I was speaking to a friend the other day whom I hadn’t seen for a year or so.
He is a highly experienced flight instructor and is now a captain flying scheduled airline passenger operations.
I remarked how much more relaxed and healthier he looked and he replied that his general health has improved and his stress levels have declined since he stopped instructing.
This was an interesting comment (and one I have heard many times from former instructors) and the discussion then led on to the topic of the pressures of flight instruction versus the demands of airline flying.
He was strongly of the opinion that flight instruction was definitely the more demanding of the two facets of aviation.
While there is absolutely no doubt that airline operations have their unique pressures, we were primarily discussing the demands that most flight instructors have to cope with on a daily basis.
For example, now that the flight training industry has grown so enormously over the past few years, instructors are under more pressure to perform than ever before.
Gone are the days it seems of one or two instructors running the local aero club or flight school and developing close personal bonds with their students who may only fly once or twice a week and take a year or more to gain their PPL.
Nowadays, especially at the larger flight training organisations, it seems that there is a never ending stream of students waiting to fly and all expecting (rightly so) a high standard of professional input from their instructor.
Teaching and imparting information is no doubt a highly demanding task and one must be constantly drawing on personal experience and repeating complex information to many different people.
The financial pressure on the training organisations is enormous and this leads to a constant pressure to complete the syllabus on time while battling adverse weather, student academic timetables, aircraft availability, maintenance issues and looming test dates, to name a few. It seems that the bigger organisations are always behind schedule and this leads to flow on effects in the form of more pressure to perform in the face of largely external impediments.
There is the legal expectation that the instructor is responsible for their student’s actions and so, especially in the solo cross country stages, the instructor must make important pre flight decisions and guide their students regarding weather, aircraft serviceability, airspace considerations and so on. All part of the job.
I guess that what my friend meant is that while he is on duty, he is responsible for one aircraft (and its passengers), one highly trained first officer, and one flight at a time.
The instructor however, is dealing with multiple students of varying experience and ability who are flying several different aircraft at any given time, and is ensuring that all of the syllabus, legal, and safety requirements are met.