Guest Blog: Fixing Flight Training

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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.

Comments (54)

I agree there are issues, and of course the absurd legislation pushed through by that idiot Chuck Schumer does nothing to help. How many pilots know about the "region of reversed command", which is relevant to the stall-spin landing accident scenario that happens too frequently due to a misunderstanding of basic flight control inputs in slow flight. I have had even old-time seasoned flight instructors mess this up, and didn't learn about this until I took tailwheel training. And how many have read "Stick and Rudder"? It should be mandatory. Sorry about the vision issues. I am glad you got to experience to joy of flight.

Posted by: Unknown | January 10, 2013 2:17 PM    Report this comment

Well, you could raise the requirements for getting a CFI to say 1000 hours.. That would certainly eliminate many beginners. Also the market would change. Fewer CFI's, higher pay for the CFI,higher quality flight training ??, higher cost for student pilots,higher costs for the flight school...etc..All the other aviation costs have gone up, manufacture, insurance, maintenance, gasoline.. Do you think this will ever happen? Catch 22. George Schneider

Posted by: George Schneider | January 10, 2013 2:38 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Ted wholeheartedly. When I tell people outside the industry that flight instructors are typically very low-time pilots, they are understandably amazed. Compounding the problem are university programs where one batch of newly-minted pilots teach the next year's class. What is lost is the experience and input of old salts who have tangled with thunderstorms, packed loads of ice, shot approaches on dark and stormy nights, and dealt with the inumerable situations that the real world brings.

Many of these students will eventually turn into good pilots. However, in the course of my career I have dealt with too many recently graduated commercial pilots who are slavishly devoted to unthinking procedures, are totally dependant on the autopilot, and lack the flexibility and analytical skills to make the best decisions when the need arises. In my opinion, removing the wisdom of experience early in the learning process produces pilots who are book smart but lack the flying savvy to become truly good airmen.

Posted by: Joe Brand | January 10, 2013 2:57 PM    Report this comment

As GS noted, it's supply and demand. There's nothing to stop anyone going and paying more to get an experienced instructor. I have done just that at times. The option already exists but you have to put in the effort to find the experienced people.

Posted by: V J | January 10, 2013 3:12 PM    Report this comment

I'm one of those 'seasoned' instructors, and have several observations of my own.

1. Most students are discouraged by the amount of work and expense required to become a pilot. With insulting wages waiting at the airlines, the cost/benefit analysis makes a flying career of guaranteed poverty.

2. Many students discover that FAA micromanagement drives up costs of every aspect of aviation and drastically reduces the value of their money.

3. Finally, every pilot worth his salt knows that the 1500 hour minimum is a political solution that completely missed the problem they were "trying" to address, and results in driving up competition for scarce, low paying instructor jobs, while building time to qualify for scarce, low paying airline jibs.

Conclusion: unless you are driven by passion or are independently wealthy, there are simply too few reasons to start down the road to a pilot's license or an aviation career.

Posted by: David Howard | January 10, 2013 3:12 PM    Report this comment

I've been flying for about 30 years and I'm getting ready for my CFI checkride. The main reason I'm looking at instructing is to have something "fun" to do when I retire (in a few years, I hope). Anyway, I agree with David Howard, flying is crazy expensive. My FBO charges 95 an hour for a DA 20 Eclipse(which is a fair price). To stay anywhere near current, say 8-10 hours a month you're dropping a grand a month! Who has that kind of cash laying around just to go bore holes in the sky. Most folks today would take that extra 1000 bucks and buy a Corvette, or move into a bigger house, or max out their 401k. I'm glad I got into flying way back when I did, there is no way I could do it today. Good luck to all you future pilots (you're going to need it!)

Posted by: Chuck Andreas | January 10, 2013 4:17 PM    Report this comment

It's not the money nor the airlines. No disrespect intended, why is everything always about airlines and career pilots?

I learned to fly from seasoned instructors in their 50's and 60's with tens of thousands of hours experience. Every instructor I had showed up on time, had a professional demeanor, and was not airline bound.

The most recent airplane I purchased cost less than a used rental car a friend just bough.

Good training for your private can be had for less than the cost of taking the family to Disneyland in Hawaii. Airplanes can be had for less than most new cars.

The problem isn't flight training. The problem is that everyone wants an airline job and is willing to starve for it. Until people start realizing it's not worth it to spend 100K and several years trying to get a pie in the sky job flying airliners, the problem isn't going to go away. Nobody is forcing airline trainees into those career paths.

Posted by: FILL CEE | January 10, 2013 4:57 PM    Report this comment

You have made some terrific observations, and as one poster has already pointed out, I'm glad I got my done 20 years ago or I couldn't do it today.

One thing to consider though. A positive does come out of the newly minted pilot teaching others. I can say whole heartedly that becoming an instructor made me a really good pilot very quickly. When you teach someone else to do something, you become a master at it yourself. I quickly felt very confident, could anticipate, and continued learning.

Posted by: Tom B | January 10, 2013 5:04 PM    Report this comment

I also agree with the comment that CFI requirements should be a minimum of 1000. That would increase the professionalism, respect and pay. When that happens you will see people become professionals and the whole aviation industry will become a respected again. The airlines have had a free ride in regards to pilots and mechanics trained and available since WWII. Sorry guys, the free ride is over. Pilots are trained professionals such as doctors and lawyers. The only difference is they are depedant on a company/airline to practice their trade. That being said, it is incombent that CEO's understand that without them they would be out of a job. If the FAA is really serious about changing the state of training, please be honest and raise the CFI requirements to 1000 hours. It also seems the FAA has a control problem. They can intimidate a young CFI with their motto of I'm here from the govt and here to help. Well not really, they want stats and numbers to keep the budget going. I'm not joking, with close to 50,000 FAA employees vs 200,000 licensed pilots it seems there is a whole lot of govt oversight and control. Get real guys, there are not that many pilots flying at any one time. Again, raise the CFI to 1000 hours. This will bring a turn around to the industry.

Posted by: JEFF ARYAN | January 10, 2013 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Another factor to consider is our national culture. When I was growing up the national attention was all on the space program. Anything aeronautical was in. Kids wanted to fly. Now they don't. Now it's all about entertainment, money and self-absorption. Flying, space, and all that went before is taken for granted. Numerous articles have been written about how young people don't want to learn to fly, don't want to drive, and don't want to leave the house with mommy and daddy. And here we sit wondering why the pilot population is dwindling away. I think the answer is cultural.

I have no idea how anyone would change that.

Posted by: FILL CEE | January 10, 2013 6:51 PM    Report this comment

I disagree that more experienced instructors are a solution. A good instructor is determined much more by temperament than experience. They do need to respect the job, but that doesn't come with hours in the cockpit. Two of the best instructors I've had we're the least experienced, and the worst one had thousands of hours of dual given.

I agree the system is broken. It somehow takes the coolest, most amazing thing a person can do and turns it into a boring chore. I can't blame the FAA - they only own the check ride. The schools and instructors can fix it, with some of the ideas coming out of the current push for improvements. Make the training more interesting and more people will stick it out.

In my area, most of the flight schools are having a hard time staying open, but the skydiving schools on e same airports are dropping close to 500 people a weekend (at a price not too different from a flying lesson.) The customers are there - the difference is in the presentation.

Posted by: Keith Johnson | January 10, 2013 10:20 PM    Report this comment

I agree that professionalism among CFIs, especially the younger generation, is often lacking (speaking as a younger CFI myself). I don't think setting an hour requirement is the best solution to the problem. As another post above mentioned, culture plays a big role. We see this in a great deal of the workforce lately. Ever notice how customer service seems to be a lost art in the retail world as well? CFIs that arrive late and lack enthusiasm are forgetting that their work ethic and reputation will follow them throughout their career. In short, a lackluster CFI will eventually result in a lackluster airline pilot, if he/she is able to get the job with that attitude. More hours won't fix this. Hour limits also pose a serious logistical issue. How would a prospective professional pilot build 1000 hours if not as a CFI? Jump pilot? Aerial photography? Building that much time on your own dime is a fairly insurmountable obstacle, and there simply aren't enough jobs that would allow professional pilots to get more experience with only a few hundred hours under their belts. It may be best if people "vote with their feet" and discontinue training if they are unsatisfied with their CFI as mediocre instructors will soon find themselves out of work. It is my hope, however, that those aspiring pilots reach out to their local pilot community and find a professional, competent instructor who genuinely cares about their training and can give them the quality training they deserve.

Posted by: Aaron Fettig | January 10, 2013 10:24 PM    Report this comment

For those on the career track my guess is that the FAA will be pressured by the airlines into certifying some educational programs as equivalent to the required hours. The cost will then become predictable and the 1500 hours will not be how the majority of new careers in the airlines are made. Such programs will likely have a cost similar to an undergraduate degree. Places like ERAU and ND will offer those programs.

The airlines, which have a lot of influence on the FAA, want others such as the military (read taxpayer) and the private candidates to bear the cost and risk of training and selection if at all possible. Why take it if they can rig it so you have to?

Only if there ever results a paucity of candidates would airlines resort to using training as a recruitment tool.

For those in aviation privately, nothing will change.

Posted by: FILL CEE | January 10, 2013 11:20 PM    Report this comment

"AOPA, NAFI and many others are doing their best to raise flight training standards."

You're kidding right? AOPA is the last organization to nurture quality flight training. Try pushing AOPA to raise the Private Pilot qualification requirement from 40 hours to 100 hours. Watch how fast AOPA laughs in your face. AOPA is about a race to the bottom. Their attitude is: what is the absolute minimum amount of time required to get someone to "pass" so that we can grab them to be our member and count them in our statistics? One can say that AOPA is the antithesis of quality flight training. They try to give you these pilot proficiency stuff after the fact at their seminars and online courses, when in reality, the pilot's mind has already checked out of the flight training mentality. Too little too late, that's AOPA.

David Howard is spot on.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | January 11, 2013 1:34 PM    Report this comment

It is not an issue of those who are flight instructors, but the generation as a whole. Yes, I realize that makes me sound like the grumpy old men from the Muppet Show. I started to learn to fly when I turned 40, not for any dream of becoming an airline pilot, but because I just love to fly. My first instructor, on the first day we were to meet never showed up, after several calls, he finally answered his phone and explained that he had made other plans after I had scheduled my lesson he might be able to meet me later that afternoon, when I told him that was unacceptable, he hung up. Needless to say, I was in the head flight instructor’s office that morning, conveying my displeasure. My second instructor was also young, but was the complete opposite, punctual, polite, and a total professional; although I did enjoy reminding him that I have underwear older than him. For a living I do background investigations and pre- employment screening for a large city. It is here that I learned that the 20 somethings of today have very different attitudes about work and professionalism. I can’t tell you how many of them show up for the interview wearing jeans and T-shirts. One candidate actually smelled like he hadn’t bothered to shower for several days. I love reading résumés where their greatest life’s accomplishment was getting a trophy in Little League for showing up and actually put their email address “beer&pussyforever@ …….com. I’m sorry,what was the question?

Posted by: Paul Becker | January 11, 2013 2:51 PM    Report this comment

Excellent post and some refreshingly harsh and honest dialog amongst those who read it. Few respectable industries allow their greenest to teach their young.

Posted by: Jason Baker | January 11, 2013 5:04 PM    Report this comment

Even though now I fly professionally, when I started out it was with the sole intention of flying for fun. It took me 5 years to get my ratings through the CFI, paying for it out of my own pocket with no student loans and working full time at a real paying career, and enjoyed doing it. I don't know if I could do that now with how expensive flying has gotten. If I had gone to a school that did airline style training or a pt 141 school where the objective is to "fire hose" students as fast as possible I would have never gone past the private pilot rating if completing it at all. Learning to fly is difficult enough that if you are not having fun doing it while spending all this money and time, most people who are getting into aviation as a hobby will just find something else to do. I think younger CFI's forget this and so does the FAA. I was lucky to get a good younger CFI for my private that did not stand me up for lessons and saw me through to the checkride. When going for the instrument and higher ratings I went with more "seasoned" instructors and have no regrets going that route. For those younger CFI's just starting out, remember to make this a fun thing to do or you will lose customers and that does no one any good.

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 12, 2013 1:55 AM    Report this comment

I have no idea why anyone is suggesting that a 1000 hour minimum for CFIs would be good. First, it would become tremendously more expensive just to reach the level of a CFI. Naturally the number of CFIs would diminish drastically. So a reduction in the supply of CFIs and the amount of money it takes to reach that level will cause a MASSIVE increase in the cost of instruction even at the most rudimentary levels. We're talking $150/hr ground school here. Also, the gap between 1000 hour CFIs and 1500 hour ATPs means that those CFIs foaming at the mouth for a better job have even less time to accumulate before they bail on their students. In all honesty, I'm scared. How many hours of actual work do those crooks in Congress do every summer? In no way is time logged responsible for proficiency. I've met 100 hour pilots that are more than proficient. I think the real issue is that the aviation industry faces some of the most stringent monetary limitations known to man. Think about it folks. If the requirements are raised for CFIs, pilots that simply seek to obtain instrument ratings for their own safety will be priced out of the market, simply unable to afford inevitably-inflated prices. Raising requirements is bad for aviation, just like raising taxes is bad for the economy. The key here is cost reduction. And that can only come from efficiency and, above all, QUALITY! Bureaucracy is never the answer.

Posted by: Reuben Marquard | January 12, 2013 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Kieth Johnson--"I agree the system is broken. It somehow takes the coolest, most amazing thing a person can do and turns it into a boring chore. I can't blame the FAA - they only own the check ride. The schools and instructors can fix it, with some of the ideas coming out of the current push for improvements. Make the training more interesting and more people will stick it out."

I agree--but the fact is that FAA not only owns the checkride, but most of the training curriculum to meet Practical Test Standards. Instructors must teach to the FAA standards. The FAA needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of the FARs and PTS.

Keith--"In my area, most of the flight schools are having a hard time staying open, but the skydiving schools on e same airports are dropping close to 500 people a weekend (at a price not too different from a flying lesson.) The customers are there - the difference is in the presentation." EXCELLENT! The differences? Skydiving has minimal FAA involvement. It is viewed as "cool" by most of the population. I offers immediate (vs. deferred) gratification. It has a strong social aspect.

Make these changes to GA, and it too will prosper.

Posted by: jim hanson | January 12, 2013 1:31 PM    Report this comment

Flying has never been an instant gratification sport for thrill-seeking souls. Even the worst entitlement generation can't change the fact that nothing comes from nothing and getting there isn't easy. When has paying for a job such as banner towing, glider towing or other PFJ programs ever helped to uphold professionalism and high standards? Years ago, flight school owners were desperate to find CFI's who weren't just in for the hours and wouldn't milk their students to get them. These days, telling a flight school owner that you are not a time- builder lands your CV in the trashcan that much faster. Surprisingly, even AGI/IGI's with experience teaching can't find a job as a ground instructor at halfway decent wages. Realistically, pouring coffee in a coffee-shop is more profitable and at least your customers get what they want, right then and there. The market is flooded with people who are willing to sell their Grandma to the devil for sitting on that sheepskin. People with even the smallest amount of pride in them, can't and many won't ever try to compete. 80 hours to solo can't be caused by the FAA or the PTS, sorry... something stinks.

Posted by: Jason Baker | January 12, 2013 3:55 PM    Report this comment

Anybody that hasn't soloed in 80 hours either:
A. Isn't cut out for flying, and and should consider something close to their mental capacity, like an ant farm


Isn't smart enough to know that they are being used--in which case, the remedy is the same as A.

Posted by: jim hanson | January 12, 2013 4:02 PM    Report this comment

I have to say I related to Tom B’s post in which he noted that the act of instructing also teaches the instructor. My primary instructor was about as green as they get, having just completed his own training and CFI add-on. We learned together, it was a lot of fun and I was able to pass my check ride at 40.1 hours logged, so his inexperience apparently wasn’t all that big an impediment.

Problems with instructors surfaced later, when I was using a big-city flight school for my commercial/instrument instruction. Instructor turnover, missed lesson appointments and the other standard gripes stretched the training out probably 50% beyond what it should have taken. But even then, instructor inexperience wasn’t the issue.

So in my opinion, increasing instructor time requirements would do absolutely nothing but bump up cost. Vastly more important is having an instructor who will come to work on time as scheduled. And, of course, one who wants to do a proper job of instruction rather than diddle around maxing out the Hobbs meter.

Posted by: John Wilson | January 12, 2013 11:57 PM    Report this comment

I am tired of seeing articles such as this one that blame the problems of the flight training industry solely on flight instructors. The author seems to be taking a swing at younger, career-driven instructors like myself. I am 23 years old and I have been instructing for almost 3 years. Yes, I would like to eventually move on in my aviation career but I will NOT disservice my students in doing so. Most of my students are twice my age. Although initially hesitant, they all grow to respect my enthusiasm and dedication to the field. I'm young and relatively inexperienced but I have dedicated my entire life to aviation. I spend six days a week immersed in everything having to do with airplanes. Please call me unqualified to be an instructor. The real issue is customer service. It's something that ALL flight schools struggle with. Many flight instructors start with little concept of basic customer service. Having a 1,000 hour minimum for CFIs is as terrible of an idea as the 1,500 hour airline requirement. It would take the flight training industry to a far worse state than its present condition. I dislike the attitude of this article. This mentality needs to stop.

Posted by: Caleb Mahase | January 13, 2013 7:59 AM    Report this comment

Nothing in my blog post suggested an hour minimum for CFIs. What I said was, "Why isn't the role of CFI limited to the most seasoned and skillful, to dedicated instructors?"

Experience does not equal excellence. But nothing makes up for the lack of it. The sophisticated consumer wants both. The problem is, the industry isn't open about how it operates. Each student has to learn how things really work the hard way.

"Enthusiasm and dedication to the field" should be a threshold requirement for every CFI. But give us that plus lots of experience in real-world flying situations. Not lots of hours teaching the same repetitive maneuvers in a mostly unsupervised environment. Pilots taught this way may squeak past their checkrides--but they lack the insights a more seasoned instructor could give them.

The debate is interesting, but like I said, the numbers speak for themselves. Seven out of ten students drop out. In the short term that doesn't matter to a CFI building hours. What does matter is that those who fail have negative stories to tell, which hurts the industry. That the pool of potential students and GA pilots will shrink even further. And that someone's dream of becoming a pilot was needlessly abandoned.

"I dislike the attitude of this article. This mentality needs to stop." Well I dislike the idea that the needs of career pilots outweigh those of their students. Learning at someone else's expense--literally and figuratively--is dishonest. This mentality needs to stop.

Posted by: Ted Seastrom | January 13, 2013 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Seastrom's issues he brings up are the biggest problem that the aviation industry has in general. Customer service! No place else in business that I know of with the possible exception of the computer industry do I deal with such a lack of customer service. In a way the government makes things worse by most of their mandates. Examples are AD's, biennial flight reviews, instrument proficiency checks, annual inspections. All of these things are mandated by the FAA as safety items, and yet when getting these things done how many times have a pilot or airplane owner been dissatisfied with the results. Ever had a BFR go a lot longer than you felt reasonable? How many AD's have you ever gotten that were paid for by the manufacturer. How about the students that got checkrides by an FAA designated examiner that the FAA found were done incorrectly or illegally and now those students have to get prepped and rechecked on their own dime. In all of these issues there is not any kind of consumer advocate to help resolve them. In the cases I bring up the FAA just claims that they are not consumer advocates. And I am sure I don't have to mention the wonderful customer service the airlines have. Customer service!!!È

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 13, 2013 3:13 PM    Report this comment

I can understand CONGRESS, in their bumbling naivete and desire to "do something" imposing minimum time requirements--but why in the world would PILOTS advocate the same?

Several commenters have made the point that it is not the total time, but the committment that makes a good pilot--or flight instructor.

Many world airlines have had "ab initio" training for decades--where pilots train to be airline pilots from the beginning, and end up in the right seat with only a few hundred hours. Ditto the military--under the "1500 hour rule", most military pilots wouldn't qualify as a right-seater on the airlines--despite their rigid training.

Many of us are pilots because we have accepted the challenge of PROVING OURSELVES--either you can fly the airplane or you can't. Total time has no bearing on aptitude and the drive to meet that challenge. We should resist arbitrary government dictates like "total time" every chance we get.

Posted by: jim hanson | January 13, 2013 4:27 PM    Report this comment

In other professions, experience is considered a good thing. Someone facing surgery will seek out a doctor experienced in that procedure, over a recent medical school graduate. Why is flight instruction any different?

This doesn't mean that new instructors are bad, but that they'd be better with experience. They will have flown in more real-world situations, and know both how to handle, as well as to teach, more situations. Also, they will have dealt with more student issues, and learned more methods to use in instructing their new students.

I have been instructing for a number of years, and if I'm no better now than when I started, there would be something very wrong.

Posted by: Heskel Burnstein | January 13, 2013 8:43 PM    Report this comment

There are no shortage of reasons why flight training needs to be fixed...the big question is what is the industry going to do about and when...
Aviation is an ever increasing costly hobby
Flight instructors are paid poorly, typically receiving 50% or less of what the flight school charges for his/her services
Flight Instructors arent interested in anything other than hours in their logbook
flight instructors are typically green and inexperienced with which to draw on to pass on knowlege and skill, because you cant make a living instructing...many who are good at it seek jobs where they can afford to live off more than just ramen noodles for the rest of their lives
Professionalism in the industry is lacking, whether you love instructing or hate it, its your job to do a good job...most do not get that
Students are only concerned with the bare minimum of knowlege and skill...later on they become poor instructors exacerbating the situation.
Many have more to add to the list I am sure...while starting a conversation about how to fix it is well and good, when will we as an industry address these issues????

Posted by: rob haschat | January 13, 2013 10:05 PM    Report this comment

Experience IS a good thing--when you need it. Most flight instruction is more analogous to teaching than surgery--we rarely teach--more like guide students to discovery.
At our FBO, we employ both new and old instructor--and absent a student that has REAL learning problems, the enthusiasm of the new instructor usually makes them the equal of the veteran.
While many complain about the crummy service and the low wages in the
in the instruction business, I don't see any suggestions on how to change it. Here is what has worked for me for 40 years. (Cont)

Posted by: jim hanson | January 13, 2013 10:12 PM    Report this comment

Never be a price apologist. The surgeon mentioned certainly isn't. Charge what you need to charge to make a living.
A friend was a glider instructor. Like so many instructors, he started out at a low price--"because that's what everybody else charges." I told him that like every other professional person, ALL he had to sell was his time." I
him that he should aspire to be the HIGHEST paid instructor around--but he then had to justify it. He thought that impossible, as the nearby glider club taught for FREE. I pointed out the advantages of flying with him--glider and tow plane ready--that he was the author of several glider books--and finally, that there are only 25-35 hours of dual in a rating--a $20 difference in dual rates equates to only $500 for the entire license. The result--he made good money--people gladly paid for his services--enough so that he continued to raise his rates every year.

Posted by: jim hanson | January 13, 2013 10:30 PM    Report this comment

As it has been said multiple times in this post, it doesn't matter how many hours you have it's the ATTITUDE you bring to the job. I've had a few instructors during my flying time (Comm, Inst, ME, Seaplane, Tailwheel, etc.). Two stick out in my mind...

My first primary instructor was a great guy to hang out with, LOVED to fly, but was habitually late and couldn't tell me how to fly straight and level at the same time. He went to a large city flight school, got some instruction on HOW to instruct and then came back. I used him again for my Multi and he was 110% better so I guess the time in the "big city" helped him grasp the concept.

My current instructor is probably one of the best instructors I've ever had. He's punctual, professional, and we've become good friends. He got me through my Instrument and then instructed me for my Commercial. Again, loves to fly and has "been there, done that, flew the junk and lived"...he's now flying Hawkers for a fractional, but still loves to give a little dual.

My uncle who is a DPE with 30,000 hours (all in little airplanes), is a HORRIBLE instructor, we went out for an hour when I was starting out and didn't fly again for 3 months becasue according to him I was such a horrible pilot.

Let's get the pay rate up, TEACH the CFI how to be professional and how to teach, and then watch the pilot population take-off

Posted by: R. Doe | January 14, 2013 7:46 AM    Report this comment

I hired and indoctrinated almost 200 flight instructors for a large flight school. I never met one not interested in trying to teach. They had huge differences in experience level so their ability to teach could vary.
What I really learned was that none of them really knew how aircraft fly. Basic flight control is not covered correctly in any text book I can find including the FAA handbook.
Taught correctly how to control in the first five to ten hours allows a student to be ready for ppl in as little as thirty

Posted by: Robert Reser | January 14, 2013 7:48 AM    Report this comment

We've been dancing around the real issue here. The real problem is that hours spent in the right seat instructing is counted as total hours. That's what needs to change. If those hours spent instructing at a part 61 school didn't count, then the time-builders would all gravitate to part 141 pilot mills and professional educators would enter the part 61 recreational flying flight schools and raise the overall quality of training. Recreational pilots don't care about hours, they care about value and quality.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | January 14, 2013 8:28 AM    Report this comment

A few observations here, from a relatively young-aged pilot and newly-minted (as of about a year ago) CFI...

First, I find the comments "I'm glad I learned to fly when I did, as I don't know how I'd do it now" a bit amusing. I'm pretty much middle-class working a full-time IT job that demands a lot of out-of-hours work, but I still managed to get my private, instrument, commercial, and CFI/CFII on my own time and money. Yes, flying and flight training is expensive, but no one ever said it was a cheap hobby, and it never will be. If you have the commitment, you will get it done. And I'm not the only young person who isn't highly paid that managed to accomplish a lot in aviation.

Second, I really wish the "oh, those young instructors don't know nothin'" would stop. It's not the age of the instructor that matters, but as has been pointed out, their attitude. There are lousy young AND old instructors, just as there are great young and old instructors. Just as total hours don't matter, neither does actual age.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 14, 2013 8:55 AM    Report this comment

I am sure there are young and capable CFI's as well as older experienced CFI's that are poor instructors.

That said, our personal experiences shape our comments in this forum. I came to GA from the Hang Gliding world. I choose the local college flight school because they had brand new Diamond aircraft as trainers instead of clapped out 30 year old Cessnas.

When I began my private pilot training I had over 2,000 hours in Hang Gliders so I understood flying quite well. What I did not know is that some flight schools train pilots and have them get their CFI ticket and turn them loose to train others.

It took me 3 instructors to get my private because 2 of them were hired into regional airlines during the course of my training. When I went for my instrument rating I sought out an ATP pilot for instruction and was much happier with the results. This does not mean a low time CFI cannot be a good instructor, it's just I have not run across many.

My high performance/complex check out was with an instructon 1/3 my age with less than half my flight hours. He was a nice enough fellow but I felt he had nowhere near my experience and less than 100 hours solo! So for my dollars spent I want both experience and professionalism.

Posted by: Ric Lee | January 14, 2013 10:18 AM    Report this comment

To answer the most naive and uninformed question of the article: " Why isn't the role of CFI limited to the most seasoned and skillful, to dedicated instructors?" the answer is few people are willing to pay for that experience that the business would totally collapse for lack of interest. I received my CFI in 1969 and immediately went to work at the school where I got the ticket. That experience was invaluable to the work that came later...I would never have put myself into the situations that some of my students put me. There was the stark reality of what flying in someone elses employment really meant. Flying is something that I wanted to do all of my life and when the opportunity came to me I did everything I could to seize all I could. I practiced the things that I did badly until I did them competently, I asked for additional instruction and evaluation and I used the CFI's that were barely experienced.
Once while being a FO on a corporate jet I was in an airport coffee shop complaining to an older wiser pilot about my economic plight...he told me that there were 20 drivers for every airplane guy had the job and there were 19 more standing in line behind him each willing to do the job cheaper and the last one willing to do it for free just to build time. So consider myself lucky if I was flying and getting paid for doing it, he had 30 years experience and was still burning gasoline. I promptly shut up.

Posted by: william laatsch | January 14, 2013 10:28 AM    Report this comment

Anyone who thinks experience does not matter is misinformed. When I started flying for the airlines I had 6000 hours and two jet type ratings. I had been trained at Flight Safety and thought I was a very good pilot. How wrong I was. I was only adequate and had so much more to learn. I am retired now and teach flying because I love to. Flying is very expensive and many students seek out the low bidder. By the way the airline pilots of the future are merely going to be automation monitors. I really do not know what the solution is. It certainly isn't AOPA; it is a corrupt organization. How many of you know Craig Fuller's compensation package is $815,000 per year? There are some good young instructors and some bad old ones but the more experience the better.

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | January 14, 2013 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Experience DOESN'T matter. PURPOSEFUL experience DOES. There's a pilot at my local airport who claims 800+ hours but has problems communicating on the radio. Compared to my mere 500 hours, I should be less of a pilot, but I'm not (according to my peers). I dedicate every hour I'm flying (whether for recreation, travel, or as instructor) to be a learning experience and chance to improve my skills.

To put a point on this, what is the better experience: Flying the same instrument approach into your home base for 100 hours, or flying 100 different approaches to multiple airports in 50 hours? Unfortunately, the 1500-hour rule is only interested in looking at the bottom line, and not *how* those hours were accumulated.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 14, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Let's face it. Most people become instructors to build flight time. I instructed for ten years leaving flight instructing twelve years ago. Giving instruction was a means to an end. That does not mean the instruction I gave was not good it just means that I wasn't planning on making a career out of flight instructing. When I instructed There were instructors in trade a plane willing to fly for free. Here is my point. When you give a service away for free it becomes worthless. It's supply and demand. According to FAA stats there were 96,473 instructor certificates issued in 2010, there was 69,200 issued in 1991 when I became an instructor. There was at least twice as many flight schools when I instructed then there are now. Do the math. If you own a flight school and have a stack of resumes of instructors willing to build time, why would you pay them anything? I left flying years ago and now work as a refrigeration technician making over six figures the last six years. The reason I make a good wage is, I can charge what I want. Refrigeration technicians are not falling out of trees like instructors.

Posted by: Unknown | January 14, 2013 11:29 AM    Report this comment

I'll take quality over quantity every time, but some things only come from experience, so on some level i want both. I expect good instruction, i read a lot, i talk to other pilots, and I go fly - i learn every time the tach starts turning. The best instruction in the world won't help me if I'm not doing my part to learn on my own, stay current and always get back "in the saddle."
It always gets back to passion and commitment. LOTS of careers pay poorly but don't lack for demand. Ever talk to a photographer, artist, musician or athlete? Flying is a very special endeavor - i suspect it will always be one that has a very high cost, a long road to making a decent living at it, and lots of trade offs along the way. We need to encourage each other and new students with the positives, and not get lost in the barriers to entry. Do you really ever expect to produce a safe private pilot, much less a competent professional pilot, without spending a lot of time and money to get there? BUT, we CAN make the economics of that work to our favor by increasing demand, and SAFETY is at the center of that equation. Don't increase the hours required for CFIs or ATPs - set appropriate standards for skills, knowledge, decision making and professionalism and enforce those standards effectively. At some point, we ALL have to learn by doing - whether its at hour 62 after getting your private pilot's license, at 262 with your Instrument rating, at 462 as a CFI or at 1062 with your ATP.

Posted by: Joe Goebel | January 14, 2013 11:57 AM    Report this comment

I apologize. My mistake. Total instructors are 96,473 in 2010 and 69,200 in 1991. Not issued.

Posted by: Unknown | January 14, 2013 11:58 AM    Report this comment

As far as fixing the current training situation for aviation, the major airlines don't want to. And why should they when their own standards are much higher than the new requirement for FO's to have an ATP. The last thing they want to do is pay out of their own pocket to train pilots from the student pilot level. Unfortunately this just makes it tougher for the hobby flyer to find instruction that is not geared toward flying for the airlines. The only reason the regionals are complaining about the ATP requirement is because it is more difficult to sucker someone into a regional airline with more experience and still pay the povery wages they do now.

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 14, 2013 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Go to a four year college like Embry Riddle and expect to pay close to 225,000 with your flight training. Not sure a photographer or musician will pay that. Let's compare apples to apples please. Then graduate with massive debt and try and find a job as a Flight Instructor that will pay you 10-20 a flight hour.

Posted by: Unknown | January 14, 2013 12:52 PM    Report this comment

It's a pity there is almost no economy of scale for flight training. Other than a classroom environment for ground schools, primary flight training is a one on one affair. Maybe the redbird model can help this to a point.

It seems that unless one has a school with enough students scheduled in an almost impossible one-after-another sequence the cost of instruction and pay available for that professional instructor will be inversely (sp?) correlated.

Posted by: Jim Hausch | January 16, 2013 6:09 AM    Report this comment

So one has to suppose that flight instruction isn't really broken at all, it looks like it is pretty much as it has always been. To categorize it, which I presume this article is trying to do, it is imperfect. So what! If someone wants to learn to drive airplanes, this is how it is done, deal with it!

Posted by: william laatsch | January 16, 2013 9:26 AM    Report this comment

1. You can’t teach what you don’t know.
2. Good practice makes better. Stay healthy, current, proficient, skillful and well-informed.
3. Experience matters, especially recent experience.
4. Where experience does not matter then the performance of students tends to be poor.
5. Experience does not matter to some instructors who do not have the experience.
6. Experienced flight instructors can learn from others including students.
7. Inexperienced flight instructors can learn from experienced flight instructors and students.
8. Stay mentally flexible and receptive to gaining strength and experience from others.
9. Experience says; Hot dogging with a whole heap, little or no experience will hurt or kill you.
10. Fly safe and enjoy the experience.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 16, 2013 8:33 PM    Report this comment

Ah, disregard my previous post - apparently URL's are not allowed. What a shame!

Posted by: Bob Gilchrist | January 18, 2013 8:29 AM    Report this comment

Ah, disregard my previous post - apparently URL's are not allowed. What a shame!

Posted by: Bob Gilchrist | January 18, 2013 8:37 AM    Report this comment

You can post a URL. Just strip the hypertext protocol off it and replace www or just post the ULS sans the HTTP.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 18, 2013 10:03 AM    Report this comment

I was glancing at the Atlantic Flyer yesterday. In the Classifieds I found this,

FREE !!! FREE !!! FREE !!!
CFI, CFII, MEI, likes to stay busy ! Call for FREE instruction
Micheal Truman 617-924-6000

Not sure I know of another line of work were someone is willing to give away their services.

That's called volunteering.

Posted by: Unknown | January 22, 2013 6:57 PM    Report this comment

When the the bank accepts volunteering in payment for my mortgage I'll be happy to do it. Until then I'm one of those experienced instructors that loves to teach ( and has other teaching credentials as well) that can be had at a wage commensurate with my experience. That also eliminates "unprofessional" students. Because when I'm late, you get the lesson for free, when you're late you pay for my time. The professionalism works both ways.

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | January 28, 2013 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Apparently MR Truman's bank allows volunteerism to pay his mortgage?

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | January 28, 2013 12:56 PM    Report this comment

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Posted by: crizzycrazy tan | February 20, 2013 4:23 AM    Report this comment

Article is good and has raised many questions about training and piloting. In fact the FFA certification gives the employers a confidence that pilot is well trained to handle the commercial flight. Its because FFA has set the standards accordingly.

Posted by: Fred Perry | January 9, 2016 6:12 AM    Report this comment

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