News - 2016 FSANA Flight Instructor Compensation Survey

by Jason Blair

FSANA recently conducted a survey of flight training providers (businesses and instructors) in an effort to gauge current trends in compensation of flight instructors. One hundred and four respondents from a variety of types of training operations provided input that resulted in some of the following data points we can share.

When considering flight instructor hourly pay, the majority of flight instructors were identified to earn between $21-$40 per hour, with the largest number falling between $21-30 per hour. When compared with what customers pay, it was more common that customers were charged between $41-$60 per hour. From the data, it can be inferred that most operators pay instructors approximately $20 per hour less than they charge customers, which would accommodate for overhead costs, insurance costs, and other expenses that operators have when operating the businesses that provide flight training.

The data also showed that instructors at traditional FBOs typically earn less per hour, with instructors at structured academy style training earning a higher average per hour income, and independent instructors earning the highest average hourly income (which would make sense if it is less likely that there are lower overhead costs for independent instructors).

When considering what benefits instructors receive in addition to pay, it was obvious that the flight instruction profession does not typically enjoy the level of additional benefits that are more commonly seen in other industries or sectors of the aviation industry such as corporate pilot or airline pilot employment. Only 21% reported that they receive health benefits or paid vacation time, only 17% reported receiving paid sick days, and only 18% reported receiving paid holiday time. The most common benefit reported was “discounted flight time”.

The survey also asked if instructors were employed as staff for whom taxes were withheld by the business where they instruct or if they were employed as independent contractors. The split in the respondents was nearly 50/50. As you might expect, the average hourly income that was reported by those that identified as being paid as independent contractors was significantly higher on average than those who reported being paid as staff. Conversely, the reporting of additional benefits to monetary compensation was higher by those who identified as being paid as staff than those who reported that they were paid as independent contractors.

Nearly 70% of respondents reported that their operations were either having difficulty finding experienced or qualified staff, or finding instructor staff at all.

While there were other points identified in the survey and in the presentation of the data, these are a couple of key data points that are more broadly interesting to the industry.

They seem to support the general belief that instructor staff are getting harder to find and that new compensation solutions may be necessary to attract quality long-term staff. We have seen some flight training providers offering better pay, more benefits, free advanced instructor rating training for instructors willing to sign longer term employment contracts, and other benefit options at some operators seeking to competitively hire.

In an industry where many of the instructor staff that flight training operations require to keep providing services are actively and aggressively recruited by airlines and corporate flight department operators, this may be necessary to obtain the next generation of staff. It will certainly be required to keep them.

FSANA welcomes your input on this subject and would look forward to sharing any unique practices that any flight training providers have developed to attract and maintain instructor staff. We also welcome you to review more of the data findings from the survey than can be shared in this article.

To view the slide presentation that was made at today’s conference, click here.

For the full results of the survey and graphical depiction of data compiled, click here for a pdf of the findings and graphics.