The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) has polled its members to get a sense of the compensation instructors are receiving for their services to determine the ability of the industry to train future pilots.
NAFI is still evaluating the results and collecting more data, but the initial analysis does not bode well for the industry. With more than 1,000 responses, the conclusion of the study is that many instructors may not be able to make ends meet and are forced to take a second job to make enough money to support themselves.
The study separated instructors into four categories: instructors from FBO-style flight schools; academy-style facilities; major universities; and independent flight instructors. Most instructors receive a percentage of the amount charged to the students for their services. More than 60 percent of academy-style instructors said they receive less than 50 percent of the billable per hour cost. As a result, most instructors received less than $50 per hour for their services and the majority, nearly 50 percent of the respondents, were compensated between $25 and $50 per hour. While this is far above minimum wage, instructors only get paid for the hours billed, which can be considerably less than the time spent to train each student.
In addition to teaching, nearly 50 percent of the polled instructors indicated that they are responsible for activities for which they receive no compensation, such as “student follow up, student prospecting and marketing efforts,” according to NAFI.
“Until we can bring wages for instructors up to a level commensurate with the investment in training they have incurred and to a level that allows [flight instruction] to be competitive as full-time employment, we are likely to see instruction remain a part-time way they support themselves,” said NAFI Executive Director Jason Blair. How the industry can achieve this goal without increasing the already high cost of flight training remains to be seen.