Passionate Pilots; Become a CFI!

The flight training industry needs more professional instructors who stay and grow in the industry,teaching beyond the minimum standards. If you are already a CFI, access this link for motivating articles and growth opportunitites. If you know a long-time pilot who would be a great CFI, inspire and mentor them; forward this article. Let's build CFI professionals.

There is a lopsided and damaging demographic trend in “new CFI certificates.” Most newly-certificated CFIs are young people – brand new to aviation – and adult life. Statistics reveal that most new CFIs teach for less than a year, building hours and moving on. Though they become the backbone of the professional pilot cadre, this “hour building” does not help the flight training business much. In our aviation industry, there is a continuous cycle of “beginners teaching pilots.” This is a continuous cycle – 2/3rds of active flight instructors have taught for less than a yearI certainly do not mean to disparage young CFIs – my best CFIs were in this group –  but our industry desperately needs educators teaching/growing for more than a year.

Experienced aviators, with financial security and a passion for aviation, are the perfect candidates to step up and become CFIs. Largely driven by passion and not dollars, these people can offset their “flying habit” with some tax advantages while enjoying the satisfaction of building new, safer pilots – paying aviation back. “People skills” and commitment are the primary “secret sauce” to successful education and customer satisfaction. Some of the best educators in our industry are “accidental CFIs” who finally became aviation educators later in life after being long-time pilots. If you are worried about liability, SAFE developed the best CFI insurance in the business just for this reason; go get some – both Master CFI and FAA WINGS get you a discount!

I have personally only put 30 or so people through their initial CFI. But the “lifetime aviators” are usually easier to develop into CFIs than brand new pilots. This is largely because all the aviation knowledge and experience acquired in life – especially “people skills” – really pay you back here. Being successful as a CFI is really about teaching people aviation *NOT* advanced aerodynamics and molecules of air.  You do not have to be a super pilot, just a compassionate coach.


Have you heard scary stories about the terrible initial CFI pass rate? FAA statistics reveal initial CFI pass rate is statistically almost the same as private pilot; ~75%! And, pilots with experience in aviation start with a disproportionate advantage: all the skill and knowledge from years of flying. I have hired academy CFIs that have never fueled a plane, never flown in an actual cloud and do not know how to tie down a plane. Yet they have a fresh FAA CFI certificate (usually a “double I” too) and are certificated by the government to teach people to fly; you can do better! (BTW; none of these skills are required in the testing process)

The first step on this path is to take a simple knowledge test and acquire your ground instructor certificate (remarkably, you do not even need to be a pilot to become a ground instructor!) Then you can start officially helping at your local school or club and actively build your teaching chops while preparing for the flight portion. Years in aviation really count here. Work on the commercial if you do not yet have that and simultaneously practice your maneuvers from the right seat (double benefit). If you are a passionate aviator, you are flying anyway and you will find this exciting and motivating. As you proceed you will no doubt discover the secret motivation of teaching flying; you learn something every day. Great CFIs are lifetime pilots and “lifetime learners” – passionate pilots make the best CFIs. SAFE also has an affiliation with CFIbootcamp. Mike and his crew are passionate and professional at rapidly assembling the skill and knowledge to pass your initial CFI.

So if you are a passionate aviator, start working on your CFI today. Join this mailing list.  Motivating articles and educational assistance will help you on your journey. SAFE CFI-PRO™ is designed specifically for this process of building professional CFIs. A new course is finally in the works for this fall; we need more committed, passionate, lifetime CFIs. Fly safely out there (and often).

  Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

2 thoughts on “Passionate Pilots; Become a CFI!”

  1. I’ve decided it was time to start teaching and become a CFI.
    I’ve seen so much over my decades of flying and I really want the new and old pilots to fly safer.
    That is why I joined SAFE.
    The IIMC 180 turn killing so many people has me disturbed. The idea of someone trying to make a coordinated 180 turn, while that person is in the perfect scenario for getting vertigo seemed to be an extremely bad idea. Yet, everyone I asked from student to DPE always said, if they went IIMC they would make a 180. Every accident radar profile shows loss of control and a dive trying to do a 180 degree turn back out of the clouds without contacting ATC. I guess they think, “maybe no one will notice”. And yes, maybe there are a few very lucky people that made it by chance luck.
    I made it my mission to end this 180 practice and stop the senseless deaths that have been occurring. We teach pilots what to do if a aircraft stalls and why it stalls. The intent is to show pilots that yes, planes stall and this is what to avoid. No one normally goes out to stall a plane during a normal flight. It is something we want to avoid, but know what to do if it happens and why it happens. The same should be done for IIMC.
    Yes, people will go IIMC. For the most part emphasis has been ‘Just Don’t do it’. not what should be done if it happens or the dangerous conditions that may occur and how to correct them. If a person turns, speeds up, or slows and aircraft, while they move their head without reference to the horizon, it is highly likely they will get vertigo. Turning will make things far worse. It doesn’t matter if you are a 10,000 hour instrument rated pilot. This can and does happen to anyone at any level of experience if they go IIMC.

    So, what should a pilot do to survive?
    1. Don’t change the aircrafts speed or attitude until you have eyes on the artificial horizon.
    2. Level the aircraft.
    3. If you begin to experience vertigo concentrate on keeping the aircraft level while adjusting your body in the seat and making a yes / no head movement to ‘reset’ the fluid in your inner ear.
    4. Don’t turn. Why? You were flying in a direction where you knew what was in front of you. Turning will only make you lost.
    5. If terrain was rising slowing climb with wings level.
    6. Squawk 7700… Why? Shouldn’t we be hiding from the evil FAA (yes, I have had people ask this) 7700 will definitely get the attention of the FAA. People might be diverted. However, you will no longer have to worry about hitting another plane while you find a way out of the clouds. This also grabs ATCs attention and they will likely start trying to contact you. If you don’t know the frequency of ATC where you are, and are having a hard time keeping the aircraft straight, all you need to know is 121.5 which brings me to lucky 7.
    7. Contact ATC for help. If you don’t know the frequency for the area, 121.5 is likely where they will be looking for you if you did step 6.
    8. Ask for no gyro turns if you are experiencing vertigo. ATC will tell you when to turn and when to stop. For ‘no gyro turns’ never make more than a half standard turn.
    9. Once you are out of the clouds and safe, thank ATC for saving your life. ‘Very important’, he or she will likely be put up for a life saving award. The FAA will likely not hammer you for being stupid if someone is getting awarded for saving your life. It wouldn’t look good at the awards ceremony for the controller.

    I hope this helps save at least one life and some controller gets an award. Helicopter Association International has made the changes to the helicopter hand book. Some of this has been implemented.

    1. Oops…Apple likes ‘slowing’ over slowly
      5. ‘Slowly’ climb with wings level if terrain was rising in front of you.

Tell us what *you* think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: