I'm getting my flight instructor license

The pilots on the boards may remember me as the guy who flew a Cessna into Kennedy Airport this winter. Well, now I’m going to get qualified to teach others how to do it.

I’ve been training the last few months to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), and will finish up this week. I’m doing my final week at a school that specializes in CFI training, and I’ll take my checkride next Saturday if all goes well.

Frankly, I’m quite nervous about the whole thing. I have about 350 hours of flight time, which isn’t a lot. But I’ve also squeezed a lot of good experience into that time. All the same, I do stop and wonder if I’m ready for this.

Recenly I’ve been flying right-seat with people, and that feels pretty comfortable now. But what I worry about is the responsibility of soloing students. My first instructor told me that was the hardest part of his job.

I’ve never failed a checkride so far, but I know the CFI test is a bitch (as it should be). So it’s with some trepidation that I pledge to bump up this thread next week with the results of my week at CFI school.

Any other instructors on the boards, feel free to give me lots of good advice!

Where are you in flight school?

My best friend and her husband were both CFI’s in Vero Beach. Just be prepared to work shitty hours with the occasional rude, unsafe ass who can’t follow directions. Neither one of them really loved being CFI’s, but kept repeating “hours, hours, hours” to keep themselves motivated.

I’ve completed my week here at CFI school. It’s gone pretty well, however my checkride has been rescheduled to Sunday due to a conflict in the examiner’s schedule.

During the week I came to know the FAR’s intimately. The book was practically chained to me, and I can now quote certain critical items from memory. I spent a lot of time developing lesson plans, and practicing classroom presentations. I like that stuff and don’t find it terribly difficult, although I did have to get deeper into some aspects of aerodynamics.

The flying part has gone fairly well. I haven’t spent a lot of time in complex aircraft (meaning the plane has retractable gear and a controllable prop), so I’ve had several procedures hammered into me. The first few days I had a tendency to forget to check gear lights, which is a big no-no. I’ve also gotten mixed up on the flight configuration necessary for various maneuvers (is it gear down and flaps up, or gear with flaps?).

The required maneuvers haven’t been too much trouble. Mostly it has been a matter of re-familiarizing myself with a few I haven’t done since my commercial license, such as 8’s-on-pylons and chandelles.

Today I flew with the chief flight instructor and he pronounced me ready for the checkride on Sunday. He pulled one very nasty trick though…

My instructor must have told him about my tendency to forget about checking the gear lights. So he arranged a “failure” to see if I would catch it. While I was occupied with a maneuver he turned the cockpit illumination knob to the night time setting. This lowers the brightness of all the instrument lights, making them nearly impossible to see in bright daylight. So when I lowered the gear, the three green lights appeared to not be lit.

When I came in to land I did remember to check the gear lights, only to find them not on. I aborted the landing, climbed, and tried to figure out what had happened. I cycled the gear, tapped on the panel, checked circuit breakers, and then started scratching my head.

The chief CFI let me squirm for a while, and asked what I would do next. I said I would try to get some sort of visual inspection from someone on the ground. He said good idea, but then let me in on what he had done. I said, “You know, tampering with an aircraft is a federal offense…” and we had a laugh.

Checkride on Sunday!

Gassendi –

I’m at over 1,000 hours and only considered myself a possible instructor after about 750. There’s no end of dumb things that we can do in an aircraft – and even 10,000-hour pilots forget a basic now and then.

Get the CFI and remember what they tell us all: “it’s a license to learn.”

Write down what your principals are. Keep a CFI journal (are there any CFI blogs?) to track progress and maybe write a book some day. Remember that we’re all missionaries for general aviation.

And get to work on the CFII!!

I spent more than a year teaching fixed wing before I transitioned to rotorcraft. Its true, the initial CFI test is the hardest. Most people will agree it is harder than the ATP. And I suspect that very few applicants ever truly feel prepared. The truth is, almost nobody is really good at instructing until they have actually been doing it a while. The good thing about that is that even the FAA knows it. At the beginning of my initial CFI, I had the absolute worst case of dry-mouth I had ever experienced.

Is there anyone around who took their initial CFI with the same examiner you are seeing - someone who could give you tips on what he/she generally focuses on? Always good to do your homework.

And no matter what preparation you have, the first solo endorsement you give will give you a big case of nerves.

Funny, when I was prepping for the CFI, it seemed insanely difficult. After teaching a while, it seemed as if the test ought to have been harder. Still, the CFII and MEI were a cakewalk in comparison.

One thing I found handy was to memorize the location in the FAR/AIM of anything that I couldnt recite easily. Giving exact references sped up my oral exam mightily. From my experience with about 15 different examiners and FAA inspectors, if you handle the oral well, the flight gets a lot easier.

Since I havent been on this board for long, tell me where you are located. And good luck.

Well, I’ve passed my checkride - I’m a CFI!

This was one heck of a long test. We started at 9:00 AM, and finished around 4:00. I felt like I talked non-stop for most of it. You’re supposed to be teaching the examiner everything rather than him just asking questions, and at times I wasn’t sure when to stop. A few times I think I went too far into whatever I was discussing.

The examiner was fair, and focused like a laser on the particulars of the regulations. There were a few areas that I thought I knew cold where he caught me in some nuances.

My teaching is fairly good, I think. So I didn’t have too much trouble on the ground instruction. The dumbest mistake I made today was when he asked to to teach about wake turbulence, and I launched into a 10 minute discussion of wind shear. After giving a good lesson on that topic, he said, “Well that was excellent, but I asked you about wake turbulence avoidance…”

Now that’s just stupid.

So I did a second lesson, this time on the subject he actually asked me about, and it was fine. “We were getting to that anyway,” he said.

He then asked me to do a weight and balance calculation, and plan out the checkride. This would demonstrate that I know what has to be included in the checkride, and would allow me to select the maneuvers.

So we went out and flew. I didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but I can’t say I did my best flying either. In any case, it was adequate to pass.

I was quite nervous today - much more so than on other checkrides. Generally, I’m very good under pressure. But today I was definitely on edge. I’m glad it’s completed, and I’m looking forward to instructing. But as has been noted earlier in this thread, this license is yet another “license to learn”.

Woohoo. Congratulations on the CFI. Time to start preparing for the CFII :smiley:

As you start instructing, make sure you are GOOD friends with the Chief Pilot (or whoever schedules students at your program) or at least pretend to be good friends with him. The CP will be key to dealing with problem students, and you will have some.

Fly safely and have fun

Congratulations!! A very impressive achievement! You don’t have many more hours than I do (275 I think - dunno where my log book is) and all I had was SEL and my instrument ticket. Of course, I haven’t flown since 1978, so I’m a wee bit out of practice. Stories like this make me want to fly again. Then I look at my bank balance and whimper. Good luck to you!

RotorHead: Hey, that’s my name on another board!

Congratulations, Gassendi! Geez, I just wish I had the time and money to persue my helicopter commercial rating!

Johnny L. A., no wonder I couldnt use it. Hmmm. Where are you located? If you are trying to get time toward the commercial, there are cheap ways. I found a great deal for getting turbine time in a Bell 206 much cheaper than the Schweizer CB. I started doing that right after my private add-on, and its saving me money.

Gassendi- congratulations, and welcome to the club. Now comes the hard part- actually doing the teaching.

RotorHead: 34° 01’N, 118° 24’W

I’m not ready for a turbine transition, since I can’t see using it until after I get a commercial.

Actually, the biggest hurdle is that I have entirely too many distractions in my home. There’s always something on the tube, I feel like going kayaking, there’s this message board, people and dogs making noise in the courtyard, and there’s “always time to study later”. I do much better in a classroom setting. Not only are there no distractions and temptations, but in a classroom someone might ask a question I never thought of asking. And if they ask a question to which I know the answer, then the knowledge is reinforced.

Unfortunately, unlike fixed-wing, there are no classroom-format helicopter ground schools.

Johnny L. A.,

I understand that. I am working on starting a business with one of my former fixed-wing students, and that is monopolizing my time, so 4-5 flights a month is good for me these days. I still only have the private rotor add-on, so I am somewhat in the same boat. Got to find the time to get the commercial and CFI add-ons, but I don’t know where I will find the time. Hope you get to do it. Do you get to do any flying at all, or is it all on the back burner these days?

It’s all on the back burner. I’m not current, and my medical expired last month. I’ve been busy trying to move to the Pacific Northwest (without any luck – “Local applicants only”), I’m having a '66 MGB restored from the ground up (costing more than I thought), and I think I’m getting a new motorcycle. I have the money, but I’m not anxious to spend it, and I never seem to have enough time.

That kindve sucks. After putting aviation on the back burner for too many years, I ended up quitting my job so that would be the only thing I was doing. And it was great, but now I am back to not flying much.

Were you flying schweizers or robbies?

About the only thing I know about CFI is that it technically stands for certificated flight instructor (not certified). That, and lots of commercial (ATP) pilots get it so they can build time on someone else’s dime.

Congrats Gassendi!

Brian, PP-ASEL

Yes, way to go Gassendi. I am about 2 months behind you, and nervous as hell.

Rotorcraft Rating is a-coming.

need… more… money

RotorHead: Both. The Robbo flies better, I think; but I like the real cyclic stick and the electric trim on the 300CB.

Nice to have a comparison. I have only ever flown the CB/CBi and the Bell 206. I like the space in the cockpit for the CB though. I’m a big guy- 6’ 2" and 230. The Robbie is just uncomfortable to even think about getting in. Even the 44 is a bit cramped.