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Things Flight Instructors Worry About

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training, June 2004
CFI Navigation:  General Info CFI Certificate | CFI Ground School SyllabusTactics for the Professional 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
The most amazing job in the world is being paid to fly.  It doesn't matter if its riding in a tinder-box 172 or an air-conditioned King Air, the best desk in the world is the one with a yoke at front of the seat.  As such, Flight Instructors generally love what they do.  The distractions they face can be deal breakers. And many would stay in the profession if not for the following reasons. 

1.  Student Performance. Achievement levels vary from student to student, day to day, or even minute by minute.  Common self doubts:  Is my student really getting this?  Does my student really understand how dangerous that habit is?   Is this student self motivated to drive his own progress?  Is this person going to perform better or worse if I'm not in the airplane with him?

2.  Student Incidents. While a flight instructor has a student's attention, he does the best to instill habits and skills to make for a lifetime of safe flying.  Most good instructors read accident reports to learn the potential killers students could get themselves involved with. Being a flight instructor involves a fair amount of risk when endorsing a logbook testifying to a safe pilot.  The last thing an instructor wants to see is a prior student written about in the newspaper.

3.  Income. Flight Instruction seems to be an exercise in poverty.  Missed appointments, late students, canceled appointments all cause work stress and reduce income.  Such experiences, if frequent, can cause an instructor to doubt the maturity of a given student.  Next common question:  Is this person really ready to...?

4.  Professional Growth.  Most flight instructors practice the profession as a stepping stone to a higher purpose.  In the post 9/11 two-year period, the higher purpose was put on hold while aviation recovered.  Long-term projections indicate the path to a six figure, 10 day work month will disappear.  Our world has changed and the economics of a professional aviation career are decimated when airlines continually charge less than the real cost of providing the service.

5.  Keeping all the balls in the air.  A recent NTSB study indicates 37% of midair collisions have at least 1 flight instructor on board one of the accident aircraft.  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. That's a lot of balls to keep in the air.  Not to mention the kid was sick today, the wife has to work late today, there were 2 cancellations today, and the current flight isn't going too well.

6.  Accidents.  My review of NTSB accident records reveals that 25% of all accidents with a flight instructor on board are loss of control on the runway (landing hard, improper go-around, crosswind, etc).  Any hint of an accident is a career killer that will immediately render the $50,000 investment into their own education useless.  All applications for pilot employment ask if the pilot has ever been involved in an aircraft accident or incident; if the pilot has made any insurance claims; and if the pilot as been cited for violating the FARs.  Any "YES" answer to these questions can not only be disqualifying for employment, it could also preclude the flight instructor from ever being able to insure his personal aircraft. 

7.  Personal Excellence.  Most pilots are perfectionists and the habit becomes stronger as soon as a pilot becomes a Certificated Flight Instructor.  Flight instructors particularly struggle with keeping current with the FARs, aeronautical experience requirements, NTSB reports, FBO policies, and chart changes.  The weight of information that every professional pilot from CFI to Airline Pilot is tremendous and requires a serious commitment to personal excellence, endurance, and tenacity.

NEXT:  Managing Your CFI >>

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