Newly Minted CFIs

Newly Minted CFIs

If you're a new Certificated Flight Instructor, welcome! Congratulations on passing a HARD check ride, & good for you for wanting to help the next generation of aspiring pilots achieve their goals. I know it isn't the most glamorous gig, but it's something else to watch your student solo an airplane for the first time. It's not just an achievement for them, but for you, too!

When I first became a CFI, & even now, I struggled with vetting new students. They're trying to decide if you're the flight instructor that is right for them, & YOU'RE deciding if they're a student that is right for you! It can be tempting to take on anyone who's willing enough, but it may not be the best fit for either of you in the long run. At the very start, I took on anyone who walked by. I just wanted experience & I was eager to share all of the knowledge I just studied & passed a check ride with. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that this wasn't the best strategy.

More often than not, I didn't ask enough questions & I didn't set enough parameters for my students. I had this expectation of people where if they came to me asking me to teach them how to fly, then they were ready to be 100% committed in the way I needed them to be. If I told them they needed to fly twice a week & study 8-10 hours a week, then they would just do it without arguing.

I was very wrong.

Here are three expectations you need to establish from the get-go as a CFI picking up a new student.

Establish Expectations - Homework

I'd send articles & videos for people to study, I told them to read chapters, I told them to chair fly. By next lesson, they hadn't done any of that! I'd tentatively say, "Okay, do it for next time", & move on into the lesson. 

Had I asked them to do something? Yes. Had I provided them the resources to do so? Also, yes. What I didn't do is establish firm expectations.

No CFI, by any means, should spoon feed their students. I had a bad habit of just feeding people knowledge & expecting them to retain it or take notes if they were "note takers" (hardly anyone is).

It is in everyone's best interest, however, to set the standard early on in their training. For example, instead of accepting the fact that the student did not study for one reason or another & moving on as if it were fine, I could have said: "Okay! Let's watch the video/read the article together & identify the key points & relate it to today's flight. We'll use the first half of the lesson for ground, & whatever's left for flying."

This way, I'm not saying they did something wrong or reprimanding them, but I am establishing the expectation that if the ground isn't completed at home, it'll be completed with me during my billable hours. After that lesson, I'll assign them more homework, providing them the resources. I'll add that if the ground is not completed, it'll be another hour of ground before the lesson next time as well. It may not seem like a big deal the first couple times, but these hours will add up & it'll be more expensive for them.

Money is a big motivator for people, & I strive to be as honest as possible in the beginning to let them know the best methods for student pilots to SAVE money. The first on that list is to SHOW UP PREPARED WITH THE HOMEWORK DONE!

Establish Expectations - Flight Time

Another expectation you will want to set early on is how often the student needs to fly in order to achieve their goals. Everyone is trying to save money in their flight training, it's a common dilemma. And everyone wants their training to be done efficiently & effectively.

You do this by flying MORE often. We're talking 3-4x a week. That's absolutely ideal. This way, everything is fresh in your mind, you're able to get comfortable with the plane in less time, & you develop hand/feet coordination quicker. It might be more money up front, but this can end up saving you thousands of dollars in the long run!

Flying once or twice a week means there's long periods of time where you're NOT flying & you're not in the pilot headspace. Every time you get in the plane, there's a 30-45 minute period of knocking off the rust before you can even get comfortable. By then, half the flight is over. And it'll go on like this every week.

Tell your students this! Tell them that if they want to save money & achieve their goals efficiently & safely, flying more will be the most beneficial method. It's a bigger commitment per week, but in the long run it'll all take less time & money.

I told students that flying more is better, but I also told them it's possible to get your license flying once a week because I did it when I first started! I also studied my ass off & chair flew several times a day...I couldn't fly more than once a week due to the money, & I worked two jobs to get my flight time in. Eventually, I moved up to twice a week by working it out with my employer & I'd come in late once a week. My CFI was awesome & would fly at 6am with me so I could be at work by 10am. With the help of my CFI, the understanding of my employer, & my own work ethic I was able to make 1-2x a week work.

This is not always the case. Not everyone has an employer willing to give them the extra time off, not every CFI wants to fly before the sun is up! 

Long story short, I made it sound like it was okay for everybody to fly once a week. That is not the case, & I communicated that poorly. Essentially every student that flew once a week with me eventually either quit, or bumped it up to 3x a week to achieve better results.

It's hard, but say no to anyone who tells you they can only fly once a week. It'll save you the heartache of seeing them frustrated at the lack of progress.

Flying is a commitment. You can't take a week off & pick up where you left off. There's an adjustment period that you'll end up paying for as a student. As a CFI, it's disheartening to see a student get upset with themselves for not improving as quickly as they want to.

To those of you who also flew once a week & made it, amazing work! It takes a lot of personal accountability to fly once or twice a week & successfully obtain your PPL. I definitely think there ARE people out there that can do it, but it's not the majority.

Establish Expectations - Student Goals

Last but not least, know what the student wants & how fast they want it. Better yet, know the best way they'll get it.

Understand their learning style. Do they like videos or do they prefer reading & taking notes? Do they learn best by doing or by watching?

Figure out what kind of learner you're working with & adjust your teaching accordingly.

Do they want to get their certificate in 6 months? Tell them they need to fly 4x a week & get their written test done ASAP, no exceptions. Do they want to go all the way & get their Commercial Certificate? Start treating them like a commercial pilot NOW. 

When my CFI found out I wanted to go all the way, he held me to Commercial Standards, not just Private Pilot. He told me to get my First Class Medical & ensured I knew my ground to commercial standards. By the time I actually took my Commercial Practical Exam, I was more than ready to knock out the oral & the flight.

Some students just want to fly for fun because they want to take their family on trips. Okay, then throw in some extra cross countries in their training. Ensure they are XC savvy so that they can execute those family trips with the utmost safety.

You're already taking steps toward your goals as a CFI building hours with instruction. Remember that & be grateful for every opportunity to fly! And do your due diligence by your students by understanding what THEIR goals are & how you can play a part in their journey.

I hope these three expectations help you establish a solid foundation of learning for you & your students. My partner always says, "To be unclear is to be unkind". 

So be very clear in what flight training requires & what you expect of the student from the start. 

Happy flying!



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