Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
  Home | Login | Schedule | Pilot Store | 7-Day IFR | IFR Adventure | Trip Reports | Blog | Fun | Reviews | Weather | Articles | Links | Helicopter | Download | Bio

Site Map


Private Pilot
  Learn to Fly

Instrument Pilot
  7 day IFR Rating
  IFR Adventure

Commercial Pilot

Multi-Engine Pilot

Human Factors/CRM

Recurrent Training

Ground Schools


Privacy Policy
About Me


Support this Website

Are You In It For the Long Haul?

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training, March, 2007
Navigation:  Bio | Schedule | About this website | Pilot Store | Pay for Services | News | Answerman | BeliefsPledge | Policy | Articles | Links | OnlineBFR/IPCGuestbook | Success Stories

I get the question often, "Are you in it for the long haul?"   Does it mean they want to know if I'll leave them half way into their training for a "better" job?  Are they asking me if I'm a career instructor? 

The job of being a CFI is considered to be the lowest rung in aviation.  For those who love aviation, it means they're looked down upon.  After all, there's very few who make it to the big time as a CFI.  Can you name more than a handful?  Richard Collins, the Kings, Machado, and who else?  So what's the draw?

At every FBO you can find a young, motivated CFI who is plugging time into his logbook to get where he wants to go.  That's usually someplace else.  As a result, they scan the hobbs meter more than any other guage and they might even run up a student's bill from time to time.  They also round up all those .7 discovery flights to the hour they used to be anyway.  It hints at a self-centeredness.

The most important rating is the Private Pilot certificate.  Its the foundation for everything a pilot does.  We've got everything screwed up because we put the least experienced, green-thumb CFIs into the seat with the student who needs the very best.  As such, I get students for their instrument rating that fly like crap.  Sorry to be so blunt but its a fact.  So lets face it.

Get the best flight instruction you can. I'm not saying a 200 hour CFI is bad, I'm just saying he's statistically in the "killing hours" and may not have the tricks in his bag to give you what you need.  See the companion article: You Get What You Pay For!

CFIs: let's look at ourselves for a minute.  How well do we fly?  I will confess that I'm a little rusty on my seaplane & glider stuff.  But I don't fly these very often.  In fact, I haven't flown a seaplane regularly in a long time.  Once a year, I go find a seaplane instructor and get a refresher.  I'm not sure why.  I'm not likely to find myself in a situation where I'm going to need seaplane skills in a pinch.  I refer seaplane wanna-be pilots to Jack Browns in Florida where I just did my ATP Multi Sea Plane add-on in 2006.  When it comes to single and multi-engine flying, I'm in good shape.  I'm not perfect, and I don't claim to be.  But I know where my weaknesses are and when I have the chance, I practice skills that seem so basic but which are critical.  Yes this includes crosswind & pattern work -- a few of my aviation fetishes.  Fly a solid pattern and everything else in flying works itself out.

If you're in it for the long haul, then you are constantly looking for ways to improve your flying skills, your teaching skills, and your career.

Darren's Top Ten Ways to Immediately Improve Your Flying

In typical fashion, I'm going to twist this around on you.  Let's talk about your flying.  How are you doing with your basic skills?  This is how you'll be judged next time you fly with a CFI.  Here are a few questions to help you guide your next practice flight:
  1. How's your crosswind technique?
  2. When was the last time you had training on stalls, particularly a cross controlled stall?  Get some training now before your next crosswind landing.  Pilots are killing themselves for lack of skill.
  3. Are you really preflighting your aircraft with a fresh set of eyes?  Renters often do.  Owners don't.
  4. Do you remember how to really plan a cross country the way the FAA requires of us?  Or are you spending your time fingering the GPS and saying I'll land when its about 2 hours of flight because that's how long my bladder lasts.
  5. Do you follow the visual glideslope?  Or do you make a wild, unstabilized approach to landing?
  6. What's your pattern look like?  Hell, do you even know the names of the legs of the pattern?  At my safety seminars, I find that well more than 50% of pilots don't.  Use the graphic at Approach & Landing for help.
  7. Do you fly with other pilots to see what they do?  I'll help keep you honest.  Then read:  What are you doing over there?
  8. Do you even use checklists?  Again... Renters often do.  Owners don't.
  9. Are you managing the risks of your flight?  Do you get a proper briefing?  By the way, a proper briefing does not consist of looking at the blue sky and declaring it good.  See You're in the Driver's Seat! and Personal Minimums Checklist(download) and about 30 other articles on my website.
  10. Are you consistent?  Improve your consistency and predictability in your flying and you'll go a long way to strengthening skills you already have.  Take a look at:  Characteristics of Successful Pilots and  15 Things Pilots Must Learn and Things Your Flight Instructor Wish You Knew and How do we rate pilots?.
Like a baker's dozen, I've got one more question for you.  Are you in it for the long haul?  If you are trying to build that professional flying career or a personal flying career, then you're always learning, always reading, always practicing, and always growing so that whatever path you're on... IMPROVES.

Your Thoughts...

Name: (Anonymous posts deleted)

E-mail: (if you want a reply)

How did you hear
of this website?
Message:  (What should I write?)
Business Card
News Group
Safety Seminar
Word of Mouth
(Required) Enter number from image to send:


Check this out...
  Home | Login | Schedule | Pilot Store | 7-Day IFR | IFR Adventure | Trip Reports | Blog | Fun | Reviews | Weather | Articles | Links | Helicopter | Download | Bio
All content is Copyright 2002-2010 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.