“Showtime” for SAFE CFI-PRO™

Experienced aviation educators know that many of the techniques taught to initial CFI applicants to pass the FAA practical test are actually harmful to real education. Every effective flight school has historically had techniques to “break in and transform” new academy-trained CFIs so they are “effective educators.” In my 25 years running a 141 flight school we hired CFI graduates from every college and academy. All these new CFIs were eager and excited to fly, but unfortunately only partially educated in the real skills necessary to teach well. No new CFI wants to admit this, but every senior CFI will nod in agreement, there is more work to do after the FAA temporary certificate to become an “effective educator!”

The required knowledge portion of the FAA test is highly useful, but the hands-on practical teaching skills taught to pass the flight portion are largely a “comedy of errors.” Most new FAA CFIs are safe in the plane (because they never let go of the controls) but they are not yet “educators.” To pass their FAA test, they were taught to talk incessantly at a rote-level and monopolize the flight controls and radio. This satisfies the FAA demonstration for safety, but this is not how we actually teach flying!

Experienced CFIs know, mostly through personal introspection, that every new CFI is basically a student teacher, learning the real tools necessary to communicate and educate learners on the job. In many cases the old joke is true “You have to ruin your first five students to learn how to teach well.”  And in today’s hiring market, by the time a CFI gets competent, they are off to their airline job. There are only 12K “active CFIs” in the US, and 2/3rds of these CFIs – teaching our next-generation pilots – have taught for less than a year. Many have even been pilots for less than a full year and have only 5 hours of real solo time. That is the reality of modern aviation.

SAFE has developed and deployed a trademarked course called SAFE CFI-PRO™  that is designed to supply the “missing manual” of effective teaching tools for these new and inexperienced CFIs. This tested course curriculum is designed to transition a brand new CFI from “good to great” as rapidly as possible, filling the many gaps in today’s rapid training CFI environment. Most flight schools lack experienced mentor instructors to build the necessary skills required for new instructors to become effective.

Our first SAFE CFI-PRO™ at AOPA in 2019 attracted the most senior CFIs in the aviation business. This was a great time and debugged our curriculum, but was not our target audience of new, young CFIs. New CFIs are usually deeply in debt and lack the funds and time to travel, so we modified the course to be available in-service at each flight school and academy.

Now we travel this program to individual flight schools and spread the content in the SAFEblog with very good reactions. New CFIs are actually hungry for this content. But we discovered that it is important to reach the new, young (often cash-strapped), CFIs where they live – FREE). This program is being deployed nationally and is available to all flight schools for the asking. We are seeking both your great ideas, help teaching, and financial support from the aviation community.


We modeled SAFE CFI-PRO™  on the original Orlando FSDO “CFI Special Emphasis Program.”. This innovative program *REQUIRED* a full day of additional training for all CFIs in the Orlando district in the 1990s. At the time, ORL FSDO provided 1/4 of all flight certificates nationally. In only two years, this FAA program achieved a 60% reduction in accidents across the district.

SAFE CFI-PRO™is designed to achieve a similar CFI improvement with a nationally available program. We cannot *require* attendance like the FAA so we need to provide this FREE to CFIs and reach them where they live. By improving CFIs, “the #1 influencer in aviation safety,” we will raise the competence and safety of every pilot. (and of course we are desperately seeking sponsors🙏) Fly safely out there (and often)!

If you are a new CFI looking for immediate guidance, Try our SAFE Mentor Program and reference some of the articles HERE.

SAFE members (and friends) are invited to our Gala Dinner at AirVenture, Thursday, July 27th. Join us on campus at the EAA Partner Resource Center. Enjoy tenderloin medallions or broiled salmon (with a veggie option available). Included in one price is a choice of dessert and two drinks from the bar. Tickets are online now. Barry Knuttila (CEO/CFI/ATP) from King Schools will be speaking on challenges in modern flight training.

Author: David St. George

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

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