The debate about flight training has escalated with the advent of the first officer 1,500 hour (ATP) requirement. Various aviation groups are weighing in. What I don't see represented is the private pilot student perspective.
As a recent student, I would like to offer a few thoughts. But first, a little background. Becoming a pilot at age 53 in 2009 changed my life. More people should have this experience, I thought. Then I realized that most who pursued their lifelong dream of flying would fail.
So I wrote an ebook, Learning to Fly an Airplane: Insider Information From a Student Perspective. It was not about how to fly but how to navigate a broken flight training system and how to get the most value for your time, money and effort. The response from students and flight instructors was uniformly positive.
Now to my point: Why is it okay for beginners to teach beginners? Why isn't the role of CFI limited to the most seasoned and skillful, to dedicated instructors?
The industry takes it as a given that the best way for future commercial pilots to build time is to become CFIs. It doesn't matter if they lack robust pilot experience, professionalism or even basic adult maturity. And what about the flight schools that employ them for long hours and low pay? The result is lower standards and limited job opportunities for experienced career flight instructors.
Most private pilot students are mature and accomplished individuals. How do you suppose they react when their CFI shows up late, doesn't really want to teach and will bail at the first opportunity for a better flying gig? When these students drop out, it's not for lack of money, it's for unmet expectations.
Yes, there are excellent beginning CFIs. Yes, there are excellent small flight schools. But the numbers speak for themselves. AOPA, NAFI and many others are doing their best to raise flight training standards. But, in my humble outsider's opinion, these are marginal efforts that fail to address the real issue. If something isn't done to fix the core problem, more consumers will vote with their feet and not get their wings.
Meanwhile, due to vision issues I am no longer able to fly. I will stop updating and offering free downloads of my ebook on Jan. 31, 2013. I hope others will continue advocating for general aviation student pilots. Students make the industry run and should insist on the highest standards in flight training.