What the FAA Missed In CFI NPRM!

The recently proposed NPRM creating a permanent CFI certificate (renewed by endorsement for recognized activity) misses many great opportunities to inspire and motivate our talented aviation educators (CFIs). With some simple modifications, CFI renewal could again be a powerful tool to recognize and build the professionalism of our aviation educators. This is critical because our CFIs are the “primary influencers” of aviation safety and professionalism. Good, experienced, CFIs are in short supply in our aviation industry.

Unfortunately, the current FAA proposal, as written, is only designed to save the FAA big bucks while continuing the same mind-numbing FIRCs (the flat-rate version of which seems to get worse every year). A FIRC may be a good tool for an inactive CFI to retain privileges, but “just getting by” certainly misses many opportunities to improve and advance our aviation industry. True professional aviation educators strive to continually improve their techniques and knowledge; these are the “Master Instructors!”

Every respected profession has built continuing education programs leading to higher certifications and professional recognition. The FAA unfortunately never developed such a program for CFIs. (Gold Seal is clearly a one-off token). To fill this need, Sandy and JoAnn Hill created the Master Instructor Program over 25 years ago. This program gained immediate and enthusiastic FAA support. The FAA administrator at the time immediately granted credit for CFI renewal to all Master Instructors (until the FAA lawyers quietly removed it). This current NPRM is an opportunity to restore and expand this worthy privilege. See SAFE comments HERE

The rigorous MCFI program requires 500 Continuing Educational Units (CEUs)every 24 calendar months and far exceeds the perfunctory educational value of the standard Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic (FIRC)… It is time the FAA recognized this program and incorporated it into 61.197.

In addition to MCFIs, there are many very qualified senior CFIs who no longer teach primary flight training but focus on advanced or transition training. These professionals should clearly be approved for CFI renewal. If we apply an expanded version of the FAA concepts of “equivalent level of safety” or “accepted means of compliance” (airworthiness) there is a whole category of advanced CFI activities that need to be recognized for renewal. These could be written into the new CFR 61.197 or listed in the existing FAA WINGS program. Our aviation industry desperately needs to motivate and inspire committed professional CFIs to stay in flight training. SAFE has commented to this NPRM that new CFIs who accomplish the full SAFE CFI-PRO™  course or achieve Master Accreditation should be qualified for CFI renewal. This proven program advances new CFIs “from good to great,” and far exceeds the requirements of an FAA FIRC.

Instead of motivating CFIs to stay longer in flight training the FAA NPRM proposes reducing the qualifications necessary for CFIs to train initial instructor ratings. Five test recommendations with an 80% pass rate would qualify a CFI to teach initial CFIs. This is just lowering the bar to compensate for the increasing scarcity of qualified educators. Already 2/3s of “active CFIs” have been taught for less than a year. The FAA is proposing further lowering the educational standards for CFI educators (SAFE does not agree). SAFE advocates for enhancing CFI professionalism by recognizing Master Instructors and building our profession.

If you agree with a more productive version of the new FAA NPRM, please send your comments to the FAA supporting this opportunity before June 22nd. Fly safely out there (and often)!   See you at #OSH23

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).  10 Tools for New CFIs Here



Author: David St. George

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

12 thoughts on “What the FAA Missed In CFI NPRM!”

  1. The FAA has never actually viewed the CFI rating with the importance the rating deserves. They tend to view the flight instructor as a necessary conduit placed in the chain to implement FAA policy and directives.
    Conversely the CFI community hasn’t helped their cause either, using the rating as a means to build time and experience with the goal being to exit the rating and move up to more lucrative employment.
    The entire thing is a mess with the pilot community right in the middle of it having suffered badly.
    Unfortunately I feel this won’t change until the entire instructor community organizes itself into a cohesive professional organization similar to ICAS with power to police itself and set standards beneficial to both the instructor community AND to the general aviation population.

    1. The Master Instructor Program was developed by two professional educators in 1996 and is comprised of five diverse knowledge and skill requirements (documented and peer-reviewed). It requires 500 continuing educational units (CEUs) every two years. This program is modeled after other professional accreditation programs in law, medicine and accounting. See: http://masterinstructors.org

      1. This is of course an EXCELLENT program. It represents talent within the industry taking on the responsibility for advancing the professional value of the rating.
        The industry needs more of this type of commitment by its members. I would personally recommend that every instructor with the rating join in with this effort.
        Change CAN be achieved. It will take the instructors themselves to implement that change.
        This program is an excellent example of what can be done when instructors take an interest in their own community and become personally active seeking improvement.

  2. The problem… who decides what a master or pro CFI is?
    NAFI, SAFE, … ME?
    I do believe we need more experienced CFIs teaching at all levels.
    Usually bad habits start with the initial CFI. So, I believe that is the most important CFI in any pilots career.
    I have flown with hundreds of CFIs… the one I remember most, is my initial CFI.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. The initial CFI is the one who plants what is to follow, and in many cases, what follows a pilot through an entire tenure in aviation.
      I can’t stress the importance of this enough. The relationship between student and and the first instructor is the CRITICAL moment in a pilot’s career.
      If that first instructor doesn’t rise to the occasion everything that follows can be tainted.

      1. Dudley, please check the links to the master program, I would highly value your feedback. I was in the original cadre applying (and receiving) accreditation. This challenge really makes you stretch – learn and diversify- to maintain this honor.

    2. If you follow the link to the Master Instructor Program, you will see this requires meeting a very well-documented set of criteria, in five categories. This is a peer-reviewed accreditation requiring 500 “continuing education units” (CEUs). Each activity must be documented to successfully complete an MCFI certification. As stated, the FAA in 1996 immediately granted CFI renewal for MCFI, but this was nowhere documented in 61.197 (CFI renewal) so FAA legal eventually rescinded it. This accreditation far exceeds the 16-hour FIRC requirements.

      1. I am aware of the program and place a very high value on it.

      2. The Master Instructor Program is over 25 years old now. In originally was approved by the FAA Administrator for CFI renewal (“a no-brainer!”) Unfortunately FAA legal quietly removed that renewal credit when they could not justify it in 61.197 (required a regulation change). THis new NPRM is an opportunity to restore that renewal approval and also add worthy advanced CFI training like Upset Recovery courses and advanced training in high-performance A/C. Forcing these highly qualified educators to endure an embarrassingly perfunctory 16-hour FIRC is counter-productive. Please write the FAA with your comments supporting Master Instructor renewal credit here!

    3. I believe the FAA is making a critical error if they exclude the Master Instructor Program from their new CFI proposal. What the FAA misses by doing this is the exclusion of a centralized source of highly concentrated expertise in the exact area they wish to affect with the new ruling.
      And the inclusion of such a concentrated source of expertise would not be without precedent. Inclusion of such a valuable [outside the FAA source] can be found with the ICAS program where a governing source has been delegated by the FAA to aid in regulating the airshow industry. The area of expertise required, sought, and maintained within the flight instruction community is no less specialized than that found within the ICAS community responsibility.
      I would strongly recommend that every CFI take an active interest in the Master CFI Program and make their feelings known to the FAA concerning the new proposal using the ICAS comparison to make their strong points about inclusion of this worthwhile program even stronger.

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