Roger Throwing CFIs Under the Bus…

If you are a Roger Sharp fan I apologize in advance for my lack of love for his most recent rant about “stupid CFIs”. (Please click this link and watch a while…) His negative attitude toward all CFIs has progressed from crappy to corrosive over the years and finally reached a tipping point for me. He is an angry, broken man and now shamelessly advises “avoid employing any CFI” – they’re all useless! His solution (of course) is Redbird GIFT – a self-guided Redbird software package and that will (presumably all by itself) teach you to be a safe pilot. Roger’s solution is obviously directed toward flight school owners and selling them Redbird products. But totally trashing all CFIs and trying to remove them from the educational equation – technology will save us yet again – is not the answer. Creating and supporting high-quality aviation educators is the necessary answer to our aviation future.

Clearly, Redbird failed miserably with their San Marcos flight operations. Their school died years ago and their Skyport FBO closed last month “without making a dime in eight years.” The bitterness of these failures has obviously left its mark on Redbird and Roger. But unfortunately, his pompous, all-knowing attitude is too typical of other burned-out, arrogant DPEs I have met – and why do they hate us?

The fact that these comments are the keynote at the national Redbird Migration is more than scary and self-serving. Roger (and presumably his fan base of followers) has given up on any hope of helping or improving aviation education (and CFIs). In his opinion all young CFIs – “Marty McFruit-Fly” – are condemned as “know it alls” and unable to listen and learn (from old angry DPEs like Roger). His only answer is a prepackaged, online teaching program for all pilots – one size fits all…really? Do we really think this pre-programmed catalog of steep turns, ground reference maneuvers and landing advice (in a Redbird of course) is going to make all our future safe pilots? I don’t.

We all can become frustrated with our current 250 hour CFIs, but many of these people are trying hard and committed to learning to be better educators. I know from my recent experience with our SAFE CFI-PRO™, that there are many amazing, committed professionals out there doing a great job educating future pilots. Roger’s whining is not the answer. Good examiners working closely with new CFIs to build their skills and enable excellence is the future of the flight training industry. Not every new CFI is the lost cause that Roger depicts. It might be hard to remember, but we were all a bit clueless when we started out as CFIs and good mentors and a helping hand make the essential difference.

Though Redbird GIFT may be wonderful and valuable (I confess I have not sampled the glory of this package), at most it is a standardized exposure to the maneuvers in the ACS and cannot teach the context, meaning, and judgment necessary to be safe.  GIFT can only “teach to the test” and a Redbird is still very different from a real airplane. Even if you master a bobbing box run by software, at some point our potential pilot will have to learn to fly “the real thing.” Adapting to the real airplane with the stress and responsibility is a necessary transition for every pilot in command that requires a high-quality aviation educator.

I stand with the CFIs here and re-emphasize SAFE’s mission of building proficiency and enabling excellence in aviation education. Roger’s whining doesn’t help.  Fly safe out there (and often) watch for our next CFI SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop is June 10/11th at Sporty’s Academy in Ohio.


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

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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