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Flying Instructor

Kaiwhakaako Waka Rererangi

Alternative titles for this job

Flying instructors teach people how to fly aeroplanes, helicopters or other aircraft.


New and intermediate flying instructors usually earn

$44K-$70K per year

Experienced flying instructors usually earn

$70K-$100K per year

Source: research, May 2020.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a flying instructor are average, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced demand for workers.


Pay for flying instructors depends on experience, their employer, and what type of aircraft they teach in.

  • C category (entry-level) flying instructors usually earn between minimum wage and $30 an hour, and typically work part time.
  • B category (mid-level) instructors usually earn between minimum wage and $70,000 a year.
  • A category (senior) instructors usually earn between $70,000 and $100,000.

Flying instructors are usually paid by the number of hours they spend in the air. They may also be paid a retainer. Larger organisations have more students and tend to pay higher salaries. 

Source: research, 2020.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Flying instructors may do some or all of the following:

  • prepare flight training programmes
  • teach students aviation rules and theory 
  • carry out and teach pre-flight checks on aircraft
  • teach students how to use aircraft controls, and how to fly during the day, at night and with instruments
  • test students' skills and knowledge, and write student reports
  • teach qualified pilots about new equipment and different aircraft.

Skills and knowledge

Flying instructors need to have:

  • excellent skills in flight planning, flying, navigation and risk-management 
  • knowledge of how weather can affect an aircraft
  • knowledge of the techniques and theory of flying, and civil aviation laws
  • teaching skills.

Working conditions

Flying instructors:

  • may work part-time, or long and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, and may be on call
  • work in classrooms and in training aircraft
  • work in conditions that can be challenging due to rough weather, and working with learner pilots.

What's the job really like?

Jackie Day Flying Instructor

Jackie Day

Training and Development, Safety Manager, Flight Instructor

 What's it like being a flying instructor?

"The role is like that of a sports coach, I think. You have to come alongside people and patiently coach them along as they learn the skills and knowledge required.

"It's an incredible feeling to take someone from knowing nothing about flying to completing their licence. You gain an amazing intrinsic reward when you see what you can help other people to achieve."

How hard was it to qualify as a flying instructor?

"As a 30 year old, it was an adjustment for me to return to study – there were 21 exams to pass, and five flight tests to pass in two years, so it was very intense. I had to be persistent and resilient, have the ability to be motivated, and even pick myself up after failures.

"I’d say it was my biggest achievement when I passed my C Category flight test after what was a very intense 12-week course. Flight training certainly teaches you a lot about yourself."

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"I enjoy going to work each day, being able to interact with students from all parts of the country and the world.

"I get to learn new things each day and still stay connected with our beautiful flying environment in New Zealand."

Entry requirements

To become a flying instructor, you need:

  • a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)
  • a Flight Instructor Rating (C Category).

Commercial Pilot Licence

To get a CPL you need to:

  • hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL)
  • complete at least 200 hours of flying 
  • pass a Class 1 medical exam, written exams, an English language test, and a flying test
  • satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority's fit and proper person requirements – for example, by showing don’t have serious convictions.

The CPL enables you to fly small planes such as those used for scenic and charter flights.

Flight Instructor Rating

In addition to a CPL, flight instructors need a Flight Instructor Rating (C Category). You can train and qualify for this at an aero club or flying school.

Gain CPL and Flight Instructor Rating through tertiary study

You can gain your CPL and your Flight Instructor Rating (C Category) as part of completing either of the following qualifications:

  • New Zealand Diploma in Aviation – Aeroplane and Helicopter (Level 6) with strands in airline preparation and flight instruction.
  • Massey University's Bachelor of Aviation.

You need to pass the ADAPT pre-pilot screening test and attend a selection interview to enter these courses.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a flying instructor. However, NCEA Level 2 English, maths and physics are preferred.

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

To specialise in teaching people how to fly remotely piloted aircraft (drones), you usually need a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) qualification.

Personal requirements

Flying instructors need to be:

  • safety-focused
  • supportive, patient and positive
  • excellent communicators with good people skills
  • able to think logically, follow procedures and act responsibly
  • good at making decisions under pressure.

People don't get things first-off – you need to be very patient with them and understanding, but you also need to know what your own limits are.

Photo: Sarah Etchells

Sarah Etchells

Flying Instructor

Useful experience

Useful experience for flying instructors includes:

  • teaching
  • work with machinery
  • customer service
  • weather forecasting.

Physical requirements

Flying instructors need to have:

  • good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
  • good reflexes and co-ordination
  • a good level of fitness and health, as they must pass a medical exam every year.

Find out more about training

Aviation New Zealand
(04) 472 2707 -
Flying New Zealand
0800 422 635 - -
0800 863 693 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

COVID-19 pandemic decreases demand for flying instructors

Job opportunities for flying instructors are average, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced previously high levels of demand. This is because:

  • the number of international flying students has fallen due to border closures
  • turnover is lower. Fewer flying instructors are able to move into airline pilot roles, as Air New Zealand cut 300 airline pilot positions in May 2020.

However, there are still some flying instructor vacancies and demand may improve as restrictions to control the spread of the pandemic ease. According to the Minister of Education, it's unlikely new international students will arrive in New Zealand in 2020.

According to Aviation New Zealand, 188 fixed-wing (aeroplane) and 13 rotary (helicopter) flying instructors worked in New Zealand in 2019.

Flying instructors may get work at the flight school where they trained

Most flying schools prefer to hire former students as flying instructors because they know their students' abilities and skills. Some schools only hire former students.

When you are deciding on a flight training programme, ask schools about job opportunities, and whether they have an ongoing need for flying instructors.

Types of employers varied

Flying instructors may work for:

  • aero clubs
  • flying schools
  • airline academies
  • Massey University
  • the New Zealand Defence Force.

Some major airlines, such as Air New Zealand, also employ flying instructors.


  • Cardwell, H, 'Drop in Numbers of Experienced Flight Instructors a "Crisis" ', 4 November 2019, (
  • Civil Aviation Authority, 'Flight Training Safety Report – Autumn/Winter 2019', accessed June 2020, ( 
  • Civil Aviation Authority, 'How to Be a Pilot', January 2019, (
  • Day, J, training and development, safety manager, Nelson Aviation College, interview, May 2020.
  • Flying New Zealand website, accessed June 2020, (
  • Griffin, D, and Murrie, J, 'Pilot Career Progression in New Zealand: A Study Conducted by NZALPA and Massey University School of Aviation', 30 November 2018, (
  • Grindlay, V, QA/admin manager, Southern Wings, interview, May 2020.
  • Hipkins, Hon C, 'COVID-19: Stabilising International Education As the Sector Rebuilds', press release, 27 July, 2020, (
  • Hodges, N, academic manager, International Aviation Academy of New Zealand, interview, May 2020.
  • Pettigrew, C, recruitment manager, Aviation Systems/L3 Harris Technologies, interview, May 2020.
  • Poultney, C, deputy chief flight instructor, Aviation Systems/L3 Harris Technologies, interview, May 2020.
  • Radio New Zealand, 'COVID-19: 300 Air New Zealand Pilots Lose Their Jobs', 7 May 2020, (
  • Smith, A, manager, business development and international programmes, Massey University School of Aviation, interview, May 2020.
  • Stevenson, J, 'How Can the Global Aviation Industry Chart its Way Out of COVID-19?', 18 May 2020, (
  • Stuff, 'Air NZ Expects Long, Slow Recovery, Internal Documents Reveal', 12 May 2020, (
  • Tertiary Education Commission, 'Update on International Students', 26 June 2020, (

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Flying instructors may progress to become senior instructors, or work as airline pilots once they have gained enough flying hours.

Flying instructors usually teach people to fly either aeroplanes or helicopters.

They may also specialise in:

  • particular types of aircraft such as propeller, jet, light or large commercial aircraft
  • agricultural flying
  • how to operate drones.
Two students seated in the flight deck of a flight simulator, with an instructor behind them

Flying instructors teach the principles of flight, navigation and weather (Photo: Nelson Aviation College)

Last updated 30 August 2022