Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Darren Smith is a seasoned, Airline Transport-rated Fixed wing & Helicopter Pilot who has flown over 50 different aircraft models.  He is a Gold Seal, Certificated Flight Instructor with Seaplane, Helicopter (H), Instrument (CFII) & Multi-Engine (MEI) privileges.  He holds the FAA Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor certificate (AGI/IGI).  He is an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor for the Tampa FAA Flight Standards District Office  and conducts Aviation Safety Programs not only in the Tampa Bay area but nationwide.  Darren has provided Expert Witness Consulting to legal professionals nationwide.  He has consulted on a variety of aviation projects including airspace redesign, light sport aircraft certification, and pilot training consultation for the military's Maverick UAV helicopter.  Most recently, he provided assistance to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) who was investigating a helicopter accident.  He has time in every category & class of aircraft except the tilt-rotor.

When he is not flying, he is a Psychology & Business Professor and teaches Human Factors for a major airline.  Darren was designated as a Master Instructor.  Less than 1/2% of the nation's pilot instructors have earned this designation.  He is one of three in the Tampa Bay area with this designation.  He is one of six instructors nationwide and the ONLY instructor in Florida who holds both the Master Flight Instructor as well as Master Ground Instructor designations.
Gold Seal Instructor
Gold Seal

FAA Qualifications


Academic Qualifications
  • B.A. Psychology, 1993,  B.S. Nursing, 2010
  • M.S. Counseling, 1995, M.A. Nursing, 2012
  • Doctorate (ABD) Business, University of Sarasota
  • Post Graduate training in I/O Psychology at University of South Florida (including Human Factors, Stress, Behavioral Psychology)
Advanced Training Attended
FAA Conference (AQP, FOQA, ASAP, Human Factors)
Robinson Safety Course R44, Torrance California
Helicopter Underwater Egress Training, Univ of Louisiana
Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program, St Augustine Florida
Accident Investigation Course (Special NTSB), Lakeland FL
Bombardier - Canadair Regional Jet
FAA DPE Standardization Seminar, Oklahoma City
Attendance at over 50 seminars on various subjects
Master Flight Instructor
Master Flight &
Ground Instructor

Publications by Darren Smith
IFR Checkride Reviewer
Radio Communications Guide
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training
Helicopter Checkride Reviewer 
General Aviation Human Factors
Learning IFR Enroute Charts
Learning VFR Charts

Other Media Created
Audio Instrument Pilot Ground School (now discontinued)
Instrument Pilot Ground School DVD (now discontinued)
Fundamentals of Instruction DVD (now discontinued)
Visi-Hold -- a template for Instrument students to learn holding pattern entries and for Instrument pilots to Know Instantly.
Visi-Plotter -- Simply the Best Flight Planning Plotter Made
Pilot's Rules of Thumb -- The Ultimate VFR/IFR checklist covering 30 normal & non-normal situations & 9 flying tools you'll use.

Specific Aircraft Qualifications


  • Jet cockpits:  Collins Glass & FMS
  • All glass cockpit implementations and most stand alone GPS units.
    • Yes:  Garmin1000, Avidyne, Garmin 430/530/etc
  • All models of Cessna 172, 180/185, 182, 206/207, T210
  • All models of the Piper PA28 and PA24 lines.
  • All models of the Grumman AA1 & AA5 line.
  • Beechcraft twin line including BE76, BE95, BE55, and King Air(C90).
  • Beech Bonanza:  33 to the 36, including the new G36.
  • Cessna twin line including 310, 340, and 414.
  • Cirrus: SR20 and SR22
  • Piper PA32 line from the Cherokee 6 to the newest models of the Saratoga.
  • Piper twin line including PA44, PA34, PA23, PA30/39.
  • All models of Mooney Aircraft.
  • Helicopters:  Schweizer 300C/300Cbi, Hughes 269, R44, Hiller, & Bell 206.
  • Experimental aircraft:  RV6 & Velocity.

Committment to Quality

A commitment to quality instruction is essential for student success.  A random survey of students taught between September, 2003 and September, 2004 generated the following results:
  • "I learned several new things... Good experience!"
  • "The right training at the right price got me the results I needed." 
  • "My instructor knew all the secrets to real cross country flying." 
  • "My confidence has never been this high."



Theory of Instruction - My Bias

Each instructor is different in the personal lessons learned, the students situations experienced, and level of skill.  The particular biases each instructor brings to a flight lesson should be well known to the student prior to the lesson.  While this is not a complete list of my biases, these are the big ones:
  • All instruction should include an element of the practical uses for a rating.
  • I believe in centerlines on runways & taxiways (for airplane pilots).
  • Experience with cross wind technique is critical.
  • I don't like to fool around.  When I dedicate my time to someone, we set a goal and accomplish it.  Those instructors that put process above the goal irritate me.  And it costs you extra.
  • Collision avoidance:  not only is it an FAA special emphasis area, its a safety requirement.  Always look before you turn and call it out so your flight instructor knows what you are thinking.  The first time you fail to look before you turn gets a friendly reminder from your CFI.  The second time you do it costs you lunch. 
  • Being fully versed with the equipment as well as the failure modes for each instrument is important. Example: GPS, autopilot, etc.
  • Private pilot students should practice stalls and emergency procedures under supervision as often as possible, especially prior to solo.
  • Private pilot students should complete their FAA written test prior to solo. It minimizes the instructor's liability and minimizes ground training the CFI must to do verify the student has meet the aeronautical training requirements of the private pilot certificate.
  • Instrument rating students need to prove they can fly under the hood and perform instrument approaches to PTS standards before talkinig on the radio.
  • Instrument rating students should experience IMC prior to their checkride.
  • The BFR is not a 1 hour exercise, its at least 3 hours and comes with the "Wings" FAA pilot proficiency award.  For more information on the minimum requirements of the BFR see: Recurrent Training
  • All pilots need to learn concise radio technique as well as tips on how to overcome brain paralysis the moment the transmit button is pressed.
  • If you didn't call it out, then its assumed not to have been done.   Example, "clear right."
  • "...commence turn to crosswind leg beyond the departure end of the runway within 300 feet of pattern altitude." -- AIM 4-3-3
  • "You won't spend much more than 10% of your time flying IMC but flying IFR is about flying with precision at all times."   -- J. Mac McClellan, Writer, Flying

Services Offered

I work exclusively with aircraft owners for training:

1.  Airplane:
2.  Helicopter: 
3.  Insurance Checkouts: (see above for aircraft quals)
4.  Customized, private flight instruction programs  
     tailored for
your goals, your schedule, and your 
     lifestyle.  This is ideal
for clients who desire flight
     training but want it done quietly & quickly.
...more info
NOT Offered: 
  • Private or Commercial Pilot Airplane Training
  • ANY kind of instruction in a 2 seat AIRPLANE
  • Helicopter instruction in an R-22
  • Gyroplane, Seaplane, Glider, or LTA training
  • Rental aircraft of any kind, I work with those who provide their own aircraft.
  • I am NOT a foreign training provider.  Therefore I can only provide training to US Citizens.

Funny stories about working with Owner Aircraft

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All content is Copyright 2002-2012 by Darren Smith. All rights reserved. Subject to change without notice. This website is not a substitute for competent flight instruction. There are no representations or warranties of any kind made pertaining to this service/information and any warranty, express or implied, is excluded and disclaimed including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose. Under no circumstances or theories of liability, including without limitation the negligence of any party, contract, warranty or strict liability in tort, shall the website creator/author or any of its affiliated or related organizations be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or punitive damages as a result of the use of, or the inability to use, any information provided through this service even if advised of the possibility of such damages. For more information about this website, including the privacy policy, see about this website.