The aviation instructor is the central figure in aviation training and bears responsibility for all phases of required training. The instructor, either pilot or aircraft maintenance technician, needs to be a professional. As professionals, aviation instructors strive to maintain the highest level of knowledge, training, and currency in the field of aviation. To achieve this goal, instructors need to commit themselves to continuous, lifelong learning and professional development through study, service, and membership in professional organizations such as the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and Professional Aviation Mechanics Association (PAMA). Professionals build a library of resources that keeps them informed of the most current procedures, publications, and educational opportunities. Being a professional also means behaving in a professional manner. [Figure 1] An aviation instructor should strive to practice the characteristics on the Instructor Do’s list when teaching a learner.

Aviation Instructor Professionalism
Figure 1. Guidelines for an aviation instructor


An aviation learner normally accepts a competent instructor as a teacher. However, the aviation instructor should be straightforward and honest at all times. Attempting to hide inadequacy behind a smokescreen of unrelated instruction makes it impossible for the instructor to command the respect and full attention of a learner. Any facade of instructor pretentiousness, whether it is real or mistakenly presumed, causes the learner to lose confidence in the instructor and adversely affects learning.

Acceptance of the Learner

The instructor needs to accept learners as they are, including all their faults and problems. The learner is a person who wants to learn, and the instructor is a person who is available to help in the learning process. The professional relationship between the instructor and learner should be based on a mutual acknowledgement that the learner and the instructor are important to each other, and that both are working toward the same objective.

Under no circumstance should the instructor do anything which implies degrading the learner. Acceptance (rather than ridicule) and support (rather than reproof) encourage learning. Learners need to be treated with respect, regardless of whether they are quick to learn or require more time to absorb certain concepts. Criticizing a learner who does not learn rapidly is similar to a doctor reprimanding a patient who does not get well as rapidly as predicted.

Personal Appearance and Habits

Personal appearance has an important effect on the professional image of the instructor. Today’s aviation customer expects an instructor to be neat, clean, and appropriately dressed. Since the instructor is engaged in a learning situation, the attire worn should be appropriate to professional status. [Figure 2]

Aviation Instructor Professionalism
Figure 2. The aviation instructor should always present a professional appearance

Personal habits have a significant effect on the professional image. The exercise of common courtesy is perhaps the most important of these. An instructor who is rude, thoughtless, and inattentive cannot hold the respect of a learner, regardless of the instructor’s ability as a pilot or aviation maintenance technician. Personal cleanliness is important to aviation instruction. Frequently, an instructor and a learner work in close proximity, and even little annoyances such as body odor or bad breath can cause serious distractions from learning the tasks at hand.


The attitude and behavior of the instructor can contribute much to a professional image. The instructor should avoid erratic movements, distracting speech habits, and capricious changes in mood. The professional image requires development of a calm, thoughtful, and disciplined demeanor.

The successful instructor avoids contradictory directions, reacting differently to similar or identical errors at different times, demanding unreasonable performance or progress, criticizing a learner unfairly, or presenting an overbearing manner or air of flippancy. Effective instruction is best conducted in a calm, pleasant, thoughtful manner that puts the learner at ease. The instructor should constantly demonstrate competence in the subject matter and genuine interest in the learner’s well-being.

Proper Language

In aviation instruction, as in other professional activities, the use of profanity and obscene language leads to distrust or, at best, to a lack of complete confidence in the instructor. Many people object to such language. The professional instructor speaks normally, without inhibitions, and speaks positively and descriptively, without profanity.