“CFI Seasoning” Beyond the Academy!

A truly professional aviation educator should be progressively getting out of the training aircraft one step at a time from flight lesson #1. To be successful as educators, every CFI must willingly become superfluous in every area of operation by flight test time – totally empowering their pilot in training. Obviously, there will always be more to teach and learn, but our ultimate goal should be set every new pilot totally free – NOT create dependence! This “letting go” (think of successful parenting) is not natural for the human ego because every human wants to be valued (helicopter parenting) and many CFIs often secretly foster dependence in their pilots during training. Though this creates a strong business bond that works great for the wallet and building hours, it creates really bad – dependent and unconfident – pilots.

And the strange and unfortunate truth is we actually teach this harmful micromanaging behavior to every aviation educator during their initial  training for their rating; we build this fatal defect into every new CFI. The most common method for educating a new CFI is to create a “CFI lesson plan binder” full of rote lesson plans following the usual pilot pathway. And as we do this, the future CFI applicant is encourated to talk, talk, talk and fly,fly, fly each maneuver from the right seat; “simultaneously instructing and flying.” And though this is a necessary step in learning to teach aviation, we never finish the job and progress all the way to real educational excellence through supervision and seasoning. We get them “barely competent” and turn them lose in the aviation system.

The FAA system encourages prefuctory CFI preparation with no “student teaching” or seasoning included to build excellence in the field. Consequently, many new CFIs never learn to personalize their instruction to creatively tailor their instruction for each unique pilot in training (burn the binder). It can take years for them to become creative and provide the necessary freedom for a pilot to grow and learn (if it happens at all). Often, they continue their rote, assembly line instruction from their CFI binder rather than embracing “client-centered education.” When our new CFIs get their temporary, they never relinquish the radio, the flight controls or PIC authority and instead smother their eager learners with overbearing micromanagment and excessive erudition; we have created a monster. To become a successful educator, only mentoring and seasoning will grow the CFI create excellence. It takes more time and guidance to create a truly competent aviation educator.

The Canadian aviation system requires every new aviation educator to teach under supervision and and grow further as CFIs before teaching on their own. Only after supervised “student teaching” in the field under a master instructor are Canadian CFIs free to teach independently. But this is not the FAA system. Hypothetically, after only a perfunctory 15 day “CFI academy” a new FAA CFI could be in the field with very limited preparation. And this is exactly why SAFE has had the mentoring program from day one and also rolled out the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshops. These tools bridge the “CFI gap” between good and great. They also foster the mentoring and networking to create a respect for the necessary “growth mindset” every educator must embrace. We learn daily if we want to be successful educators; fly safely (and often)! Please check out the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshops and support and promote this new initiative.


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About the author

David St. George

David St. George is an FAA DPE (Sport to Multi ATP) and a Part 135 charter pilot flying the Pilatus PC-12 in the NYC area. He recently renewed his Master Instructor for the tenth time and is a Charter member of SAFE. Formerly a 141 Chief Instructor for over 25 years, with a Gold Seal CFI. David started flying at 16 and has logged over 15,000 hours. He owns a 1946 7AC Aeronca Champ and wrote the SAFE Toolkit app.


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