My Unconventional Path to Becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

Marcus Gollahon

Marcus Gollahon – CFI, CFII, AGI, IGI

Hey there, I’m Marcus Gollahon, a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and ex-high school teacher based in Texas. My passion for aviation and teaching has been with me for as long as I can remember, and I feel lucky to have found careers that allow me to pursue both of my passions. The road to get here was not a straight one but here is my story on how I took to the sky’s.

Growing up, I had always felt a little lost when it came to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I had tried out different extracurricular activities and hobbies, but nothing seemed to stick. I wasn’t particularly talented in any one area, nor did I have a clear passion that could guide me towards a certain career path.

When it was time to apply for college, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the endless options available to me. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in or what kind of job I wanted after graduation. I wasn’t even sure what major I wanted to sign up for until I was standing in front of the college guidance counselor’s table filling out the application for picking majors. I settled for Chemistry since I liked it the most in high school. It was simply my Dad’s idea to throw in there to add a teaching emphasis, you know, as a backup plan if the Chemistry researcher plan didn’t pan out. Some backup plan.

I truly was happy with my chemistry classes and studies. I did well in class and found that I enjoyed teaching my classmates about the concepts we were learning. As I continued my studies, I found that I had a natural talent for teaching. I loved breaking down complex concepts into simpler, more understandable terms for my students. I enjoyed seeing the look of understanding on their faces when they finally grasped a difficult topic. Teaching quickly became my passion, and I was excited to pursue it as a career.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the twists and turns that led me to become a Chemistry teacher. It wasn’t a career path that I had envisioned for myself, but it turned out to be the perfect fit. It allowed me to combine my love for teaching with my fascination for Chemistry, and I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out.

I started teaching Chemistry and Physics at a local high school after college, and I loved it. But I always felt the itch to do something bigger. I thought that becoming a principal was my bigger calling, so I went to get my Master’s in Educational Leadership. However, I soon realized that I hated being a principal and that teaching was my true passion. So I continued teaching and I was always a fan of new teaching methods and methodology. For one summer of professional development, I was introduced to Genius Hour (a personal thank you to Andi McNair), a project that allowed students to follow their passions while also learning their main subject, chemistry or physics. This project inspired me to start my own passion project: finding my next calling.

During my research, I talked to my Father-in-law, who is a 787 pilot at American Airlines. I was always enthralled by his stories and adventures. I probably asked a thousand questions until one day he said,

“You know you can do this, right?”


Boom. Light bulb moment. He then proceeded to get out a yellow legal pad and write down “Part 61, Part 141 Flight Schools.” After asking a thousand more questions, I was off to research on my own. I never thought that becoming a pilot was something I could do. All my life, I had the wrong impression that all airline pilots were ex-military pilots. Since I was never in the military, I didn’t think it was an option for a career choice. Heck, even when I first met my father-in-law and found out he was a pilot, he was also an ex-military pilot further pushing my impression of an airline pilot.

That year, I drained my Teacher Retirement account to help fund my new journey for flight. Starting in 2018 and finishing in 2020 (yes in the middle of Corona Season) I completed my flight training and became a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction I got from becoming a CFI was incredible. I was finally doing something that I truly loved and was passionate about. As a CFI, I get to teach people how to fly. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. There’s nothing quite like seeing the look on a student’s face when they realize they’ve just completed their first solo flight. Being a CFI is more than just teaching someone how to fly. It’s about instilling a sense of confidence in them that they can take with them throughout their flying career. It’s about teaching them how to be safe and responsible pilots.

I have to admit that being a CFI is a bit different from teaching Chemistry and Physics in a classroom. There are certainly some challenges to being a flight instructor. For one, the weather can be a bit unpredictable at times, and we have to be able to adjust our flight plans accordingly. But overall, being a CFI has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s given me the opportunity to do something that I’m truly passionate about and to share that passion with others.

If you’re thinking about becoming a CFI or an professional pilot, I highly recommend it. It’s not an easy path, but it’s one of the most rewarding careers out there. The feeling of helping someone achieve their dreams of becoming a pilot is truly priceless.

In conclusion, I never could have predicted that my journey would lead me to become a CFI. It was a path full of twists and turns, but each step along the way has led me to where I am today. I’m grateful for the experiences that have brought me here, and I’m excited to see where this career takes me in the future. If you’re considering a career as a CFI, I wish you the best of luck on your own journey. Fly safe, and never stop learning!

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