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Flight Instructors


People have been interested in figuring out how to fly for hundreds of years. Before the 20th century, however, attempts at flying were generally based on self-taught methods and self-experimentation. Flying enthusiasts generally studied the efforts of others and created their own aircraft (or what they hoped would be aircraft). In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright completed their first flight with a powered flying machine and began the period of modern aviation. In 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont completed the first flight in Europe, and in 1909 Louis Blériot made the first flight across the English Channel, flying from France to England in slightly over 30 minutes.

By the 1920s the commercial benefits of airplanes—flying mail, goods, and people—had become apparent and more and more people were interested in using flight and learning to fly. The federal government became involved in regulating the aviation field with the passing of the Air Commerce Act in 1926. With this act, the Department of Commerce took responsibility for such actions as issuing and enforcing air traffic rules, setting standards for pilot certification (licensing), and establishing airways. A significant development in teaching methods occurred a few years later, when in 1929 Edwin Link invented the Link trainer. The Link trainer, a flight simulator, was a ground-operated machine that simulated flying conditions and reduced some of the time, expense, and danger of training new pilots. Advances in flight were spurred by both World War I and World War II, when the military use of aircraft became a major focus of the aviation industry. The military also provided an environment for training pilots, and other crew members, in an organized and uniform process.

In the meantime, government oversight of the field continued to grow, and in 1938 the regulation of aviation was transferred from the Department of Commerce to a new agency—the Civil Aeronautics Authority. This organization eventually grew into what is now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is responsible for setting and enforcing rules of air safety, traffic, and education. The days of trying to figure out how to fly on your own are gone; today's pilots must complete extensive training and education before the FAA grants flight instructor certification.