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My local airport has a Part 61 flight school and gives students the option of selecting among three Certified Flight Instructors. Farhan and others have posted excellent explanations of characteristics to look for in instructors.

Other than wasted time and money, is there any downside to doing an "Introduction to Flying" lesson with each of the three instructors and seeing which one I like best? Similarly, am I likely to offend CFI's that I'm "looking around" other options?

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No. Definitely try more than one CFI and ideally, more than one school. This is the smart choice and one I recommended regularly when I was an active flight school CFI.

You're about to spend a ton of money - do the due diligence and spend more up front to make sure you don't waste time and money with someone whose teaching style or personality clashes with you as a student.

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    $\begingroup$ The only thing I would add is once you find an instructor you mesh with it's advantageous to stick with them (at least for the most part - sometimes you might want a fresh perspective). $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jun 22 '15 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @voretaq7, I totally agree. $\endgroup$ – egid Jun 22 '15 at 18:06
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My first flight instructor was kind of a jerk. You know the kind: First flight, "Let's take the plane for a SPIN", "How about a BREAKFAST ROLL?" After a few hours into my training, there was a scheduling conflict and I got a different instructor - a military pilot with many thousands of hours of flying time and a very different attitude. Professional. He worked me harder than the other instructor ever had.

The flight school eventually canned my first instructor. He moved across the field and took on new students at a different school. Then there was the day one of his students almost ran over me in the pattern. They were flying a Cessna and I was flying a Grumman. The tower had cleared them AFTER me, but they apparently never even saw me and pulled into the pattern on the downwind right underneath me. Fortunately, both I and the tower realized what was happening, so I just maintained altitude and extended the downwind leg and the tower cleared the Cessna ahead of me.

When I called up the flight instructor to tell him about the near mishap, his attitude was quite cavalier. He seemed to think it was funny.

Shop around. If you can find a military instructor with thousands of hours of flight time, odds are you'll find a very serious teacher.

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As mentioned it's a good idea. You will be spending a lot of time with this person in a very confined space, not only should you trust their abilities but should at least get along with them. FWIW I would not consider this a waste of time as the hours will count towards your total and you will be learning new things while trying new instructors.

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I think many instructors is a good idea, since you see their different characteristics and each has their own sweet spot. I had at least 10 different instructors for my PPL, and learned a lot from the differences as well as their similarities.

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There is no harm trying out different instructors. Note that instructors have different strengths. Some may be better at teaching tailwheel and others at instruments.

One problem is that you will not really be able to tell the difference between a good instructor and a better one in one flight, unless it is a personality issue. From a technical point of view it will be hard to tell.

Better instructors tend to get booked up and are hard to schedule. If your instructor's schedule looks really full, that is a good sign he is a good one. Also, look at their flying experience. I notice that the better instructors tend to have more flight hours.

Once you start flying be sure to get "check rides" from other instructors once in a while. Different instructors have completely different styles and areas of emphasis, so it can be very useful to get "alternative points of view" from time to time. A new instructor will usually teach you new stuff. In this sense, even a bad instructor can be good sometimes because they can teach things maybe your usual instructor does not know.

Beware of "easy" instructors that just soft shoe everything. They are the nicest instructors, but they are slow teachers and they can be derelict and just "go with the flow" when they should be correcting you. If one or two instructors tell you that you should not fly and are not cut out to be a pilot, the dumbest thing you can do is to find an easy instructor who will just collect your money, even though he knows you are not pilot material.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that flight experience logged reflects upon the quality of instruction one is likely to receive. I know several experienced older instructors who do a terrible job at preparing students for life as a pilot. I've also flown with incredible instructors who had yet to graduate college. Experience is great, but no replacement for natural teaching ability, or for a good education. $\endgroup$ – egid Jun 22 '15 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ @egid Its an average measure not an absolute. I have just noticed a correlation trend between hours and CFI skill. Obviously there are plenty of exceptions. $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden Jun 22 '15 at 18:55

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