Lessons Learned as a New CFI

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Been meaning to write this for a while. Finally jotted it down...

It’s been about a year and around 200 hours of dual-given - I’m a part-timer so I don’t fly nearly as much as the full time guys. I’ve been lucky to have some outstanding mentors - some here on JC and some in my flight school. For those of you pursuing CFI - here’s some things I’ve learned in the first 200 hours. I’m *still* learning new things, every single day.

Each Student Is Different. Act Accordingly - you have to be a chameleon, blending into the right context that the student needs to learn from you. Some need and want you to be clinical, distant and exacting. Others need you to be more of a buddy. Your job is to figure out what they need from you to learn. You may not be able to do this, especially right away. And that’s okay. If they want to fly with another instructor because they get along better with someone else, that’s perfectly fine. There will be plenty of others who come to you for the same reason. Be who you are, play to your strengths and that will ultimately be better for you and your student.

You Will Make Mistakes. Own them. - Students, like small children, pick up on a lot of stuff, even if they don’t say anything. If you goof, swallow your pride and tell them you goofed, tell them *how* and *why* you goofed, and then fix the situation. I had a couple of really embarrassing gaffes in the first couple of months, one of which led to a lengthy discussion and lesson about situational awareness and the tools we use to maintain it. Ended up being a great lesson I’ve since used with others. Your mistakes are outstanding opportunities to teach.

Be Opportunistic - When the weather turns sour, it’s time for a lesson on Wx. When the winds are strong and gusty, use that to do ground reference maneuvers. Got a discrepancy with the paperwork on the airplane? Let’s go ahead and look at logbooks and inspections too. Use the situation you have to teach something meaningful. The student doesn’t know what’s important and what isn’t, and they’re delighted when you give them something real and practical - especially if you can use it to break up the routine.

Your Students Will Do Exactly What You Tell Them To - especially your newbies. If you give an instruction and the outcome is unexpected, then you either weren’t clear with the instruction or the student has some barrier that you need to address before the instruction is clear to them. This is *especially* true of your students who may be thinking in one language and translating to the language you’re teaching in. In my case, English.

Your Students Will Do What You Do - they will notice if you go flying without checking weather or NOTAMs. They will notice if you blow off a piece of broken equipment…even if it’s legitimately deferred, they should understand why. If you find yourself about to do something like skip a checklist, stop and ask yourself if you want your student doing the same thing. Because they absolutely will.

“I don’t like Stalls/Right Hand Patterns/Ground Reference” - is code for “I need help with understanding and working on this….” - if there is anxiety or stress related to a specific task, it’s time to go back to your fundamentals and train the aversion out of the student.

Training Airplanes Break. Know the FARs - you should know the flow of how to determine what equipment can and cannot be deferred, how to handle it, and more importantly, how to explain the process to your student. You may have resources to ask - your Chief, other instructors - but you ultimately make the decisions. This simultaneously protects your certificates and teaches the student proper decision making.

Listen To The Little Voice - if the Little Voice says your student is ready, listen to it. If the voice says “nope, don’t solo them” then don’t. Unsure? Go over it with a more experienced instructor. You’ll find usually the voice is right.

You Are Redefining Someone’s Image Of Themselves - take it seriously - they may forget old loves and distant relatives, but they will never forget the things you say and do to teach them. You wield far more power to shape them than you realize - wield it gently. A little coaching, patience and encouragement go a long way. Heaps of praise when they do something good is mandatory. Quiet coaching and correction when they’re not.

I could write thousands of words more, but these are the most significant things that come to mind right now.
 
D

Deleted member 27505

Guest
Good Stuff! @killbilly
Ditto what @Screaming_Emu said.
More here...
 

ahw01

Well-Known Member
 

Bamaaviator

Well-Known Member
All excellent points! I have the feeling based on what you wrote, that you are an above average CFI. The industry needs more instructors like you that are always striving for excellence.

Unfortunately many flight schools don't support good instructors, and don't encourage and promote good instruction. It's a shame. They like that revolving door to push CFI's out, then bring in new ones, all the while paying poverty wages. It's an outdated model that needs to go in opinion. The flight school I used to work at was very shady. They encouraged CFI's to go fly broken airplanes, do the minimum required to get a student ready for a checkride, and worst of all, in my opinion, was they didn't create of welcoming environment for prospective students as well as new students beginning training. They had ZERO customer service skills, so I had to make up for that. I can't even begin to describe the amount of unprofessional things I saw and dealt with there. So knowing that, means you will often times have to showcase your customer service skills as well, because it's a business after all. All too often I see too many instructors who forget that and don't realize it's a JOB after all. They treat it like a hobby and forget that their student is a paying customer, and not only that, but they're paying a crap ton of money.

Professionalism can be seriously lacking at many shops. I've picked up many students who came from other flight schools and some of the stories I've heard about their CFI's and flight school staff is appalling. Stuff you could never get away with if it were any other type of business. This is why I'm very glad to have experience working outside of the aviation industry before I started flight instructing. It gave me perspective!

Flight schools are often times run by people with MASSIVE ego's and don't know the first thing about running a business. In my opinion flight schools shouldn't be run by pilots and instructors, but that's just me. I'm now working for a shop that is above and beyond professional and is a rare place to be as an instructor pilot. Extremely grateful for where I ended up. Sometimes I look back at my first CFI job and think it was all a dream and never really happened. There is such a stark difference between both places that there is no comparison. It was the worst job I've ever had.

The only real way to improve the flight training industry and make it more welcoming and positive for newcomers, and particularly struggling students, is to start with the individual CFI, and how we train the CFI candidate. The example you show to your students, and even CFI candidates, if you get any of those students, is a good start. It all boils down to the attitude of the CFI, how they approach the job, and having some integrity. Without that, nothing else matters. All too often I've seen CFI's display a poor attitude for their students, ZERO customer service, little enthusiasm for teaching, little patience, and just an overall poor representation of the flight training industry in general. I wish this weren't the case, but have been my experiences when I was a student, as well as when I was a CFI at my first aviation job. I hope it improves, glad to have people like you teaching!
 
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goodflightcowboy

Well-Known Member
KillBilly, I just started my first week on the job, and everything you said has been immensely helpful. I've seen the exact things you're talking about, and questioned how to handle myriad situations. This is a super challenging job, and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and insights to maybe help out the new guys.
 

Bushmaster78FS

Well-Known Member
This should be in "Aviation Instructor's Handbook". It partially is but well summarized here.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

CFI A&P

Exploring the world one toilet at a time.
Reading this alone tells me that you are damn good at this. These are the skills people are talking about developing when they speak about how valuable it is to instruct. Basically CRM in a nutshell.
"Hey everyone, I just got my commercial multi with 250 hours. Anyone have any leads on a job? I don't really want to instruct."

"Yeah, go F-ing instruct! You won't build time faster anywhere else, also learn CRM, you'll be solidifying your knowledge of the regs, etc."
 

FlapOperator

Any traffic please advise
Amazing post, OP!!! So true. You know, I read Jeppesen's old "Flight Instructor Manual" and they give you some tips there. Nothing like your tips on here though... You should print those, laminate it and hand out to bad instructors – it might give'em some insight.

Talking about lesson learned and CFI, I am trying to learn how much is too much for a Part 141 CFI course (in dolla-dolla bills)... $15k too much?
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Amazing post, OP!!! So true. You know, I read Jeppesen's old "Flight Instructor Manual" and they give you some tips there. Nothing like your tips on here though... You should print those, laminate it and hand out to bad instructors – it might give'em some insight.

Talking about lesson learned and CFI, I am trying to learn how much is too much for a Part 141 CFI course (in dolla-dolla bills)... $15k too much?
yeah. Do you have to do it 141? Part 61 can be Much cheaper.

CFI is largely about academics. If you’re disciplined and have a decent mentor to help you standardize things, it’s nearly all book work and organizing information. The ACS is the defined set of outcomes for students - you work backward from there.

what tripped me up for CFI - and I’m going through this a little with -II - is determining how much depth I need for a student to meet the standard. This gets a lot of people.

my best advice there is to keep it simple. If a student needs or wants more depth they’ll tell you, and then you explore together. Otherwise, don’t overthink it (my biggest problem) or reinvent wheels. Not worth the time.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Flight schools are often times run by people with MASSIVE ego's and don't know the first thing about running a business. In my opinion flight schools shouldn't be run by pilots and instructors, but that's just me. I'm now working for a shop that is above and beyond professional and is a rare place to be as an instructor pilot. Extremely grateful for where I ended up. Sometimes I look back at my first CFI job and think it was all a dream and never really happened. There is such a stark difference between both places that there is no comparison. It was the worst job
The only real way to improve the flight training industry and make it more welcoming and positive for newcomers, and particularly struggling students, is to start with the individual CFI, and how we train the CFI candidate. The example you show to your students, and even CFI candidates, if you get any of those students, is a good start. It all boils down to the attitude of the CFI, how they approach the job, and having some integrity. Without that, nothing else matters. All too often I've seen CFI's display a poor attitude for their students, ZERO customer service, little enthusiasm for teaching, little patience, and just an overall poor representation of the flight training industry in general. I wish this weren't the case, but have been my experiences when I was a student, as well as when I was a CFI at my first aviation job. I hope it improves, glad to have people like you teaching!
I am reticent to criticize other CFIs because I’m not that experienced. I have seen some questionable decision making some times, but I temper that with the idea that I live in a glass house sometimes, yknow?

I think you’re right about attitude. Self awareness helps, too. And, truly, I don’t think instructing is the best way to build time and experience for everyone.

But it is for me.
 

Bamaaviator

Well-Known Member
I am reticent to criticize other CFIs because I’m not that experienced. I have seen some questionable decision making some times, but I temper that with the idea that I live in a glass house sometimes, yknow?

I think you’re right about attitude. Self awareness helps, too. And, truly, I don’t think instructing is the best way to build time and experience for everyone.

But it is for me.
I agree with what you said about instructing is not for everyone.

I don’t confront other CFI’s about stuff that I previously stated. I listen to students of these people that have come to me, and I tell them, “I’m truly sorry you had to go through that, I promise to never do any of those things or act like that to you.” I listen, internalize it, form my own thoughts and opinions about said flight school or CFI, keep it to myself, and vow to myself and my students to never behave in ways that I’ve seen in this business.

The only thing you can do is set the right example. Eventually, once you get some momentum as a CFI and you build a reputation at your local airport and the local flying community, students will eventually figure out who to go to for flight training, and the ones who truly care. They will learn who to be cautious of, and they will learn who to avoid at all costs. Trust me. They will refer other people to those instructors. Soon enough you will have to start putting people on a waiting list, because there’s just simply too many of them.

It’s just, I’ve worked in other jobs/industries before I came into aviation, and some of the stuff I have witnessed in aviation, and continue to witness and hear about from others, particularly with flight schools, is truly appalling. It is disheartening. If any of those things that I’ve seen had occurred in a previous job I’ve held, you would be FIRED, or at the very least, moved to another department, demoted, or suspended without pay. Many bad behaviors at flight schools go unchecked, in my humble opinion. The bad behavior is allowed to fester. Then, as an industry, we wonder why the dropout rate nationwide for private pilot completion is at an abysmal 80%. I will say, many students I’ve picked up who came from other places, told me that money was NOT the issue as to why they stopped training with the other schools.

Unfortunately I LOST a good bit of business at a previous job because of the extremely poor behavior displayed by management and a couple of immature CFI’s hanging out in the lobby. I have seen potential students walk out the door discouraged and ‘scared away’ after witnessing unprofessional conduct by my previous flight school owner at a previous job. I had to ‘make up’ for his poor attitude and behavior numerous times. ‘Locker room’ talk has no place in a business when your customers are PRESENT, especially a flight school.

Basically, if you’re unfortunate enough to work for a true scumbag, you will have to pick up a lot of the slack from a bad boss and his/her poor business practices if you want to put food on your table. That is assuming, that you depend on flight instruction alone to feed you and your family.

I wish things would improve with flight schools, and i wish attitude’s of some CFI’s would improve.

To really get an idea of the kinds of things that go on in the flight training industry, people need to look no further than Rod Machado’s blog on bad CFI’s.

 
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killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
I agree with what you said about instructing is not for everyone.

It’s just, I’ve worked in other jobs/industries before I came into aviation, and some of the stuff I have witnessed in aviation, and continue to witness and hear about from others, particularly with flight schools, is truly appalling. It is disheartening. If any of those things that I’ve seen had occurred in a previous job I’ve held, you would be FIRED, or at the very least, moved to another department, demoted, or suspended without pay. Many bad behaviors at flight schools go unchecked, in my humble opinion. The bad behavior is allowed to fester. Then, as an industry, we wonder why the dropout rate nationwide for private pilot completion is at an abysmal 80%. I will say, many students I’ve picked up who came from other places, told me that money was NOT the issue as to why they stopped training with the other schools.
I have had similar experiences. I know exactly what you're talking about.
 
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