response? "I am". At this point I'd had enough and I told him "No you're not. There's nothing were going to do in this airplane that I am not qualified and current to do. Either you put on that shoulder harness, or I find myself a new instructor". He put on the harness, we flew the review, he signed me off and I *never* flew with him again!

Sylvain: I am paraplegic. I earned my primary private license (that's what they call it over there) in the UK. I eventually upgraded it - over the years spent here in the US - to a FAA commercial certificate ASEL and AMEL w/ IFR rating.
    I am mentioning this not to brag - heck, a little perhaps smile emoticon - but to point out that I have had to jump through a few more hoops than most other pilots to get my wings, I can fly.
Anyway, the first place I contacted when I moved to California made the decision, on sight, that they would never let me fly solo. But they didn't bother telling me about this, instead they strung me along for hours and hours, always finding excuses. I tend to be persistent, so I didn't catch up right away. I eventually found out, it's a small world, someone took me aside to let me know, unofficially that is (several months down the line). But the asshole instructors of that place - I won't name said place, but everyone who knows me will know where it is - went along with that scheme. These assholes should have their CFI certificates yanked.
   When I eventually switched to another more welcoming place, it took the first instructor I flew with - hi Mike!... smile emoticon - all of 15 mn to sign me off.


Brandon: Great topic, Rod. While I was a student pilot, I remember having a CFI actually tell me, while flying, that he "hated instructing" and that his priority was time building. From that moment, I decided to find another instructor. I made it a point to find someone who had a passion for teaching, and someone who simply loved to share their knowledge. I feel so incredibly fortunate that I found an amazing CFI (retired military and former chief pilot for Delta airlines) that tought me to be a safe and efficient pilot.

Gerry: When I was a student, my secondary instructor (on days when my primary CFI was off), who was also time building, told me while taxiing that he didn't like instructing. He didn't say he hated it, though. In discussion, he said it's always great to go flying, but he really didn't like doing ground instruction at all, and didn't care for having to explain and teach while in the air. Funny thing is, he was a really GOOD instructor! I learned a lot from this CFI who didn't like instructing. smile emoticon

Paul: Doing touch and goes in a 150 had 10 hrs in me . landed with 30 degrees flaps went to blast back off . carb heat in flaps up and lift @ 55kt airplane jumps off ground nose up trying to stall . I keep pushing nose down instructor screams flaps are down . I ignore that problem and keep flying . idiot instructor is flipping flap switch and pounding breakers I yell leave it alone , its already pissed off !! . fly ahead @ 50 ft per min climb make slow turn back and land . the whole time idiot is sitting in right seat frozen . What a jerk never flew with him again

Alex (CFI): Had one during my commercial, "who was the age of my son". He pass out from a severe hang-over while I was under the hood. He also managed to exceed VNe in a C-172 while recovering from a night spin that he managed to invert. What a bone-head. I spilled the beans and he was looking for a new job.

Tamara: The worst cfi I experienced was while I was working towards my own cfi. Being cornered at one point by him in a classroom and I was being very loud at this point of course, and his words were 'he likes to hear his girl scream'. I was 18 years old. And his flight instruction was at best mediocre too as what he taught in 10 hours the chief instructor who took over my training had me ready in 2 hours. (Another instructor had investigated because of the noise level I was creating, especially since I was having to physically fight at that point.
   Twenty years later, I'm hearing stories from some female students going through similar issues.
As a career instructor, I've taught my share of students who have left bad instruction. Sometimes the stories and the instruction makes me wish I could teach that instructor a few things (sometimes with a brick). I'm not the instructor for everyone, but I want every student to find their best fit so they can become their own best pilot.

Paula: A bad CFI is also one who is apathetic. I changed to someone that was invested in communicating and creating great learning experiences.

Jamie: My first instructor was an extremely friend, affable guy. He was also making every attempt to empty my bank account while we flew around in circles doing nothing. My second instructional flight as a cross-country. I had no idea that made no sense. In my first 20 hours of instruction I flew three different types. I had no idea that was abnormal either. He was a nice guy, but a lousy instructor, working for a school that didn't seem to care that their instructors were essentially running up the bill, but making minimal effort to teach their students to fly.

Oliver: During my initial training I didn't feel comfortable on power-on stalls. I was afraid of getting into a spin. One instructor used to make fun of my situation, he even liked to put me in strong unusual attitudes to see my reaction. He tough it was funny. Then he would tell other instructors/students in the school how afraid I was, making jokes about me.
   I asked the school owner a change of instructor. The new instructor was a nice guy who exposed me to the maneuvers at a different pace, focusing on safety and explaining everything before and during the flight. After I was cool with stalls, we did a power-on without rudder correction, a partial spin and a two-turn Spin. I ended up liking it and getting my Spin endorsement. 

   First instructor left the school as soon as he got the mínimum time for regionals. He was a time builder, not a real educator.

Daryl: Other than the obvious "time-builder" instructors...the only really bad one that I've had was at Seminole Lake Gliderport. I was considering getting my glider rating. I currently have 200+ hours ASEL and ASES. Let the student fly the plane. It isn't a ride, it's a lesson. I got maybe 5 minutes of stick time during the 45 minute flight. He was a cranky old retired Air Force pilot that shouldn't be instructing. I've also had an instructor try to overcharge me for time spent after the pre-flight brief while he was getting ready (going to the bathroom and taking his sweet time walking to the hangar).

Gerry: After I had picked a flight school for my private certificate, I went about selecting one of their instructors. One seemed to have a fair amount of time available on the schedule, and I was interested in such an available instructor. On one particular day I had lunch at the cafe in the terminal building, and on the speaker there I heard the tower give a pilot an odd instruction (I don't remember what it was; it was more than 13 years ago). Back at the school, I asked that instructor why the tower told the pilot to do whatever it was. His answer? "You don't need to know why, you just need to do it." I said I'd like to understand the situation better so I can be a good pilot who works well with ATC. His reply? "It doesn't matter why they said it. They say it, you do it." Needless to say, I didn't pick him to be my instructor.

Tony: My CFI didn't show the interest in my training that I had expected. I had struggled with crosswind landings and on this particular day they were going to be an issue. I was studied up for the flight lesson and arrived at the airport early. When my lesson was scheduled to start the CFI was nowhere to be found. 30 minutes after the start time past he finally touched down in his personal plane and instead of coming directly to the rental plane he decided he needed another cup of coffee and stopped to visit with the mechanic...and anyone else he passed who was willing to talk. I was anxious about the crosswinds and frustrated at his lack of attention and decided I was in no mental condition to fly so I left the airport. I contacted him a few hours later and informed him I would be searching for another instructor.

Ms. BP: my 1st CFI used to sleep in the back of the Citabria - when he wasn't texting! he also made me cry on more than one bad landing...another CFI (prepping for my private checkride) yelled at me the entire prep ride, screamed during my first landing, cussed me out, then told me he'd never fly with me again and i needed to give up and go home to my kids! ha, i persevered !

Ruthie: Before finding my current CFI I had one that didn't think women belonged in a airplane and made it clear many times he didn't last long. Had another that would hoover over the controls or snatch them with out a positive exchange. I can say now I am fortunate to find a CFI that I consider a good friend and excellent teacher.

Tony: I have seen both ends of the spectrum. Several outstanding CFI, Cammie Patch and Todd Underwood are Both great. On the other side, I had an examiner from the Toledo police department cursing me out during my IFR checkride. His yelling went something like "you don't know where in the fu$k you are, you are a fu$&ing idiot, you are going to kill us. I ended up busting one of the approaches . I could have retaken that portion of the test and been done. However, he was such an Ass, I went to a different examiner to finish the check ride.

Richard: Had one more interested in showing off his superior flying skills than actually teaching me how to fly...

Bob: I had stopped flying for awhile while I was building my RV and needed a BFR. I stopped in a FBO that was near where I was working and scheduled a BFR with a kid about thirty years younger than me. He was Brit that just moved here and started working at this non-towered airport. During the ground portion, he asked every arcane and trivial bit of unusual information he could dig up. He then went into a tirade about how to talk to ATC. I promptly cut him off and terminated the session and walked out and arranged for another CFI to finish the BFR. I was starting to imagine that the flying session was going to be a "how I can stump the old fart and prove I'm smarting than he is" session.
   Oh ya, I forgot to mention to him that I was a former Tower ATC. He had no idea of my background (nor did he ever bother to ask). and just made some incorrect assumptions about my skill level. When he started giving bad information at the point of serving his own ego I turned the tables and explained his shortcomings before I walked out. Fortunately he didn't last at that FBO very long.
   I will say that the 2nd CFI was totally opposite and a great instructor. I finished my BFR and went on and completed an IPC with him.

Andy: I was working on the ground portion of my instrument rating through a part 141 program. Each lesson had a multiple choice quiz where it was required to meet 80%. Usually, my instructor would grade the quiz in front of me using the answer key. One day, I noticed something on my quiz that my instructor marked correct, when it was indeed incorrect. I politely pointed out my observation and then asked if I could see the rest of my completed quiz and answer key. As it turned out, my grade was nowhere close to passing. I learned this had been going on for weeks. Thinking I knew my stuff, I was no wiser to a bigger problem. My instructor was falsifying training records to make it looked like I knew the material. I immediately told the owner and found a different instructor. My new instructor is far more experienced and I've since switched to part 61. Much simpler in my opinion! Lesson of the day... trust no one, assume nothing.

Jim: My very 1st instructor I didn't like. I felt he thought he was better than me. His daddy was a doctor & paid for his flight training. I had to do it by myself and couldn't drop $10,000 at one shot. I was glad the day he said he forgot his wallet & had to go home to get it. I got to fly with another instructor & loved it. Then Neal got hired & I enjoyed every lesson. I was very happy when the 1st instructor moved on. Arrogance has no place in the cockpit.

Donald: I haven't had a what I would call a bad CFI, though the first "stage check" I had was with a crusty old pilot who, when I picked up the mike to announce my go-around, grabbed the mike out f my hand and through it against the side of the cockpit and yelled "Don't you EVER touch the mike before you have a positive rate of climb". I'll NEVER forget! Seriously, I can honestly say I've learned something important from every instuctor ( and every pilot) I have ever flown with. My two complaints: I had two very competent CFI's who had a falling out. They acted like middle school girls. If you fly with him don't talk to me! sort of things... The second was a young lady that I never did meet who was going to fly my Cherokee to renew my solo endorsement and BFR my primary instructor. She canceled for six weeks in a row until the annual ran out on my plane. It probably was really not something she could do anything about but now I'm grounded...

Buz: I am a USAF Trained Pilot and Endured a Lot of Misbehaving Smoking Screeming Instructor Pilots but I understood the Program was a Weeding Out of those who could Not Tolerate the Stress!! And I was Very Aware That I More Than Likely Would Be Flying Combat Missions Shortly !! But I was Getting Paid to Take This Temporary Abuse, NOT the Other way Around !

Stacey: For me it was my FAA examiner during my instrument check ride. I was flying at night in a slow two seater plane. I was his last examinee. He said "Lets just get this over with, I want to get home!". Being nervous already, hearing that didn't help. Most of the approaches had a strong 10+ headwind. He was yelling "Go faster! Our ground speed is only 40kts! At this speed I'll never get home!" Mind you I was at 90% power. I couldn't go any faster. Airspeed was 70 something. My approach was perfect. This whole attitude was given to me through the whole flight. Sighing huffing and puffing etc.. Even when we landed he yelled at me while taxiing that I should fly faster if I have passengers, if not I'm going to p!$$ them off. Unbelievable. <Nathan>

Brad: The worst instructors I've ever known were teaching at "Pilot Mills", and unfortunately the majority of commercial pilots come from these mills because of their set costs and time frame based training. Stick and rudder takes a back seat while getting through quickly and within budget is foremost important.

Robert: Unfortunately the only way to build time (unless independently wealthy) is to instruct. "There are Pilots, instructors, and Instructor pilots"

Soren: I'm a product of one of the Part 91 "schools" and had a miserable experience while being jostled between several very young CFI's most of whom were often overworked with too many students but for most, teaching (ground) often took a back seat (or didn't exist at all) to the schools monthly agenda of pushing people into checkrides they are not really prepared for. I was always on budget until the very end where I found out that by some miracle of capitalism everyone has to suddenly buy more flight time right at the end of the program (read choke-point). Nothing like needing at least four more practice flights to the tune of $450/hr for twin time. There were a lot of other big issues I could divulge but I'll refrain. Had foresight been 20/20 I would have taken my $65,000 elsewhere and found a single dedicated CFI at the local FBO. For some, the mill schools work (especially if your pockets are deep and you can attend a flagship location not a satellite) For me it was a bad mistake that I'm still recovering from financially and looking back I still question what I really got out of the experience other than 105 hours of flight time. I probably could have doubled that with an attentive CFI that had access to good planes, of which many flight clubs do. As they learn. -- And I'll say this too, the CFI wields a lot of power..especially those who work for themselves because it can be very easy to milk both time and extra money from the un-knowledgeable student. I've seen it happen more times that I can count and it's unfortunate more CFI's don't hold themselves more accountable. A student will either have to suffer through it or go through the awkwardness of finding someone else and once doing so it's also takes a certain amount of extra time for a new CFI to be able to asses where the student is at. Therefore the student can lose there too. This profession costs A LOT so every CFI should do their absolute best to always train to a higher standard and not get complacent or fall back on tricks of the trade.

Aurora: Had an instructor tell me I'd probably crash because I didn't get a 100 on my commercial written.

Michelle: An examiner failed me, many years ago... it could happen, improvement is always possible ... only to find out the fail had nothing to do with my performance but with his need for extra money .... i had to pay for the retest less than a week later. I have also had an instructor tell me that I would do better to learn to cook and knit. One thing I learned quicly as a student is that I have a choice... and I share that awareness with my students... and to anyone who listens

Andrew: I had one set the rudder trim to the far right so I didn't need a lot of rudder input. Lazybones.

Ben: I've been lucky with my instructors personally, but the main things I've witnessed with other instructors:

1. Not being punctual 
2. Acting like they are the customer
3. Lack of respect for small aircraft

Alan: I am a first hand witness to these things too and a lot of CFIs out there operate like this. It makes it hard at times to get things like a flight review accomplished. As I'm getting older I find I am having less tolerance for this kind of crap. These things you point out were the main themes during my flight training and I got though in spite of them. But I sure didn't like it. It made training miserable.

Andy: After 30 hours with one instructor (who shall remain nameless), my landings were worse that they were at 10 hours -- I switched instructors to Lee Borchers and soloed after an additional 1.5 hours. While I certainly learned a lot from my first instructor, his endless negativity undermined my confidence and inhibited my learning. 
   Lee's "That was good but let's see if we can improve by doing this, or this"' made all the difference between white knuckle flying and loving it. THANKS LEE -- I am sure you have no idea what a difference you made -- but for me it changed flying from a stressful experience to the most exhilarating hobby I have ever had. 

   So, thanks to you Lee, "I have slipped the surly bonds of earth . . . . And reached out and touched the face of God!!" -- as precious a gift as any one could have ever given me! THANKS!!
   And Ms. B -- thanks for "opening the door" and giving me the forum to express this.

Scott: I learned to fly at a USAF Aero Club overseas back in the mid 1980s. Most of the CFIs there were from various other countries. They had come to the USA to get their certificates. 
   The fellow I flew with was a foreign national who enjoyed hot-dogging, and since I worked on fighters as a maintenance tech and envied the fighter pilots, flying nap of the earth over nearby farmland at 100 kts in a Piper Tomahawk seemed like great fun. I was vaguely aware we were probably bending the rules, but I was young and stupid, and figured that if he wanted to do that then lets have fun! 
   Then one day we were cruising along several thousand feet up, and he suddenly asked me, "what would you do if the Red Baron was on your tail?" When I said I didn't know, he took the controls, pulled that little Tomahawk straight up, and as the speed dropped off he gave a big pull on the yoke and we flopped over upside down. Then as he pulled out of the loop (that was more of a hammerhead in pitch instead of yaw) I was terrified to see the wings bending up and wing skins wrinkling. I hollered at him that he'd better never do that with me again.

   He didn't do any more loops but he later taught me how to do wingovers so we were weightless over the top. Then he taught me how to do hammerhead stalls which I thought were great fun but I was too chicken to do them on my solo flights.
   He finally left for a job with a charter company somewhere in Europe to fly Learjets. I finished up my Private with another CFI who really wasn't comfortable hotdogging around, so I only did it occasionally when I flew solo.  
   I finally passed my Private checkride with over 100 hours, mostly due to all the time my first CFI and I wasted screwing around. 
   I took a fellow maintenance guy flying in a Tomahawk a short time later. He'd always wanted a ride in a fighter but hadn't got one, so I did my best to give him the experience. I flew a couple of steep turns to show him 2 Gs. Then I did a wingover to show him zero Gs, and immediately entered a second one as we pulled out of the first. I over-controlled it and somehow we ended up inverted. I considered trying to roll upright but the CFI had never taught me rolls so I was scared to try it. Instead, I pulled back on the yoke for all I was worth and we essentially did a split-S. I watched the airspeed go up over redline, and I saw the wings bending up. I had just read an article a few weeks before that said that inflight breakups usually start with the tail snapping off, and then the plane pitches forward nose down and the wings fail downward. I just knew that was going to happen to us, and we were going to die. But the air was glass smooth, the airplane was only a couple of years old, and it held together. As we pulled out of the dive, the airspeed dropped below redline and the G forces lessened. I began to think we might live after all. 
   My friend said, "That was COOL!" I sheepishly said that maybe that was enough, time to head back.
After we landed I looked the plane over very, very carefully. I didn't see any damage or deformation. I was too scared, ashamed and immature to report what had happened, but that plane is still flying today so I must not have hurt it.
   I had never come so close to dying, and it had a huge effect on me. I have never hotdogged in a plane since, I drive more carefully and gave up other risky behavior. In fact I wonder if I'm maybe a little bit boring but I'm okay with that. 
   I fully realize how stupid I'd been. I know that as soon as that first CFI started bending the rules I should have dropped him, and I should have reported him to the Aero Club Chief Pilot who was a USAF Colonel. And that is my shameful story about a truly dangerous CFI and the effects he had on me.

Dana: My CFI instructor used to compare me to his other students. His instrument and private students. He also used to just tell me how horrible I did that day, but offer no way to correct. I would ask him how I could come prepared for the next lesson and his response would be "show up prepared". When I did what I thought was necessary, he would be little me for about have and hour or so on how I did every incorrectly and still offer no examples of doing it properly. He never filled out my logbook. He changed my schedule with him all the time and didn't tell me when he did. One day I realized I was 20 minutes late because I didn't know we had a lesson. I called him because he never bothered to ask if I was coming. I made it to the airport still during out scheduled time and he was working with another student. Then he finally filled out my logbook and charged me for an hour.

Manny: My fist instructor was an older instructor in his mid 50's. He was an angry guy who bad-mouthed the aviation industry and and blamed all of his problems on Tip O'nell and the Democratic party. "Because of them the industry is in the state it is", he would say, or "because of them I was not able to finish my studies and go to the airlines"- was another one he would yell. I remember that that he was insulting and and would yell at me when I did not do something right. Of course, he taught me everything in the airplane and we never had ground school- on the ground. I was always nervous and remember the butterflies in my stomach and that sinking feeling when I was doing a pre-flight knowing what was about to come. One fine day, I figured that if I did not quit, I would bite him, so I quit. I got really angry at him and realized that a life-long dream I heard (I was also in my mid 50's) was being destroyed by a first-class jerk. So I quit. I went to another school where I met a young kid only 22 years old and with only 250 hrs. But this kid put me at ease so much so that after two flights with him I wanted to fly by myself. The experience was fabulous and a few months later, I received my private pilot's license. And I am glad to report the "kid" is now 26 years old, working for the airlines with over 2600 hrs and we have stayed close friends sharing many stories over the last few years. What a shame to have met a person who almost ruined my life-long dream. I am glad to had taken the initiative to turn this around.

George: We have a lot of students who fled other schools because of instructors like this. I'll put them in touch with you. They sure have some interesting stories to tell, including that a few of them paid for their entire private pilot certificate (in effect) and still had not yet soloed after 50+ hours of training despite being intelligent and capable of doing so.

Johnny: I had a college-aged CFI who was hungover once and kept nodding off in the right seat one day. Another CFI used to like to get really low when practicing emergency landings, and ended up doing an "off-airport" landing (in the desert) with another student pilot. Luckily, I earned my certificate unscathed.

Ben: I was getting my multi engine private at a large 141 school. I started with a great instructor that was trying to do the right thing and push me through quickly before he left for the airlines. Unfortunately I messed up one the maneuvers during my check ride. And he was gone so I couldn't do my recheck training with him. So the next instructor I get is a complete nightmare. His idea of instruction was put his 5 students together in a room charge all of us full price and have us teach each other while sleeps in the corner. Since I had already taken my check ride and passed the oral I was to lead the lessons. I told him no. My recheck has nothing to do with an oral, I have to fly. He said he is the instructor and I had to what he said. This went on for about 20 hours of ground instruction while he slept. I went to the chief and he told me that the instructor is one of his best and I need to learn how to get along with people. So I went to one of the schools counslers. I explained. Next thing I know I am in a chair with 7 people starring at me. All assistant chiefs the head chief, Dean and 2 counslers. Pleading my case. So they put me up for mock check ride with an assistant chief they called the neutron bomb. 8 hour oral for a private multi engine checkride. I didn't miss a single question. We went flying worked on the areas i messed up on my first checkride. He sent me to my checkride. The examiner said I passed with flying colors. The instructor had to sit through all of it. At the end he told me he couldn't understand how I could of bs'ed for that long and he still felt that I didn't know anything. I went back to the dean of the school and said if that instructor isn't let go than I am leaving. He said he couldn't do that so I left. And his next 5 students left as well. Best decision I ever made in my career.

Dan: I had a couple of bad ones during my initial training. One criticized most everything, and even how I wasn't doing the checklists properly - he considered them "do" lists more important than looking outside and keeping level. This was a reasonably busy towered field. One kept hitting me for not using enough rudder straight and level - while "my" ball was centered, the one on his side wasn't. After "quitting" for a while, I went back and had two wonderful instructers, Marcia and Kevin, who were what instructors should be! 30 years later, I'm more active than ever. 

Amanda: I've flown with 19 CFI's( for the record, I'm slow, not hard to get along with) Had three that I wouldn't get back in an airplane with, even if they paid me, which of course wouldn't be legal. For the most part they were very professional, but the bad one's are egotistical and have low hours, like 1500 or less. I had one gal that actually slapped my hand and yelled at me. Maybe that was the kindergarten flight lesson. The best CFIs possess certain qualities like professionalism, calmness, kindness and are humble in their teachings. I think the biggest obstacle for a CFI is to remember that the student is just that, a student. Students don't crawl into an airplane knowing how to fly. They are there for an educational experience. 

Ranferi: I'm not sure if I am late to the party, but my initial instructor has me do nothing but power on/off stalls during my very first flight. I didn't like it because I had no clue that was coming, nor did I prepare for it. By following the syllabus he had given me, we were supposed to do straight and leveled flight for that day.
   Big shout out to my next CFI Lindsey Moreland who took me as a student with about 10 hours in my logbook. She helped me master the art of flying an airplane, safely and confidently. It was thanks to her that I can now call myself a pilot, and she made every flight a learning experience. Thanks!!!

Imon: My CFI is a former USAF colonel who flew F-111s, and he epitomizes a great flight instructor. I'm lucky. But there was one instructor at my club that nobody liked. He'd charge students while sitting and reading the "book" with them, even though the student had already read it at home. This gent would also took over control during approaches if the flight parameters deviated slightly, even at reasonable altitude, from where safe corrections could be made. The guy was also quoted saying stuff like "you're going to crash us" while the student was flying an approach. Compare this behavior to my awesome Colonel who, on my first lesson, allowed me to fly landing approaches down to 10 feet AGL before assisting or correcting. And when I used aileron instead of rudder when a wing dropped during stall recovery practice, he sat with arms across chest, repeating "recover!" until I figured out my mistake. To summarize, IMHO, one major distinguishing factor for good or great instructors- they'll let you make that error or mistake, as long as it doesn't jeopardize the airplane, because they know you're more likely to learn FROM your errors than from being simply WARNED against errors! And they have the skill and alertness to make sure that even though you're making mistakes, the airplane is remaining within a safe operating envelope!

Gina: My primary instructor once called me a "maggot". This was in response to doing something wrong on downwind. He was fresh out of the Marines. They say when you are an instructor, you need to find five ways to say the same thing. He was especially talented because he found SIX! He was an AWESOME pilot and a great instructor. I often wish I had him on "CD", so I could play back his wisdom. He was great. You just had to have a thick skin around him. Since I never thought of myself as a maggot, and the phrase kind of confused me, it never really hurt my fee-fees. I managed to do fine and grew up to be a jet pilot. I'll never be quite as good as he was. He was pretty awesome. So was his vocabulary.

Rick: When I finally had the last of my 4 children out of sports and finishing high school I told my wife that I was bored and felt like I needed to apply myself to learning something new and challenging. Having flown model airplanes since I was in grade school and being an accomplished RC pilot I knew exactly what I wanted to do...get my pilots license!
   I live in Wichita, Kansas "the air capital of of the world" so finding a good instructor should have been a piece of cake, or so I thought. I did a little research and picked out the second largest airport thinking it was non-towered and had a flight school with several Cessna 172's for rent.
   I signed up with the flight school and was assigned an instructor that was a dead ringer for Tom Cruise down to the flight suit and making the front counter girls swoon when he came rolling in to give flight instruction to mere mortals such as myself.
   My first lesson was check list, fuel, basics about airspace and aerodynamics, and then flying! I explained that I was prone to motion sickness and that If we took it easy I would get acclimated to flying and it wouldn't be a problem. The instructor said that he was a natural born pilot and never needed any acclimation to flying. In his opinion you either had it or you did not.
   He has me start the plane and taxi out. We do our run up and then line up and take off. Everything went fine so we climbed out and did some simple maneuvering when he announce that we were almost finished and that he wanted to show me "something". He started pulling the yoke back while under power and had me watch the airspeed decay just like the stalls that I had done earlier but with one exception...when the plane stalled he stomped hard left rudder and put the plane in a spin for about 5 or 6 rotations.
   Up to that point I had been dealing with the motion sickness that I had felt lurking just around the corner but this put me over the top and I was immediately sick and needed to land.
   I crawled out of the plane when we landed and was sicker than I had been in many years. The macho instructor informed me that the first dozen or so flights would involve spinning the 172 but that I would get used to it. I thought that it would be hell but that I would work through it so I went out a few more times with Tom Cruise and did more and more spins every time we flew. I got sick every time but stuck it out for the first 6 lessons. I was telling my model airplane buddy who had his pilots license what had been happening in my flight training and he was mortified to find out that we had spent more time doing spins than anything else. I admitted that I was close to throwing in the towel and asked what I should do. He said get a different instructor so I did.
   I was told by the new instructor that spins were off the list of training unless we were flying the Decathalon.
   I obtained my pilots license that summer and went on to buy a Pitts S2B biplane in which I have flown many contests and with many instructors that act in an appropriate manner and respect their students and airplanes.
   I guess the best thing that came of the initial lessons was an early example of what a bad instructor could put you through.
   And realizing that I could change instructors!

Don: This may be a little off topic but I'm compelled to make mention how the right instructor for you can make all the difference. I can't say anything negative about my first instructor; he had his approach/methods which are different from my second/current instructor's. Scheduling was my main obstacle both his and mine, that was my reasoning for changing instructors. Although my work schedule still has been a problem I have progressed steadily under my second instructor. She has a very assertive personality who commands you attention yet she is patient; no matter how slow I am to pick up on things she will still keep going over everything like it is the first time, and she don't let me get by with anything. With my first instructor the airport we used was in class G airspace so radio use (Unicom) was minimal and my instructor didn't force the issue at the time. My second instructor is at an airport in class D airspace and first time out she made me stammer through talking with both ground and tower, she did jump in at crucial moments. It was the same thing during the weather briefing when we called the Aviation Weather Center (1-800-WXBRIEF). I say all of this because I didn't want to talk to the AWC or on the radio but because of her insistence; I am more confident when I talk with the ATC and AWC, and I now know that when I do stammer the world won't come to an end. What's holding me back at the moment is me knuckling down and getting my written out of the way. 

Reg: And how do you define "bad". The CFI that gave me most of my instruction did it "for the love of flying". So, no, I was not over charged. But he was a perfectionist. In his mind, the pluses and minuses in the PTS did not exist. You either accomplished every maneuver perfectly, or you didn't meet his standard. I never achieved a sign-off for my PPL check ride from him. After laying off flying for a few months, I climbed into an airplane I had never flown (though the same type I had previously trained in, a C-150) with another instructor. After an hour of going through the PTS, he announced that I was more than ready for my checkride. I was trained to a high degree of precision, but I almost gave up because I couldn't perform every maneuver perfectly every time.

Steve: April 1987, Boulder CO in a Taylorcraft... I'm about ready for my check-ride and I'm eager. My regular flight instructor is unavailable and I'm short my night hours. I scheduled with a flight instructor with whom I had not previously flown. While we flew T&Gs in the pattern as it was getting dark he asked what types of interesting things I had done with my regular flight instructor. Among other things I mentioned that we had practiced what is now known as "the impossible turn" (which we had practiced at altitude, with lots of caveats etc.). After I made the next takeoff, and at about 500', he said "here, let me show you something" and took control of the airplane, pulled the power and cranked it into a steep turn. Stall, spin. At least he got it roughly wings level with the wheels down before we crashed. Totaled the aircraft. Broke both our backs (I had two non-adjacent crushed vertebrae, now I have two rods and six fused vertebrae). Although he lost his instructors cert. he didn't lose his commercial. Years later I heard from his former boss (the owner of the FBO) that he had apparently not learned adequately from the event as he had gone to have more "events" since my crash. Fortunately, this was the only bad instructor I remember having... Ironically, I consider this the single most instructive lesson of my flying career. I completed my check-ride prep and passed my check-ride around 6+ months later once I was out of my post-surgery back-brace... I'm still flying. smile emoticon

Tarik: For me it was how a CFI ruined what was supposed to be the best day of my life, the day I got my PPL.
   On the day of my PPL oral and flight exam, after I passed and did several fist pumps, I decided to celebrate by doing a single circuit in our Cessna 152. What I didn't know, was that very recently our airfield had made a non-official agreement with the locals so that aircraft not equipped with "silencers" (not sure you call it that in English) wouldn't fly circuits on weekends between 12 noon and 2pm. It just so happened that I had decided to take the C152 on a Saturday at 1pm... and C152 was not equipped to do circuits at this given time.
   When I requested training circuits on the frequency a CFI from my school informed me of the fact that I couldn't fly circuits at this time because of the local agreement. The controller, who knows every aircraft on the airfield, also didnt seem to know since he didnt say anything and was also surprised by the interruption of our exhange.

   I wasn't too worried, I had printed the weather, and I had a chart, so I thanked the instructor and changed my intentions for a local flight. I would make a quick lap away from the airfield and come back to land.
   So that's what I did. When I came back and shut down, I decided I would go to the CFI in question and thank him for having warned me. When I reached him, he seemed to explode.
   "You don't follow the rules! You're completely irresponsible you f**king idiot! You are honestly the worst pilot I've ever come to know! And didn't you just pass your PPL today? Well you better get your act together because that's not f**king good enough. What a disgrace to this club."
   I was 17 years old. One of the reasons I had started flying well before I was going to start professional flight training was to boost my self-confidence. Needless that went out of the window and I ended up crying in the car. I will never forget the experience as it being my worst in aviation.
   Today I have not forgiven the CFI and I never will, but I made a commitment that I will never, ever, be like this when I become CFI. I will be everything that man was not and will not be everything he is.
   I will be patient, encouraging and will always make sure to keep my empathy at high levels.

Mike: On a day before cellphones were invented, I arrived five minutes late for our dual instruction. My instructor informed me that the only acceptable excuse for being late for a lesson was to be killed on the way to the f****** airport and yes he was a chart swatter.

Gail: Flying the pattern....we were about to turn from downwind to base, when we noticed a helicopter ( from another flight school ) hovering nearby. CFI tried to make radio contact, with no response... I wasnt very comfortable turning base and then final with another aircraft so near, esp not knowing if they were paying attention ( lack of radio comm ). But CFI told me, "fly towards the helicopter!" I refused...he got exasperated... Took control, lined up for final, then gave me back the plane...the landing, needless to say, was not a good one... And there was post flight critique/lesson... He just ran away....

Tod: My first Instrument lesson: Taxi aircraft to the runway. Put on the hood. Told to take-off down the runway by following the DG. Got yelled at for 15 min because I couldn't keep the plane on the center-line. We took just 1 lesson together. That was enough.

Bob: My biggest complaint getting my PPL was when I walked into the FBO, having my instructor tell me to go out and preflight 123B. He would come out, jump in the plane and off we would go. Practice some maneuvers and do a few landings, the lesson was totally dependent on what he felt like doing at that moment in time. After landing, we would walk back across the tarmac to the office. Upon entering the FBO, he would tell his next student to preflight 123B, and figure out my bill for the day's lesson. No debriefing, no discussion of how the lesson went, and certainly no planning or talking about what we would practice during the next lesson. Simply "you owe this amount for today and I'll see you next week" as he headed for door and 123B.
   We spent many lessons doing nothing but takeoffs and landings for the entire one hour lesson. After soloing several times and several hours of solo time, I asked to be signed off to fly to a neighboring airport. "No" was his immediate answer, "just stay here in the pattern and get more solo time". As I look back, it is no wonder the average time to get a PPL is up around 65-70 hours.

Bob: I flew one time with a cfi in the pattern that screwed me up so bad I almost had to learn to fly again! Later found out she actually flew students with thunderstorms nearby

Tim: I wanted to learn spin recovery, and had read the PARE System book, so I was ready.
   I had never been with this guy -- he was a new CFI there -- and so we took off in the 152. I hadn't read the POF on spins. (It wasn't an Aerobat, by the way.) He didn't ask me any questions about my "experience" level, familiarity with the machine, or anything else that would have told him this was maybe my tenth flying lesson.
   Anyway, we spent the first hour or so climbing to 8500', when he said, "Let's spin it."
I stalled the airplane and crossed the controls, and the airplane just lost a bunch of altitude, but didn't do anything exciting.
   He was disappointed. We climbed back up, and he said, "Give it full flaps." So I did.
   This time, it spun. Like crazy, with the green side "up," maybe six, seven turns. I looked briefly at him.
   His eyes were closed and he was holding onto the seat belt. Figured it was still my bird.
   I remembered the Power, Aileron, Rudder, Elevator routine, and did that; we were going really fast, though, as I rounded out. I remember glancing at the airspeed, and it showed 150 -- redline. And I still had the flaps at 30 degrees. (I could have done a Tsunami, but for the wonderful overbuilding at Cessna and the great maintenance at my school.)
   We didn't die, and so I thought it was pretty exciting, so I was writing up my postflight notes when the chief instructor glanced over my shoulder. He asked what we had done, and I told him.
   He walked out and came back in a moment, dropping the POH on the table in front of me. "Read the part about spins," he said. "There will be a quiz."
   He walked out and I heard him talking to my instructor, whom I never saw again.
   He was still redfaced when he walked back in for my "quiz," which I passed, this time.
   My takeaway was to always read the POH, especially before practicing a maneuver. I also got to accompany the A&P, as he went over the miraculously undamaged Cessna.
   For the record: Don't spin a standard 152; don't exceed Vne (even without flaps, and never while maneuvering!), and don't ever, ever spin one with flaps extended.

Lucy: When I was starting flying I flew with this very old instructor once, I don't remember his name, he lit up a cigar when we got into the airplane, but some how with him it didn't seem out of place. We were going to an other airport about 30 miles away and as we were flying the top of the hill in front of us was in the clouds. The weather was coming down. I decided that we couldn't make it and I headed back to home airport VFR I don't think we even did a weather briefing. As a student at that time, the danger was flying with such a passive, non teaching instructor. I think he was a fill in because my instructor had quit. In college when I was flying the Cap 10 aerobatic airplane, I had an instructor when would always yell at me. I also flew in college with some fantastic instructors.

Lin: Was on my 4th CFI and they assumed the others had covered basics to date but was part 61 and apparently no good records and syllabus was a foreign word. When I tried to explain I didn't get VORs I just got a look and comment to the effect of maybe I should quit if I couldn't get a basic concept like VORs instead of help. Rather than quit I purchased a copy of flight sim and printed the training materials and Rod Machado taught me how to tune in and fly VORs.

Daniel: I was on my PPL Exam and we were in the air for about fifteen minutes.... Then the examiner yelled, "There you go! That's the reason why you lousy Germans lost the war! With those flying skills you still have no chance!"

next post → ← previous post


  • RH - July 08, 2020

    My least favorite instructor (of four) in my pre-solo training (long ago), was a big guy who was gruff and not very conversational. On approach one day, I got sloppy and let my airspeed bleed off. He said something to the effect “keep your airspeed up. You don’t want to…” and then he clapped his two giant hands together to make the loudest clap I ever heard — like the bang of a handgun!

    I got it.

    For all of his faults, I think that was the one most important thing any instructor ever did for me — and I never took adequate airspeed for granted ever again. Still didn’t like the guy, but he may have saved my life.

  • Roland - February 09, 2020

    I just quit today maybe I’ll find another school but it wont be soon I need a break. I think my instructor is playing with my mind and my money. Its like he doesn’t really tell me anything until I make a mistake then on top of paying for flying he wants to hold ground classes and charges me for that. I mean this guy is “dude perfect” with him I cant do anything right and I do mean ANYTHING. Even the way we turn the plane off there is a specific procedure which I agree with doing it this way to make sure the mags are dead. He talks and complains through the entire session about what im not doing. Its like he rattles me on purpose and rarely tells me I doing even a decent job at ANYTHING. We had crosswords today and yesterday. Less winds today but he had no problem telling me I did worst today with less winds than yesterday…..but he says we are getting close to solo. I cant concentrate with him. I go in with a good attitude hoping to impress him only to get let down. He’s been flying for over 30 years so he doesnt need flight time. He told me i should try another instructor and he said I dont want to see you quit and maybe try another instructor. I was frustrated and told him i wasnt coming back and he just said “ALRIGHT” and i walked out. It’s one thing to wait oj a clear day to fly then have a scheduled flight that actually works out to only walk away with 250 bucks of let down and disappointment in yourself. Im tired of feeling like that so im done. Maybe I’ll find another school or even try another instructor but as of now I need a major break.

  • Robert - January 06, 2020

    Unbelievable that you would see thousands and thousands of these postings like this all over the internet when you felt you may be doing something wrong. Can’t believe how much some of these Brutal CFI’s unbelievable corruption in an educational learning platform is killing people’s simple dream to fly. All these CFI’s whose complete no guilt intention is to cheat people should be ashamed of themselves. I always believe in Karma and when they do cheat people like this and overcharge and not doing their what they’re paid to do and cheat people I would leave it with Karma to handle and teach them the lessons in the aviation business.

  • JB - December 08, 2019

    I am being overcharged and don’t know what to do about it. My first cross-country with him lasted 2.5 hours logged but he charged me another hour, not for the airplane but for his time. I spoke to him once about it and he stated “it is for ground instruction”. I don’t have any ground instruction from him. I wanted to quit but the problem is that there is no other school in the area; otherwise, I would have to drive two hours which would be too costly. There must be something that the FAA or the AOPA can do to help with this nonsense and abuse from flight schools and CFIs. I feel like quitting because my fund is depleting. This guy is charging me whatever he desired. This is not right. I am asking for help. What should I do? Quitting is not an option. I have already accumulated 22.3 hours and ready for my night cross country and I already know he’s going to suck up as much as he wants for this trip. I need help.

  • JB - December 18, 2019

    I am being overcharged and don’t know what to do about it. My first cross-country with him lasted 2.5 hours logged but he charged me another hour, not for the airplane but for his time. I spoke to him once about it and he stated “it is for ground instruction”. I don’t have any ground instruction from him. I wanted to quit but the problem is that there is no other school in the area; otherwise, I would have to drive two hours which would be too costly. There must be something that the FAA or the AOPA can do to help with this nonsense and abuse from flight schools and CFIs. I feel like quitting because my fund is depleting. This guy is charging me whatever he desired. This is not right. I am asking for help. What should I do? Quitting is not an option. I have already accumulated 22.3 hours and ready for my night cross country and I already know he’s going to suck up as much as he wants for this trip. I need help.

  • Spilt-T - October 25, 2019

    When the landing is never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever enough and you wrack up hours and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat the same lesson because the instructor wants you to reach an un obtainable amount of perfection. The perfection that one does not obtain until they are a professional. Face palm.

  • Joshua - October 03, 2019

    Not quite about a flight instructor but i’m a degree student at a small Aviation specialist college over in the U.K.

    We had one new module lecturer who was rather young, say in his mid 20s, who was also a time builder instructor at a flying school. In one of our first lectures around the subject of ‘Developments in Aviation’, he informed us that our task was to produce a presentation to help him decide which flying school to compete his MCC/JOC at. Confused at why we was made to do this, we agreed, and 2 weeks later he stopped showing up. Turns out he went to the flying school we chose for him and was hired by a large British low cost carrier. 😂

  • Mark jack - December 08, 2018

    Had an instructor out of Sky king 3i3 named josh maneur I lived an hour a way and if he didn’t feel like flying he would watch jerry springer and charge me for ground I drove an hour to do ground school when the weather was perfect WTF this happened more than once and half the time I would show up and he wouldn’t be there ? Turns out he forgot 🤔 then a week before my so called commercial checkride he tells me by the way I’m moving tomorrow good luck

  • Jane - November 07, 2018

    My very first instructor was a young guy, but he had a huge impact on my flying. This guy LOVED flying, and it was contagious. We used a Cessna 172S, and he took me to every grass strip he could find, no matter how challenging.

    He also enjoyed slips, so we practiced them quite a bit. He was very encouraging and positive, although I was terrified of heights. When we’d take off and get to altitude, I’d say, “You have the controls.” He’d repeat, “I have the controls.” Then I’d wipe the sweat off my hands. Truth.

    His impact on me was so great that I bought a bush plane and fly turf.

    I continued my flight training in another state (for reasons irrelevant here). There I had another flight instructor who left a fine legacy and many good tips. He had been a bush pilot overseas, so he was tough as nails.

    I’ve had a number of terrible flight instructors. They were just accumulating time, but had neither the desire nor the ability to teach. Some left my confidence shattered. One screamed incessantly in the cockpit, and would hit me on the shoulder repeated from the back seat. It was nerve wracking; I’ve never wanted anything in my life so badly that I would put up with that nonsense.

  • Peter Rodriguez - October 20, 2018

    My worst concers while I was training for my PPL was instructors more interested in the money than safety.. I will never forget the day, we went up while a storm was building. We experienced a roll cloud, now being a private pilot i realize the danger and severity of the situation. But, i guess the instructor couldnt call it off for another day. Since then ive decided not to fly with unsafe instructors.

  • Chris - March 29, 2018

    Doing a check ride as a licensed glider pilot. We’re on base leg, target altitude for turn to final is 300 ft. We’re at 400 – instructor says “I have control,” and promptly DOES A 360 TURN! Did I mention it’s a GLIDER!?! First of all, in a glider you NEVER turn away from the airfield in the circuit, certainly not when you should be turning final. Second of all, gliders have tremendously effective spoilers, I can put in on the numbers from 800 if I have to. Third of all, you NEVER TURN AWAY FROM THE AIRFIELD. Burning height is easy, getting it back is impossible. Did I mention the 60 foot trees at the end of the runway? WTF dude.

  • Rob - March 27, 2018

    I have a helicopter lesson today. I’ve got ASEL but this lesson sucked. I had no damn clue what was going on and felt the instructor was apathetic and bent on showing me what a dumbass I was. Never going to do choppers again. Ever.

  • Tyler - January 21, 2018

    Currently training with an instructor who is constantly having emotional breakdowns and temper tantrums. It’s a huge distraction and communication breaks down to nothing.

    I watched this lady even smack another student in the face hard enough to knock his headset off during a flight.

    There have been a handful of complaints but nothing has come of it.

  • Ryan - January 03, 2018

    I have had mostly great instructors. I am now a CFI and take the good and learn from the bad what not to be. I have a passion for flying, enjoy sharing that passion and would never teach if I did not.

    My awful inductor was actually back in my Embry-Riddle days. French guy named Davie, did my initial CFI stage 1. He was a good pilot but not at all accommodating. Never listened , never shared best practices and often made me feel terrible if I was not 0/0 PTS. I remember what he said once" You’ll never be an insuctor if you cannot fly every maneuver 0/0 every time. Totally get it, strive for perfection! Well, I can tell you this.. he could NOT perform every maneuver 0/0 either! I understand what he was trying to do but it made for a very bad environment in the plane. I want to fly perfectly even more than he wanted me to, but I could not learn the way he was just trying to push and pressure. Did stage 2 off campus, had an AMAZING instructor, passed CFI check ride and oral with a breeze. Im sure that guy is. good pilot somewhere,. but Id never want to work with him. Thats the only time I ever hated flying or did not want to go to a lesson.

  • Larry - June 09, 2017

    Dear Rod,
    I have belonged to a very popular flying club in NY State. It is often touted as the “best” flying club. My experience is the opposite. The only two CFI’s available to check new members out are one man in his 60’s who is always late for lessons, sometimes so late (90 minutes) that he said it was too late for a lesson. The other is an ex military pilot in his 70s who repeatedly screamed at me in the cockpit , and when he did not enunciate well enough so I could understand him, he said “listen better”. For eight months I was not able to fly as there was no one else and I was paying monthly dues. I finally decided to go inav=ctive or resign and wanted my inactive status to be retroactive so I could not be billed for 3-4 months of dues, they said "Its not fair to other members.
    I had another local pilot who took me up and insisted I be able to identify one of the many small lakes in northern New Jersey (virtually impossible) and then had me do such and goes without telling me what were the airspeeds in an old 172 with MPH gauges. ( I was used to knots). Is there any action one can take against instructors such as these? Possibly even reporting them to the FAA?
    Thank you.

  • Leonard - March 23, 2017

    So many tales to tell, beginning with one PPL instructor who never let me actually fly as he just wanted to show off all the time. I made zero progress, then changed to a very nice lady who let me fly the aeroplane and subsequently I soloed very soon and it’s thanks to her I got my PPL quickly and cheaply.

    So many terrible glider instructors – too many too list, but one UK club that shall remain nameless was full of instructors who all profoundly disagreed with each other about how to fly a circuit, and half of them shouted their way through each flight. Consequently in one afternoon I took off with one instructor who told me my flying was poor and I was nowhere near solo. 15 minutes later I winch launched with another instructor who remained silent throughout the flight, making me think I must have screwed up again. As he got out after landing he said “You’re good to go – that was faultless flying” I requested another check the next day before soloing and was with yet another instructor who told me I was no good again! All three insisted on a completely different circuit profile. In the end I actually had to adapt my flying to the prefered technique of each instructor, rather than flying for the prevailing conditions.

    One instructor told me to maintain EXACTLY 55 knots downwind. It was turbulent and impossible to achieve. I opined that surely the speed trend was more important than exactly 55 knots. “No”, he said. “You need to nail 55 knots in all conditions with not even a two knot departure”. In that case I replied – perhaps you could demonstrate. “Sure” he said. He never even got close to 55 knots and fluctuated between 50 and 60 – worse than I achieved! On another occasion I got a bit ragged on a tow. Instead of giving me time to sort it out, he said “I HAVE CONTROL”. But never handed control back – so half an hour tow practise wasted.

    I had two very fine instructors, so I can name them. One is John Smith at Culdrose and Perranporth who was brilliant – calm, confidence-giving and a superb pilot. The other was Terry Banks whose profession as a driving instructor probably helped him maintain composure and a good manner. His flying was also very fine.

    Flying instruction is a fine art and needs a refined touch. There are some very skilled pilots out there, but a skilled pilot is no guarantee of a decent instructor. If I roll up to a gliding outfit nowadays, I hang around for a while sussing out the check ride instructors. I always decline the show offs, the loud-mouths and the bossy ones. Generally speaking the quiet ones are better.

    After tolerating this ridiculous inconsistency for several weeks I left the club. So many gliding clubs are full of overbearing, domineering, arrogant CFIs and assistants all vying with each other for power and influence. After that I made it my rule: no more than two separate instructors and if anyone shouted I politely declined the next flight.

  • Rob - February 26, 2017

    Today I went up with an owner operator CFII I have already had 17 hours logged with 80 landings. This guy came of friendly as can be at first, but zipped through the preflight and was ok through taxi and run up. Once airborne didn’t communicate a single heading, or altitude, and wanted me to feel the plane. That’s all fine but he never communicated what he wanted and would say turn left and yell that I’m turning to steep and I’m not even a 15 degree bank. Then when I pointed that out after his 4th or 5th time yelling I pointed to the attitude indicator. He tore some papers and covered all my instruments, kept yelling and during touch and gos while I added a pit of power because the approach lights were all red. Finally 1.5 hours into a 2 hour lesson I said let’s make the next one a full stop. As we’re taxiing into the ramp, some hey with his head phones in was walking 10 feet away from right to left in front of us. The pedestrian never looked up. I naturally stopped the plane and the instructor had the nerve to yell at me for getting on the brakes. I toll him just park the plane and the guy keeps yelling at me and berating me as we leave the plane. Never again will I fly with this guy.

  • Jim - January 27, 2017

    I guess I’ve been very good at choosing instructors, never having more than one flight with any that were incompatible – until it came time for my first type rating. My assigned instructor got totally out of sorts whenever I make even the smallest inconsequential mistake. He harped on it the rest of the flight and offered no real instruction on avoiding any in the future, which naturally caused more errors. In retrtospect I was overly intimitated with my first turbine experience. The straw that broke the camels back was when the ATIS frequency was dead silent and I contacted ground to say “unable ATIS, could I get the numbers from you please”. He went totally ballistic, accused me of not checking NOTAMS and making him look like an idiot as an instructor. Instead of going ballistic myself, I called ground back and asked them to please tell my instructor when the NOTAM was issued for the inop ATIS frequency. She informed him that none was issued because it just went out and they thought they could fix it quickly. From that point on whenever he started, I just raised my index finger and gave him “the look”. He was a quicker learner than a teacher. To show what a bad PIC I was, I didn’t notice until the 5th or 6th flight that he didn’t have any seat belt on – it wouldn’t fit around his big belly. Thanks Rod for tackling this issue – so many times when talking to student pilots who are looking for advice, I have to bite my tongue and say – Sounds like you need a new instructor. It bugs me to no end when I hear pof someone dropping out of flight instruction because of the “Instructor Factor”.

  • Max - January 09, 2017

    Ok, during my Private I have had several instructors, mainly cause I ran out of $ and by time I was ready again a new instructor was on the board, most were awesome, a couple were arrogant one thought he flew better than Bob Hoover, fast forward 30+ years currently working on my instrument, my instructor asked while I’m pulling the plane out for my 250 mile cross country if his wife can join us so she can have lunch with us, like I had a chance to say no, that put us 2 hours behind after our fuel /lunch stop halfway, which was supposed to be a debriefing but ended up a social visit.
    He’s a good guy, but no syallabus, no direction, I will finish up elsewhere

  • Liz - December 19, 2016

    I had 3 horrible instructors on the way to get my PPL. Unfortunately not knowing any better I stayed with them and wasted a lot of $$ in the process before I finally found a GOOD instructor. The first one I think hated instructing and had no respect for the student as she would show up as much as 30 minutes late only to tell me it was too windy or whatever weather wise and we couldn’t fly. She dumped me as a student because I thought the abeam point on the runway was at the lines, not at the end of the runway. Instead of teaching me what it actually was she told me to land and then told me I’d be flying with the other instructor from now on. She didn’t want to do ground school at all but said “go home and read your book” (Part 91 school) even though it was the book I had questions over!

    The 2nd instructor wasn’t much better and neither one would give me the number to the ATIS so I could check the weather before driving 30 minutes to the airport because they thought the student was too stupid to interpret the ATIS and they being so high and mighty were the only ones that could. Turns out both of them were only trying to get hours. 2nd instructor never wanted to do ground school either.

    3rd instructor was a glider pilot and wanted me to always land without flaps so I got out of the habit of putting down flaps for landings and had to relearn this with the good instructor. This one wanted me to “hurry up and read your book so you can take your written” and would do a little ground school but not much. At one airport I heard the tower say somebody was coming in from the left and after we took off the idiot instructor had me turn left. The tower had to scramble the one coming in to get out of our way to which the instructor only said “oh sorry—ha, ha” to the tower. Another time he had me do something I considered unsafe (which thankfully I can’t remember now) and I dumped him pronto. At least he found out what I was having trouble landing (I couldn’t see over the engine) which was something Nos. 1 and 2 never bothered to find out so I finally got to solo with #3.

    Instructor #4 I have stuck with—-she has never had a student fail a written or an oral and she works with you to make sure you don’t fail and has you fly with a CFI before the checkride to get any bumps out. I would highly recommend the CFI and Instructor #4 and once I get over my 2nd detached retina (thanks for the bad genes parents!!) I’m getting my instrument and commercial ratings from her!!

  • Ed - December 12, 2016

    I’m just nearing the end of my PPL now and just passed 50 hours over 14 months. My first instructor, while friendly and a good pilot, had a full time job aside from CFI and was only available weekends. I missed many weeks of flying because of a poor weather weekend or his schedule was packed with other students, and I believe he was too distracted by his job and lifestyle to be a proper instructor. Being a part 141 school there was quite a bit of ground work I had to complete in addition to my flight lessons, and it seemed like every time I finished one bit of groundwork there was something else he’d forgotten about that prevented me from continuing in the air. Eventually he signed me off for my stage II check when I hadn’t done a flight plan in 3 months. I failed basically before I even sat down and the examiner was apologetic, saying he would never have signed me off if I hadn’t made and flown a plan in the past week let alone 3 months ago. By the time I wised up and asked to switch instructors the flight school told me his documents with them had expired and he had been suspended, information he had not shared with me and I believe overlapped with at least one of our review flights together. I’m thankful there was no conflict with the part 141 lesson plan. I blame myself for not acting sooner but also the flight school for not taking any notice of their CFI whose students were clearly lagging behind. I could have been finished months ago and without spending extra time (and money) in the air reviewing lessons I had learned and developed rust on from being grounded. It’s been three weeks since I switched and my checkride is this week, I’ve made more progress this month than I did in the past year, but I’m glad to learn this lesson now so I know not to be timid about switching CFIs in the future.

  • KristinA - November 26, 2016

    At about 10hrs experience, my Dad (Delta pilot) and I went to visit ATP flight school in Daytona. Meeting with the director of the place, it seemed like a professional and practicable way to start my training all the way up to CFI school.

    My first instructor was a brand new guy. First few flights were cross countries for him to tour Florida .. On my dime.. My first flight with manevers he yelled at me for not being “quick enough” and that was the first day out of several where I cried out of frustration in the parking lot later, thinking flying would always be this hard for me because I wasnt a “natural” like all the other guys who acted so talented.

    First CFI left. Second guy I had was fairly new as well, and a product of the pilot mill. He had me do an hour every morning of laps in the pattern, and already feeling comfortable with landings, he gave me little input and I was left frustrated and confused about why I was flying in circles and not soloing. He had a negative attitude towards his work and was not the only CFI to openly criticize his students, leaving me with more anxiety.

    The third guy I had was a friend of my roommate’s and seemed to be a nice guy. He was kind to me but left me with little feedback, mostly because I was proficient to solo according to him. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the authorization to sign me off.

    I finally flew with the director of the facilty, who is a rank 1 asshole who runs the place with dishonesty and a lack of care. He failed me two times – the first time, without a word or comment for improvement, canceled my flight because I nervously misinterpreted a change in my taxi clearance by ATC. The second flight, which I gladly thought was going well, he flew us back after I had one bad landing (my last one out of 4), where I skidded due to lack of crosswind correction.

    My last and final CFI was overworked, and gave me as much patience and tips as he could, but ultimately just sat there for all of my flights.

    ATP flight school is a pilot mill, and if you do not come in with a huge ego and 100% assurance you are a pilot with Godly abilities, you will be milked every dollar of your loan. I left the school 30,000 in debt with 100 hours of pattern landings, no ppl or even a solo.

    A week later, I soloed at my current flight school and and my instrument training has been significantly less stressful and degrading. If you are a new student, DO NOT PUT UP WITH CRAP FROM PEOPLE!

  • Richard - October 23, 2016

    Had a glider CFI at a commercial operation that was chaotic and about to close (the new owner was never around). The older gentleman I met was in retrospect very angry and immediately disparaged the instructors who had signed me off for solo there years ago. (At this point I had private glider & sel ratings.) On tow he had the plane do such insane rolling and pitching maneuvers that I broke the rope. On our second flight the tow plane kept getting lower and the rope broke again. Turned out it was losing power but the pilot didn’t know what to do so just kept going. He finally turned and made it back, while in the glider we did my first off field landing. Refused to pay for it too.

  • Mo - September 27, 2016

    My “bad CFI” experience is a little different than most of the comments on this page. The bad CFI is me. I became a CFI a couple months ago and I have already given 100 hours dual (in one month) and a big time foreign ab initio flight school. I have been flying since I was 12 y.o and was at the controls of an airplane at 4 (with my dad pushing the rudder pedals for me) so I can’t take my self “back” to remember how bad I was in my early stages. I do consider myself a time builder, but I also am very excited to be a flight instructor, and I do sincerely enjoy it. All that being said, I can’t seem to keep my cool in the aircraft. I have 6 students, and most of them seem to progress really quickly, but others seem to be really lacking behind, and I find myself teaching 1st day fundamentals all over again. Once I go over the 1st day, again and again I begin to lose my cool. I’m scared to let them have the controls, and I don’t really know when I should take over controls. Does anyone have any suggestions to when I should and should not take over controls, and how to keep my patience as a flight instructor. I’m trying not to be a typical “time builder” and be there just for the hours, I want to make a positive impact on my students flying career as their primary instructor. Any suggestions please email them to

  • Reuben - September 03, 2016

    @JERAMIAH B Go for it! I’m glad you still have the desire to fly. Remember, YOU are the customer. It is perfectly within your rights to request a new instructor. If possible go check out some other flight schools. I wish you the best!

  • Juliet - August 26, 2016

    Experiencing one right now . So sick of training and trying and getting no help . Having an instructor sleeping with other students . He is having great time seeing me getting things wrong . The worst school ever and the worst instructor .

  • TJ - June 25, 2016

    I have been working on getting my PPL for two years now. I started in lightsport with a CFII who didn’t get a new medical because he did not want to pay for the physical. I did my first solo in 9 hours. When the light sport airplane was no longer available I moved to “real” airplanes but could not keep an instructor. I had one instructor who quit instructing out of the blue, three who moved on to be ATPs and quit instructing, one who lost his medical after an injury and one who was just a jerk so I left him. Then the school closed up shop. Then the first guy got his medical back and we started flying in a C172. He signed me off to solo and then disappeared. He left me a four other students without an instructor. After about 6 months, I finally found a new instructor after pretty much being told that all the hours I had built up with the guy were pretty much useless by several school and instructors. It was depressing. He is an old Air Force pilot who knows his stuff. He went about the task of having me forget everything I had been taught by the guy who walked away and started actually teaching me how to fly. He had me do a flight with him for evaluation to find out what my skill level was and was mortified at the things I had been taught. We had several hours of discussion, at no cost to me, about why I should not do what I had been taught by the instructor I had flown 35 hours with. I have learned that some of things I had been taught were just plain wrong and dangerous. The truth is, I have had to re-learn so much of the basics I have thought about calling the FSDO and report my first instructor. Guys like that are why people never learn to fly, he was sucking dollars out of us and I am convinced he was just padding his pocket. Thanks to my new instructor I am a much better pilot (I feel).

  • Jeramiah B - June 10, 2016

    My CFI took powernaps shortly after takeoff on three occasions. After 15 flight hours and an unwelcoming flight school, I retired from flight training. 4 years later and the dream of flying (for fun!) is still there. I work full time and am only 1 mile from the abruptly mannered flight school. Should I approach the manager and request a new instructor or find a new training program?

  • cathy - April 19, 2016

    After getting my Private certificate, I wanted to fly more and get ratings fast. Applied and was accepted to a national school with a good reputation. The CFI never spoke to me just said, change tanks, every 25 minutes. This CFI accused me of pulling the mixture full lean on downwind and started cursing at me. I never touched the mixture. After a few more flights this CFI started screaming at me that I was as bad as her Grandfather who flew a plane in conditions he could not handle, crashed and killed her grandmother. I immediately changed instructors. Next instructor was nice, but did not instruct. Told me to shoot an ils approach, even though I informed him I had no clue how to, I was assured he would walk me thru the approach. On the approach I was informed, you busted your altitude, your off course, your below glideslope, never informed me ahead of time what I was going to be doing. I felt like a total failure and was ready to quit flying all together. I did quit that school and proceeded to go to a local FBO, found a great instructor, after getting me out of bad habits I learned at this highly accredited school, I am now on my way to my IFR check ride. I learned one thing….A School is only as good as its instructors.

  • Judy - April 01, 2016

    The worst are the ones who aren’t overtly terrible. An overtly terrible one I would have no trouble firing. Instead, I had the misfortune of having one of the more subtly terrible instructors when I was working on my commercial. It’s been awhile, so I don’t remember a lot of details now, but he slowly eroded my confidence by never telling me what I was doing wrong if he didn’t like what I did, and had his own way of teaching commercial maneuvers that never made sense to me. If I challenged him to explain things differently, he would act like I was stupid (but again, not quite overtly enough to make me fire him on the spot). He signed me off for my commercial checkride, and I failed. It was the same DPE I’d flown with for my private and instrument (and he’d given me very positive feedback on both), and when he gave me the results, he was almost apologetic. Without saying so directly, he made it clear that he thought my problem was the instructor. I went with another instructor and passed my commercial with flying colors two weeks later. It was only in retrospect that I realized what a number the guy had done on me.

    My other experience was with a woman who did a stage check with me for my instrument rating. She was very unpleasant and became really unpleasant when we were headed back to the airport and ATIS indicated that some very strong crosswinds had come up unexpectedly. On the approach, she was yelling at me the whole way. I did a nice approach and perfect landing, after which she did not say a word. I think she was actually scared of the conditions—in fact, I’m not too sure she wasn’t just scared to fly.

  • Amanda Rosedoff - February 24, 2016

    I had many flight instructors just take me for a ride not teaching me everything I should know etc. I think I am too friendly and talk a lot and I learned the hard way if most men have a woman in their life they will tear you apart for just wanting to have a flight instructor as a friend and it is not professional. I also know flight instructors talk behind your back because of some techniques I used to see witch one I trust. My last instructor was a nightmare. Controlling and intimidating and talking behind my back trying to make me spend more than I needed and threatening me with a time limit I must learn landings and having a plain bad attitude about landings for me in general. I was deeply offended by this and expressed myself and called the police for their suggestions of such abusive behavior and now they don’t want me back and they are now spreading bad info about me…

  • Joe - February 04, 2016

    My first lessons (back in 2000) were with a 20 year old. During one of those first few flights, he said to me, “hey, after you solo, you can buy me a beer!” Maybe a lesson later (and unfortunately, I can’t remember what I was doing wrong), but he’s yelling at me, “just do what I’m telling you to do!” Many years later, I was going for an instrument rating stage check and I asked the [portly] CFI-I for his weight (for the W&B calculations.) He answered, “oh…just put 400lbs [for our combined weight].” Shame on me for not getting his exact weight. The same instructor and I began our taxi and we needed to back taxi down the runway in order to take off into the 10kt wind. However, the runway was about to be closed due to a priority departing military cargo airplane so the instructor was clearly getting agitated and says to me, “let’s go! let’s go!” (I could see him out of the corner of my eye, rolling his eyes and seeming annoyed…sorry-just going through checklist over here.) Then he calls the tower and says we’ll depart upwind. Again, I let myself get bullied into a situation. When I rotated, the stall warning horn was howling and kept on for several seconds.
    After I busted on my first instrument checkride (passed on the second), I had clearly upset the examiner (also a long time instructor so it qualifies for this blog), and I was at least trying to explain my thought process and why I did what I did (which upset the examiner.) The examiner just sat in the right seat and fumed all the way back to the airport. Not sure what was so upsetting considering the examiner still made 400.00. Back in the examiner’s office, I’m still getting the third degree and at that point, I tell myself, “ok, the rides over but I want to part ways on good terms.” I apologized profusely for upsetting the examiner and thanked the examiner for their time. I then stuck out my hand…but the examiner refused to shake my hand. WOW. I will never forget that.

  • Clayton - January 16, 2016

    The worst instructor to affect my life was my mom’s private pilot examiner in 1943. After passing her Private pilot check ride with the guy, the CAA rejected her pilot license because the examiner’s papers had expired, and when questioned he admitted knowing this. Mom never did go back and get her license with another examiner, something she regretted later in life.

  • Iwona - December 21, 2015

    Robert, my opinion is there is nonhitg wrong at all with doing fixed wing first. I would say do not intermix the two in the beginning. Complete for example the private fixed wing then do the helicopter add on. The biggest thing to consider I think is, what are you going to do with your rating? If it is for fun no problem with fixed wing first. If you want to be a career helicopter pilot, do it all in the helicopter. When you go to get your first helicopter job, you are going to need every single hour of helicopter time you can get!

Leave a comment

Stay in Touch

Physical Product Ordering Only (800) 437-7080

If you'd like to order a PHYSICAL product by phone, please call the number above. Digital (downloadable) products can't be ordered by phone.

Latest Posts

  • The Forgotten Mechanic

    The Forgotten Mechanic Here’s today’s riddle: Name something that all pilots need and use all the time, often don’t know by name, and depend on completely for the safety of every flight. The answer isn’t obvious, and neither is this... read more

  • Weber's Law

    By Rod Machado If you closed your eyes, held out a cup, and asked someone to gently pour water in it, how much liquid would need to be added before you noticed a change in weight? One drop? Probably not.... read more

  • It’s a Long Way Down, Isn’t It?

    Psst! Psst! Come here. Come a little bit closer. I’ve got something I want to ask you, and I don’t want anyone else to hear. Are you afraid of heights? It’s probably embarrassing to admit it, but if you’re like... read more

  • A Foot in the Mind

    By Rod Machado Psychologist Robert Ornstein, in his book Evolution of Consciousness: Origins of the Way We Think, talks about a person he knew as Jim. Jim’s reputation was based on his ability to get others to do things for... read more

  • Dive and Drive: Fact or Fiction? Maybe Both?

    By Rod Machado I am a "dive and drive" denier. There, I said it and I'm not taking it back. The term "Dive and Drive" is used by some instructors in the pejorative sense. It's a pointy phrase that's released like a... read more

  • Pilots, Poets & Psychologists

    By Rod Machado Mention the word poetry to a pilot and he'll act like he's in a hotel fire. He'll think: get low, get down, get out. Admittedly, even I get the heebie-jeebies at the mere mention of haiku (that's... read more

  • The Power of Flight Simulators

    Flight Training on a Budget By Rod Machado Over a period of two semesters, a young college student with two intro flights in his logbook acquired approximately 60 hours of supervised training using a desktop flight simulator. Curious to test... read more

  • The Prevalence Error - Why We Look but Do Not See

    Looking Good, but Seeing Little By Rod Machado Recently, I was having a difficult time seeing things that were in plain view. I was even thinking about visiting the Our Lady of Fatima Optometry Center, where their motto is, “If... read more

  • The Middle-aged Aviator

     By Rod Machado Over the years, I’ve heard many stories about middle-aged pilots (45-65 years) who gave up flying due to a sudden onset of anxiety. Apparently this wasn’t induced by any specific aviation trauma nor inspired by the relatively... read more

  • Cargo Cult Thinking

    By Rod Machado  Early in the 20th Century, pilots visited remote islands by air, dropping off goodies for Tarzan and Jane. On subsequent visits, these pilots noticed that the natives had built flimsy stick-and-twig replicas of their airplanes. Anthropologists named... read more

  • Recent Changes to Part-61 and Why They Are FANTASTIC!

    By Rod Machado Am I happy about the recent changes to FAR Part 61? You bet I’m happy. These changes will be helpful to general aviation in much the same way a corkscrew is to a Frenchman on Bastille Day.... read more


    The FAA has just released several "final new rules" that will have a positive effect on general aviation. The FAA deserves props for these changes and I want to be the first to congratulate them. You can read the rule making... read more