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Great Tools for New CFIs!

Here are 10 essential ideas CFIs need to embrace to acquire the important skills and grow  *after* they pass their initial CFI FAA evaluation. These tips represent the real-life “on the job” reality we teach in SAFE CFI-PRO™ live seminars. In a recent blog I emphasized that the FAA CFI temporary is – like all certificates – a “license to learn.” I also offered some examples of how the preparation for the FAA CFI Initial evaluation actually reinforces skills that are quite contrary to effective education (e.g. encouraging the CFIs to micromanage the controls and radio). These are some of the major points we convey in our popular CFI-PRO presentations.

  1. The Initial CFI, like every other certificate, is a “license to learn!” In every other country (e.g. Canada) New CFIs are only allowed to teach under the direct supervision of a senior CFI until they progress from Class 3&4 (initial) to Class 1&2.
  2. The “pilot skills” that served you so well in earning all your pilot ratings are *very different* from the “CFI skills” you need to be an effective educator. You have two pieces of FAA plastic: Pilot and CFI.
  3. The pilot personality is geared toward almost aggressive precision, error correction, and immediate action. By contrast, the CFI personality takes time to develop and requires amazing patience and compassion to endure some pretty bad flying and awkward radio calls. It takes time for your “learner” to get good at flight control and comm.
  4. Flight instruction can initially be quite frustrating for the new CFI (what did I sign up for?). You are not flying (and should not be handling the controls a lot, if at all) you are teaching and guiding your learner with careful (mostly verbal) instruction!
  5. The “CFI skills” we teach every applicant to pass the initial CFI evaluation, though necessary (handling the controls and radio while talking non-stop), are *not* how we really teach flying. Many of these habits need to be unlearned to be an effective educator (hands off). Learners do not learn by watching the CFI fly – they must do it themselves (and make mistakes).
  6. Pursuant to all the above considerations, the #1 error of new CFIs is monopolizing the controls and radio, (like they were taught) and not allowing their “learner” experience flight. New CFIs are often incessant micromanagers. It takes a while to gain confidence and get off the controls (and radio).
  7. The pace of exposure and progress is *very* different for each unique learner (unlike what a standardized syllabus might suggest). Most people are not ready to experience slow flight and stalls on their third flight! “Lesson 3” might actually be the 5th or 6th time in flight depending on your learner’s skill and confidence.
  8. There is a real danger of scaring a student. No person learns while panicked and there is also a danger of “student lock-up.” This is a common (and dangerous) flight training problem .”Lock-up” is when your learner panics and refuses to release the controls. 65% of SAFE CFIs surveyed had experienced this phenomenon.
  9. To avoid student lock-up, build trust with your learner and practice the transfer of controls. They must immediately relinquish control to the CFI when requested (you need to build this habit) and never scare your student.
  10. The best methodology for instructional success is “incremental mastery.” This involves the CFI turning over aircraft control and flight management in a very explicit fashion once competence is achieved: “this is your responsibility now…I will not help with this – you are the pilot!” This method creates both a sense of confidence and mastery in your learner (and reduces dropout). It also creates the pathway to a “powerful PIC” (confident, independent and fully in charge). Most flight test applicants are clearly “not fully in charge” but pretending (usually poorly) to be PIC.

Please get in touch w/SAFE for a CFI-PRO™ presentation at your location! New CFIs should also see this popular blog: “10 Rules for New CFIs


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

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).

Author: David St. George

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

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