Truly excellent CFIs are unfortunately quite rare. On the one hand our aviation training world has an abundance of totally green “hour builders” still learning their craft with their eyes set on an airline career (2/3s of all active CFIs have taught less than one year). These people are amazingly enthusiastic and usually have excellent recent knowlege. They are fun to fly with and usually full of energy. Unfortunately, they are usually pretty scared in the cockpit and tend to micro-manage errors, monopolize the radio and controls, and chatter non-stop (that is exactly what we taught them to do for their FAA test…). It takes a while to learn how to *really* be a CFI.
On the other hand you have the jaded, self-important CFI, frequently burned out and often unmotivated. This part-time lifer is often quite rusty on maneuvers and scary on their lack of recent knowledge. Where is the “sweet spot” for CFI excellence and how does a working professional avoid the trap of becoming a “legend in their own mind?”
The only secret I have found to stay fresh as a CFI (and DPE) is to keep learning and challenging yourself, as a pilot and as an instructor. I write this as I am (once again) acquiring another type rating (and silently cursing myself for this decision). If you continuously put yourself in the role of a learner, you have to stay humble and (hopefully) sharp. It requires again putting everything on the line; submitting to training and testing (just like your students). Michael Maya Charles in his amazing audio production “Artful Flying” calls this “beginner mind;” actively maintaining a curious and open attitude toward the world. Students in training and flying in general present many daily challenges if we keep our eyes wide open.
The SAFE Master Instructor Program is also an excellent pathway to keep learning. The required Contining Education Units required to be accredited every two years keep you searching for “learning opportunities” and actively challenging yourself.
For more thoughts on this subject, join our FAA webinar on Wednesday, November 9th at 11am EST (clocks changed this morning). The Orlando FSDO “Enhanced CFI Program” will be live (and available later on YouTube). BTW, the picture above was created by Master CFI Jeremy Walters for *his* YouTube channel “Breaking the Chain” which he created as a SAFE Master Instructor. Keep learning, fly safe (and often)!
Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education. 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).