Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Flight Instructor Ground School

Tactics for the Professional CFI
CFI Navigation:  General Information CFI Certificate | CFI Ground School Syllabus | Professional Tactics of CFI | Technical Presentations | Sample Budget while in Training | Things Flight Instructors Worry About | CFI LiabilityWhat it takes to become a CFI | Advice to the New CFI | Learning Modality
Syllabus: Next >>
by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from PocketLearning, June 1999

Professional CFIs take to heart key goals in their mission of providing the very best professional instruction. 

  • Safety
  • Marketing
  • Teaching Excellence
  • Personal Excellence
  • Business Practices
  • Future Career Growth
Goal #1:  Safety
  1. Contact your local FSDO Safety Program Manager and become an Aviation Safety Counselor.
  2. Start reading NTSB reports for the aircraft you fly. 
  3. Consider reading the AOPA accident reports classified under training.
  4. Read articles on safety.
  5. Read the article on CFI Liability
Goal #2:  Marketing
  1. Get a web site and submit your site to search engines.
  2. Find students with their own airplane, troll the local airports to get tail numbers.
  3. Do direct mailings to aircraft owners with your business cards, info on your ground school, and a coupon for discount flight instruction.
  4. One new enterprising CFI, also a member of the US Air Force put an ad in his local base news paper.  Cheap $350 to hit 10,000 people.
  5. Market to professionals through their professional organizations.  You can get into their meetings and newsletters.  Think doctors, lawyers, HR professionals, IT professionals, dentists.
  6. Be part of aviation groups that could lead to customers, such as EAA and flying clubs.
  7. Wear a shirt with "Flight Instructor" printed on it.  It should be dark to hide dirt.
  8. Direct mail market your local pilot base for BFRs, new ratings, and your ground school.
  9. Get business cards
  10. If you are trained in a specific aircraft, direct mail market the owners of that type for your entire state.
  11. Consider press contacts you might be able to develop to spotlight student achievements.
  12. Consider a niche market you can target, based on your previous career, your particular skills, or geographic area.
Goal #3:  Teaching Excellence
  1. Teach ground school at a local college/ university - a great source of students.
  2. Use a syllabus.
  3. Consider adopting a "pledge to students"
  4. The HOBBS meter shouldn't be the primary instrument you scan.
  5. Remember we can all be students as well as teachers to each other.
  6. Conduct seminars to improve your teaching skills and gain potential customers at the same time.
Goal #4:  Personal Excellence
  1. Read the "Savvy CFI"
  2. Get as many ratings as you can, learn all you can learn, and never stop learning.
  3. Get your gold CFI. 
  4. Get your master CFI through NAFI
Goal #5:  Business Practices
  1. Start the billing from "hello"
  2. Find a source of favourite textbooks and resell those to your students. 
  3. Offer block time discounts to get payments up front.
  4. Consider taking detailed notes on the flight progress and providing a copy to the student.  Not only is this good liability management, its a reminder of your name address, web site, phone number, etc.
  5. Remember your students are customers, not pals, treat them fairly and professionally.
  6. Be actively involved during high-liability activities such as solo cross country flight planning.
  7. Know when a student isn't a good match for you and be ready to refer them on to a CFI that might be better suited for them.
  8. Protect your customers, yourself, and the owners of aircraft you fly by purchasing CFI insurance. Such insurance covers non-owned aircraft, property damage, and malpractice. A fellow CFI said to me, "I can hide behind an LLC that I created."  I reminded him that there is a higher calling and as a professional we cover ourselves properly with insurance... we manage and insure against the risks.
Goal #6:  Future Career Growth
  1. Fly as much as possible.  Its quantity that gets you hired with airlines.  Provide good instruction and people will flock to you.
  2. Remember the aviation field is a small community.  Treat people fairly and professionally. 
  3. Network as much as possible.  Attend aviation functions

"Flying is done largely with the imagination." -- Wolfgang Langwiesche

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