NAFI Announces Change In Leadership, As Of Year-End


The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) will have a new chair as of year-end. After eight years at the helm, during which NAFI membership has doubled, Bob Meder is passing the baton to Karen Kalishek of De Pere, Wisconsin. Kalishek heads up KAL Consulting and Training as an independent, full-time flight instructor. She holds CFI/CFII/MEI, CFI-Glider and ATP ratings and is an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. She was also awarded FAA Gold Seal Instructor honors. Meder was named the St. Louis FSDO 2009 CFI of the year, the Lincoln 2010 FSDO CFI of the year and the 2010 Central Region CFI of the Year.

Kalishek said her primary goal is to grow the community of certified flight instructors at a time when pilots are badly needed. The “good” is that there are multiple opportunities for flight instructors, she said. The “bad” is, “We can’t train them fast enough!” Part of the challenge is to establish flight instruction as a viable career choice. At present, the job of instructing is too often viewed as simply a stepping stone to an airline flying job.

One source of potential flight instructors, said Kalishek, is retired professional pilots. She and Meder both related that flight instruction was a third or fourth career for them. They both feel strongly that “giving back” to aviation is a top motivator for their commitment to flight instruction.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I hate to rain on Karen Kalishek’s parade, since I always applaud innovation. But innovation should be based on reality. So a Dose of Reality, unpleasant as it is.

    First, some brief history: I’m commenting as a former young CFI-I (now 65-year-old ATP) single man (NBM, no wife or kids to support), skinny (didn’t need to eat much) who slept in his $100 junk car at times while Instructing. (Who thought that sleeping in my car at the airport was kind of fun.) And that was during the good years in sunny Arizona, when we were flying 1000 hours a year!

    I loved to instruct, and I did not instruct as a stepping stone to an Airline job. (I never wanted an Airline job. I obtained my ATP (SEL-Only) back then only because I had accrued the hours required while instructing and because it’s the Ph.D. of Ratings.) So I was the Poster Child for the “Career Instructor Pilot.”

    Mrs./Miss K says “Part of the challenge is to establish flight instruction as a viable career choice.”

    Well, as the FAR’s are today, flight instruction is never going to be a viable career choice. At least not for a CFI for whom Instructing is their primary (if not only) source of revenue and will be for the next 40 years. (Which assumes you can pass your 2nd class all those years.) As per my history above, NO ONE is going to get rich flight instructing, even in the best of times.

    It’s basic Supply & Demand. As for Supply, there are too many new Instructor Pilots who need to accumulate hours for an airline job. They will instruct nearly for free, in the hope of a payout later. And they don’t mind sleeping in their cars. And probably don’t have a wife or kids to support (yet).

    And even if the FAA made it so that one needed, say, 500 hours before one could instruct (so you actually knew what you were talking about) – thus killing the supply of low cost Instructors using Instructing as a stepping stone – the middle-aged guys with wives and kids will instruct nearly for free because “we love to fly.” In fact, I sometimes forgot to charge students for a flight because I was happy to fly. (I still can’t get over the fact that I was paid to fly.)

    On the (Micro-)Demand side, even if you were so good that you could charge lawyer rates to instruct (say, $300/hr) – and even if you could get a full slate of students to pay you $300/hr – you still won’t get rich. The fact is, one person can only fly so much. Your revenue is capped because there are only so many hours in a day. (Not to mention crew flight time limits. Like truck drivers who can only drive so many hours per day.) Not to mention that most instructors don’t get paid 1:1 for their time. (One nonrevenue hour on the ground prepping for every hour flying.)

    Look, I instructed as a free lancer (no overhead) in the 80’s, mostly cash (infer what you will). That’s as good as it gets for “making” money as an Instructor. I was blessed to be able to pay my small house rent every month for two years, but was never able to buy a descent car. (To drive or to sleep in.)

    And then the Economy went bad and people’s discretionary income to do something as fun as flying went to zero. Sound familiar?

    Looking back on my years of teaching from the perspective of 10,000 hours now, if I were king, I would make it so that only ATP’s could instruct. (Listen to the howls.) I mean, I’m horrified that I was allowed to teach students to fly from my great wisdom of 250 hours. And I didn’t really know how to fly an ILS until I obtained my ATP. (Can’t keep it in the doughnut if you don’t know what you’re doing.)

    But still, having retired professional pilots (presumably ATP’s) teach (as Mrs./Miss K says) isn’t the solution either.

    While it’s true that retired pilots could instruct, and while it’s true that retired pilots probably can live without making a lot of money by instructing, that doesn’t mean that they would make good instructors. Anyone who’s had a famous college professor teach simply because he’s famous knows this truth.

    And as knowledgeable as I might be now, after all these years, do you really want me – this dawdling 65-year-old man – as YOUR instructor? Maybe in a Sim. But not in the Real World.

    And even if a 65-year-old guy is still sharp, Big Iron guys have been flying with automation and crew for years now. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to be sole Pilot aboard a simple plane. And most of them have been flying above the weather. So, for example, as a CFI-I, they’re not going to be the best to know how best to fly through a stratocumulus in the winter.

    My solution to “growing” good Instructors is the opposite of Mrs./Miss K’s. And counter intuitive too. It turns out that low rates for flight instructors is actually a good thing. You will find then that it is only the instructors who love to teach who will do it. Because, as well all know, it’s a Labor of Love.

    Not viable economically. You know the joke: “How do you make a small fortune in aviation?” But we do it anyway.