Airline Worker Bee VS Professional CFI!

What a wonderful time to be entering the aviation profession! There are amazing opportunities around every corner – either as a young person seeking a first job or as a mid-life lateral transfer into this exciting field. But with the din of aggressive airline recruiting, many people are entirely missing the advantages of becoming a professional aviation educator. All the focus is geared toward becoming a worker bee for the airlines. It is a serious mistake for young, motivated pilots to just march mindlessly forward with only an eye toward the airlines, there are other viable options.

If you would believe the media and marketing blitz, every regional airline is just waving cash and guaranteeing happiness and a bright future of freedom and fun. But don’t fool yourself; not only must every pilot personally earn that precious right seat slot in the airline machine (tough work!), this part of aviation is certainly not the right fit for everyone. The airlines provides a very structured version of the “flying dream” with limited flexibility and freedom; its not for everyone. Your flying is very structured and it takes years of commitment to climb the ladder to qualify for the “dream job” everyone imagines is around the corner (great when you get there). If you are just new to the working world or pusuing a mid-life lateral transition into aviation, consider also a future as an aviation educator as a viable choice.

The CFI certificate used to be a mandatory step for everyone entering any aviation career. But in this hot pilot-hiring market, many young people are increasingly skipping this step, and this is a huge mistake. This person will miss a vital learning opportunity that CFI time provides – and this could be a great fall back position when the next airline downturn strikes. CFI experience will also provide a window into a different aviation career with more flexibility and freedom (different strokes for different folks). And amazingly, this version of aviation professionalism is currently providing equal financial opportunities to the airlines.  Glass Door is currently advertising CFI salaries at $79K.   As a professional CFI you largely define your own personal future, building your credentials in the areas that interest you (and there is more variety than you could ever imagine). But make no mistake, this path certainly requires more personal imagination and commitment. Amazingly, from the moment you are FAA certificated as a CFI, you are potentially your own own professional business person – not that I would advise this step without some seasoning and mentoring. This is a very different version of the aviation dream from the structured airline life where you are a cog in a bigger machine. There have been some pretty high-profile airline defections and career blow-back. And all I am advocating is exploring all the possibilities.

I went to UND, commercial aviation degree. Worked for UND for 3 years in a couple different roles, instructor, stage pilot, management. Accepted a job at a regional airline flying a CRJ-200.

I realized fairly quick that working at an airline wasn’t for me. I wanted to be home for my family, want to progress my career based on ability not seniority, didn’t enjoy flying(why i got into this career), fed up with management vs pilots

So please check this out or spread the word if you are mentoring someone entering aviation. People need to discover the benefits and remarkable flexibility of the recently more lucrative aviation education profession. The attraction of a “personal business” as an aviation educator can be more compatible with the needs and demands of a real life. Instead of using your CFI time as a ladder make it your home. Our profession is seriously in need of really good professional educators and the only limits to income, flexibility and advancement are your own imagination. Flight Safety in Florida will pay for all your CFI certificates and a type rating if you have a commercial and are qualified. Explore the amazing possibilities of being a professional CFI, the shiny jets will always be available as a future possibility. Fly safely (and often!)


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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI, 141Chief Instructor, FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE)

3 thoughts on “Airline Worker Bee VS Professional CFI!”

  1. Great points David. I too skipped the CFI until now but it was due to not thinking I knew enough to teach. I had no idea how much better a pilot it COULD make you. I say COULD because I’ve had more than my share of inept CFI’s. One guy was in airline training with me and bragged that all he ever did was sit in the right seat and play games on his phone. For the serious pilot the CFI track is the most honorable and rewarding way to fly. Properly structured it can be as financially rewarding as an airline career and home all the time to boot.

    1. Hi Billy, I am so glad you are now a professional aviation educator! I am similarly aghast at how inappropriately cavalier some people can be with the responsibility of this profession (playing on the phone instead of engaged and compassionate) Aviation desperately needs serious and professional CFIs like you; thank-you!

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