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Are you wanting to enter the world of teaching and become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)? This license will be different than any other training you’ve done, from the training and experience itself, all the way through the checkride.

The big thing about becoming a CFI is two fold… caring for your students and simply teaching really well. With those two pillars, it really is that ‘easy’.

In this podcast we will discuss:

  • The TWO tests you now need to take for the Written Test (and why you don’t need endorsements)
  • Flight Training experience, which is really TEACHING experience
  • Why the checkride will be one big ‘role play’
  • How being a mentor is central to your role
  • And much more!

We need more teachers in aviation, and I really encourage pilots to try it out and see if it’s something they like, but only if you’re doing to do GREAT by your students and really help them in all ways.

[vc_toggle title=”Episode Transcript”]

On this episode of Aviator Cast, The Path To Success and CFI Training.

Welcome aviators to another episode of Aviator Cast. Load up your flight bag with useful flight training topics, interviews and aviation passion. Let’s kick the tires, and light the fires. Coming to you from Angle of Attack headquarters in Homer, Alaska, here’s your host and flight instructor, Chris Palmer.

Welcome aviators to another episode of Aviator Cast. My name is Chris Palmer, from Angle of Attack. It’s great to have you here. It’s a beautiful fall, sunny day, kind of. Actually, the sun’s kind of coming out. It was raining earlier. Kind of a weird time of year for weather here.

Just took some pictures just a few minutes ago, out on the Lake. Beautiful still water, float planes, beautiful colors behind them. I’m sure I’ll put some of those photos on Instagram.

Anyway, today we are going to talk about a subject that I’m very passionate about. We’re going to be talking about CFI training. Now, as a CFI, I really, really, really have some deep opinions about this. I definitely want to teach you guys what I think is required of CFIs, to become the best possible CFI they can be. Of course, we do that through training and through a process where we grow into that.

Now, I think that this comes with a little bit more insight into who we are as people first, before we dive into this. So, have you always wanted to share aviation in this way, and maybe share it with others? Maybe not even this way, but maybe you’ve wanted to share aviation with others.

Do you consider yourself a good teacher in your profession, or in some other way? Do you feel like you can teach people well? Are you passionate about helping future aviators? Do you want more people in aviation? Do you want to make a real difference in someone’s career? And do you want to learn more about aviation at a faster pace than ever before? Become the best pilot you could possibly be? That is going to be what we discuss today and a lot of that has to do with becoming a CFI.

Now. I’ll just preface it with saying that, for me, this is the path that I’ve chosen, at least so far, in aviation. This is basically where I’m going to be staying unless something else kind of crazy happens. But I want to be a lifelong educator. I want to keep giving back in this way because I’ve really enjoyed this. I’ve really enjoyed being a CFI. I’ve enjoyed the type of training that I’ve been able to do for people, and actually see people go through and reach their aviation goals because of what I was able to share with them. I not only do that through flight training at my flight school here in Homer, Alaska, is where we’re located. But I also do it through my website, where I do online ground school. So, really enjoy that and this is my career. This is what I’ve chosen, I really enjoy it.

Now, because of that, I’ll give you this warning. That if you aren’t passionate about teaching, and you aren’t going to do the absolute best for your students and really take care of them on a human level, then please find another way to build your time or become a better pilot. We don’t need people that aren’t passionate about teaching to become CFIs. It actually just hurts the industry. It pushes people out, because they don’t get the proper introduction to aviation. They have too many roadblocks to aviation. They feel like they’re being held back. They’re mostly being held back from their instructors, who, for one reason or another, just don’t want to teach, aren’t good at teaching, their heart isn’t in it, whatever it is. Do everyone a favor, and don’t become a CFI, okay? I know that sounds weird. Like totally opposite of… Not totally opposite of what I’m talking about. But I just want to preface it that way. With a warning that, please don’t become a CFI if your heart isn’t going to be in it. All right?

So this is a really interesting training process because it’s unlike anything else that you’ve done before. It’s unlike private instrument or commercial, you are going to go into the process and really focus on people. I think that’s the biggest message I want to get across in this podcast. It’s really actually all about the people you are teaching and becoming better at reading them, at getting to know them, at helping them overcome their plateaus and things like that. It’s all about the people. So a lot of people look to a CFI and they say, “Okay, well, here’s this person who went through a ton of training and they know everything, and I can go to them with any possible question I have.”

But I’ll tell you that that nine times out of 10, when some people come to me with questions, I typically don’t know what they are. I mean, I guess that’s maybe unfair, but if it’s a difficult question, they’d come to me with a difficult question, I don’t necessarily know what they are. I know where to find them and where to look. And that is basically what makes an instructor good is where they look for it. In other words, we aren’t know it all’s, we don’t know everything, but we know where to look. So set that part aside on CFIs knowing every everything because the prefacing with that, make sure that we aren’t talking through this podcast, this path to CFI training, success about how to cram all the knowledge you possibly can into your head. That really this process is going to become more of something on the human level.

So being a CFI isn’t about knowing everything. Being a CFI is about mentoring. Being a CFI is about teaching. Being a CFI is about the student. At the end of the day, that’s all it is about. Everything you do throughout your training should speak to the ultimate goal of guiding someone through this process. So no matter what what you do, no matter how you train, your ultimate goal should be, how do I best help this person, this individual, that has this passion for aviation or this desire to want an aviation career, whatever it is, how do I help them reach that goal? Regardless if you’re in a part 141 school or a part 61 school, regardless, on a human level, you need to be focused on the individual. It’s so, so important. So that is what this training is going to all be about.

Now I want to talk about some of the steps through the training that I think you should focus on. So we’re going to talk about how to prepare for that CFI training. And of course it always starts with the knowledge, right? And I know I just kind of talked about the knowledge and how it isn’t that big of a deal. Well, you do have to go through and you do have to do certain tests, of course, written tests. You will do the FOI, the fundamentals of instruction, and you will do the flight instructor airplane test.

Now you can get your CFII before you get your CFIA, basically. CFI aircraft. So some people do it the other way before they do the CFIA. But regardless, you’re going to take a couple of written tests are going to go through a study for those. You should be a professional at doing that now going through doing that. And of course, you can do that ground school with us. I will be doing a CFI ground school eventually. I’m pretty passionate about this topic so I wouldn’t be surprised if CFI training ends up being kind of one of the cornerstones of what we do at Angle of Attack in the longterm, that really prepares CFIs to teach well and to teach passionately, and to be good mentors and be good people, and to be good to people. All right.

So you go through this process, you are essentially learning how to teach. That’s what the FOI, fundamentals of instruction, is trying to do. I will say that the FOI in the book that comes for that from the FAA, you can download it freely. I bought a hard copy just because I buy hard copies of kind of all the basic documents from the FAA or textbooks. It’s very wordy. It’s very hard to read, but the premise of the of the concepts is correct and knowing and learning those is very important on how you can help your students.

It really, actually, at the end of the day, the FOI is psychology, teaching psychology for instructors as it applies to aviation. So it’s how to read people, how to make sure they’re comfortable, how to help them get over plateaus. So it does a handful of things there, but in kind of in a very rigid left brain way in kind of how I see it. But at the end of the day, I think it’s all summed up in this idea that you’re just really good to people and you make sure that your students are taken care of. And that you’re creative about how you help them become the best them, and reveal in them, the qualities that it takes to be a pilot. And it’s different for everyone. So, that’s why as an instructor, it’s good to have some tools in your belt, ways to switch gears, ways to teach different things in a different way. Allow people to make their mistakes, correct them at certain stages. There’s so many different ways to learn and finding how that applies to that specific student at that time is the mark of a quality instructor. All right.

So there are these written tests you take. I think you guys know enough by now to be able to dive in and learn about that. And that’s all good and fine. Okay. We always do that with probably anything in aviation training anyway. So the big part, and this is again kind of hand in hand with the most important aspect of being an instructor, is that you’re good to people, is that you are a teacher. All right? I know it sounds odd, but you are a teacher of these students and so this process of training is, you learn by teaching. So you are going to do your training by training others. All right. Practice teaching in other words. Teaching others is so, so, so huge. If you can find a flight school to link up with that’s local or opportunities where you can go and mock teach or teach for real, that is the absolute biggest preparation that you can do for your CFI test.

There’s a certain amount of regulations and paperwork, and endorsements, and things that you need to know. Okay? As always, we’re adding some on to what we know how to do, but at the end of the day, the most important thing you need to know how to do is to teach and the best way to learn how to teach is to teach.

All right, so you are going to find those opportunities to go out and teach others. I think that this can start fairly early on. Doing it last second, going through this process of just trying to knock out a CFI, I don’t think it’s the best way of learning the teach. I think if eventually someday you want to become a CFI, you start teaching right now. All right? You begin this process of teaching others and by the time you get to your CFI, you will have had practice at actually teaching and you will be much better off for it. So that is my advice is the practice teach. That’s the best advice I can give throughout this entire process.

So again, link up with a local flight school, try to find those opportunities to teach. Do it often. Of course, we would be under the watchful eye of another instructor and they can verify what you’re saying, and add to it, and make sure that the student does get a good result at the end of the day, a quality result, an accurate result. But it’s how you’re learning too. So everyone benefits. It’s kind of a cool way to benefit everyone at the same time.

All right, creating lesson plans. You’ll learn about lesson plans when you go through your FOI. I think it’s worth exploring other ways to do lesson plans. I don’t necessarily believe in this rigid way of doing lesson plans. They have it laid out in the FOI, but be creative, be holistic. Bring in different options and different things that you can use to teach a lesson. Have analogies to different things that are outside aviation. Don’t just be so rigid about this process. Let you come out in this process. So if you’re wanting to be an instructor, I’m guessing that you’ve had some experience behind you, definitely some life experience. Bring that to the table, okay. Try to offer something that is above and beyond, and just really put all of you into these lesson plans, and do it in a unique way. A Unique way to you as the teacher. Okay?

Again, at the end of the day, this isn’t about you as a teacher. It’s about the student. So whatever you need to do to make sure that the student reaches their end result is how you know that effective teaching actually happened. It’s not about how well you can memorize how to do a maneuver or how great you can teach it on the ground, or how you can recite this and that and the other, or this technique that you’ve been using that seems to work for everyone, but it’s not working for this other person, the way you effectively teach is by making sure that they reach that end result, so that takes some experience. You’re learning by experience, by actually teaching, and that’s how you are preparing on the ground. You are teaching and then you’re teaching some more, and then you’re teaching some more, and then you do some teaching, and then you’ll do some more teaching, and then you’ll teach. All right, teach, teach, teach, keep teaching. Very, very important.

Now your checkride is pretty interesting because while the DPE is going to make sure that you know how to legally take students through this process, in other words, you know how to fill out their logbooks, you know how to do the endorsements, there are certain basics that you know. You’re going to go into this checkride largely taking the position of a CFI and you are going to be role playing. Okay? So you are going to be acting like an instructor in your checkride, you’re going to be teaching the DPE, pretending that they don’t know more than you do. You’re going to be teaching the DPE as a beginning student and going through that process, okay? The DPE typically asks you to do certain lessons before the checkride. You’ll prepare for those and you’ll teach those specific lessons. All right? And then you’ll go up and do the skills part of it too in the actual airplane, and teach and evaluate some stuff from the airplane. Have a good debrief.

So basically, if you would have done the experience of teaching before while you are learning how to teach, you get to the checkride and you are already a quality teacher. Okay? You know how to teach this DPE, this student, the things that are asked of you, the things that you need to teach them. So for me, my CFI checkride was one of my easiest because I had a lot of experience teaching and it worked out really well. I just like, I was good with people and I could talk to them, and I could evaluate my DPE. And while I went through the maneuvers and showed him certain things, it became so much more about the actual teaching and having a quality lesson for that student than it was about me knowing everything. Okay? So I just want to point that out once again that it’s about how you teach and that will be what you’re doing in the checkride is role playing and that’s pretty cool. All right.

So that’s kind of it. You’re going to go through this process. You are going to learn how to teach. I think there’s a cadence to teaching. I think there’s a simplicity of teaching. I think it can be fun. It should be fun. And again, just bring you to the table and I think it’s going to work out well in the end. And just, again, in your flight training, and do this on the ground to teach, teach, teach. You’re teaching in the airplane as well, and then you’ll eventually end up with that checkride. Everything will just feel natural, and then you’ll deal with the rest. We all know that we have to step up to the plate to a certain extent and it’ll all work out. Okay?

So tips for success. You know what I’m going to say again, I’m going to say the T word. So teach. Teach well, teach quality knowledge. Teach on a human level. Okay? Sometimes we don’t need to cram a bunch of information down people’s throats just cause we know how to do the private pilot level, the commercial pilot level, and we know how to do it so well. We know how to stop so fast, we know how to land so slow. Anyway, you don’t need to impart all of your knowledge. Just know how to teach them at the right time with the right methods in the right way, and it’ll work out real well. Okay?

Care for your students. Care for those people that you were going to teach. At the end of the day, they are going to emulate what you do. They are going to go out and fly their friends and their families around for years to come. And so you have such a huge impact at this beginning stage, so you really need to care about them, what they’re going through, how to get them to that place, and it should all work out pretty well. Okay?

And then of course the last one, the last tip for success is just be you. I think that this is a understated that we just need to be ourselves, be a unique instructor. We don’t have to be a certain model that is completely laid out by the FOI, that you bring certain aspects to this industry as a CFI, and be you. Be unique and bring the talents that you have to this industry.

I really, really, really want instructors to enter this industry. I think we’re getting to a point now with the pilot shortage where instructors are being looked at and and properly compensated, or at least it’s becoming a big conversation on compensating instructors correctly and keeping them around for those that just really love to teach or are good at it, or both. And so this is a great profession. I think it’s a great way to build time.

So if you fit that mold of just being someone that really cares about people and you want to help people in the future, and you want to help them get to those goals, and you want to make a difference, please consider becoming a CFI. They are needed right now and you will be rewarded for it. And I know that if you have any inkling that this is something you want to do, you’ll really enjoy this process and you’ll learn a whole lot along the way. And I really love being an instructor. It’s the funnest thing I’ve done as a pilot. That’s why I continue to instruct students, even though I have a busy business here online, I will always teach real people because that is what matters to me the most. I want people to achieve their goals and I want them to get where they want to go.

And so seeing that process happen in real life is so cool. To see the first flight that I took with somebody all the way through to the end where it’s kind of freaky. I’ll be thinking, “Okay, now they need the [inaudible 00:20:38] next.” And then I see my student reach for the [inaudible 00:20:40]. “Okay, now I think they need a notch of flaps.” They reach for the flaps. “All right, now I would reduce,” and they reach for the power. It’s crazy. They become you, and it’s so cool to see that process happen. It’s humbling, it’s fun. If you want to do this, do it. It’s a really, really great thing.

So that is the path to success in CFI training. Let me know in the comments, the time code of what you guys liked the best in this podcast, so I can do more things like that.

And I hope you got something out of this. If you have any questions, by the way, you can always ask those, regardless of where you’re at. I’m happy to answer questions, be part of a conversation. I’m very big on that of course, because my ultimate goal is to be good to people and and have this means something to you. So this isn’t just one way. I don’t really like to just talk. It’s tough for me to set up all this podcasting equipment and just sit here and talk. I don’t feel like I need that for my ego. All right. But I do it because I feel like it will help you and I hope that you guys feel that.

All right, so thanks for being here. Thanks for being part of this and pass a good message along, regardless if you become a CFI or not. And thank you for doing what you do and being you. All right. Until next time, throttle on.

We sincerely thank you for joining us on Aviator Cast. Please subscribe through your favorite podcast service and leave a review. Check out more flight training resources at, there you can find this podcast, many free aviation training videos, as well as online ground school for private instrument, commercial, and CFI.

Got a checkride coming up? Checkride ACE from Angle of Attack is your ultimate companion, guiding you through the process, so you can conquer your big day.

Thanks once again for joining us on Aviator Cast. Turn left, contact ground point niner.



Chris Palmer

Chief Flight Instructor and President of Angle of Attack. Founded in 2006.


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