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Learn to Fly
7 day IFR Rating
If you build it, they will come. Its the same with this website. When I started it in 2002 with a simple 20 page business card for a renewed effort to do flight instruction full time, I never thought all these years later I'd be hearing from CFI hopefuls as well as newly certificated flight instructors all around the country. The two central themes from these folks are:
1. what does it take to become a CFI and
2. how can I ever keep up with this now that I'm a CFI.
A pilot's education starts with a predictable rhythm. Study, lesson, review, study, lesson, review, study, written exam, lesson, review, review review, checkride. Phew. Its over. After 2-3 more checkrides, these pilots start to think about the Ph.D of flying... the flight instructor certificate. All the myths surrounding the CFI start to become fears. The pilot who had never failed a checkride faces the thought of failure since this is the hardest certificate to get. Unfortunately the stats back up some of the fear. In one FSDO area, initial CFI applicants succeed only 18% of the time. The pass rate is low for a few reasons.
The first reason for the low pass rate is that our industry wants this to be difficult. This isn't the slam dunk of a private pilot certificate. This certificate is different than all others. It allows you to train, endorse, sign-off, check, and examine students. That's a whole lot of responsibility. CFIs are the gatekeepers in the system. Together with inspectors/examiners, we create the future airline captains who will fly our loved ones around. As a result, we must use the very best methods to train these pilots. See related article on CFI Liability for the level of professionalism required to do this job.
The second reason is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the certificate is meant to be. The CFI is not a pilot certificate, its a teaching certificate. As such, the requirements include a thorough understanding of adult learning. That curriculum in the FAA handbook, "Aviation Instructor's Handbook" (FAA-H-8083-9) as well as the FAA written test "Fundamentals of Instruction". It takes a different kind of skill to teach flying, especially for low time pilots who are still trying to figure out some of the basics. Flight instructors are very busy in the cockpit. The flight instructor's job includes 1) overall safety of the flight, 2) monitoring the student, 3) mentally flying the aircraft, 4) watching for traffic, and 5) actively teaching.
The third reason for low pass rates on the CFI checkride is an underestimation of what it takes. While some pilots look at the flight instructor certificate as a stepping stone, the requirements of the rating demand a level of skill beyond the commitment of some CFI hopefuls. This checkride requires the ultimate in preparation and quality training programs are rare and few.
Step One: get the 2 written exams out of the way.