Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Advice to the New CFI

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most From Your Flight Training, August, 2007
Navigation:  Tips for Technical Presentations | General Info CFI Certificate | CFI Ground School SyllabusTactics for the Professional CFI Sample Budget while in Training | Things Flight Instructors Worry About | CFI LiabilityWhat it takes to become a CFI | Advice to the New CFILearning Modality

Congratulations on becoming a CFI.  It's one of the hardest jobs you'll ever have.  You'll have sleepless nights trying to figure out why some of your students are not progressing.  You'll celebrate student achievements but worry if you did enough.  You'll do all of this for a little money and precious hours in your logbook.  And if you do the right thing, the quality of your instruction will be far more important than the quantity in your logbook.  After all, you're training the future pilot who will fly your loved ones around.

Be Your Best
I got an email from a student pilot who crashed his Cessna.  He had 11 hours, was just cleared to solo, and porpoised on landing and broke off the nose gear on his 3rd landing.  He felt like his CFI and cheated him out of learning needed to prevent the accident.  The student who was then stuck with paying the $10k deductible, felt betrayed and was considering legal action against the CFI.  If that's not enough motivation to do the best job possible, perhaps you should read my article on CFI Liability.

Take a look at the article What it takes to become a CFI for further advice.   In that article, I speak about keeping up with your profession.  Once you've got the certificate, the learning begins.  Your skills will quickly atrophy if you don't stay on top of your game.  Sticking with what you know isn't going to be enough.  You've got to keep pushing, studying, learning, and reading to advance your knowledge and skills.  Become the expert.  Know, don't guess.

Repeat as Necessary
"But its so boring it sucks the life out of me."  Of course its boring, its supposed to be boring.  Excitement is not what you're looking for in this job.  Predictability is life and you want to know exactly what comes next.  For you, next steps are known, planned for, and routine.  After all, you're the professional.  For your student, its a major event with a lot of unknowns and new experiences to be had.  Sometimes, there's so much sensory input and a lot of neurons firing that they are so behind the aircraft that they barely seem able to control it.  That's where your skill and professionalism comes in.  Hopefully you're humble enough to remember where you came from, that you were in their position once.

Ground School
Sometimes ground school is the least desirable aspects of the job.  After all, you just want to fly right?  And fly enough so that you get the hours for whatever job you're after.  Ground school, like setting a table, its going to be an investment into the student that eventually makes your job easier.  If the student isn't getting it, then he doesn't know what to do.  That means the pre-flight briefing was inadequate.  As a result, the student has wasted money because you didn't do your job. I'm firmly convinced that students who have effective pre-flight briefings do better on the tasks planned for the flight. 

Student's Mistakes
While some folks think that flight instructing is suicide one hour at a time, I wonder, are your students making enough mistakes?  A great instructor is able to predict mistakes, to tell the student he is about to make a mistake, and then prevent the student from making the mistake.  Is that really a great instructor?  Nope, that means you're a skilled instructor but not a great instructor.  A great instructor "facilitates" experiences, and coaches the student into better flying technique.  That means a lot of mistakes are going to be made -- this is an essential component of learning. You might have seen the mistake 2,641 times, but for the student, its new.  He's got to make the mistake to experience the consequences.  I'm not talking about near-fatal mistakes, but the ones that will eventually prove your point.  Facilitating learning means facilitating mistakes -- the greatest learning tool.  When the task has been completed successfully, be sure to recognize achievements.

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