May 10, 2006
Pilot Dan, Pilot Kent, and Pilot Mike host a CFI Roundtable
discussion on "Learning to Fly"
- We're joined this episode by 3 CFIs
- CFI Ron "the Rev"
- CFI & AME Dr. Bruce Chien, M.D.
- CFI Joe, Pilot Mike's CFI
- The two most common questions are how much does it cost and how
long does it take?
- CFI Joe: The time depends on how much to you
put in to it and how you approach it and the cost is related to the
- CFI Bruce: Once taught a General Surgeon who
passed his checkride after 19 sequential days of instruction at a
cost today of about $5500. More typically, the cost would be about
- Potential students usually only listen to the low time and cost
- Why is the percentage of students who actually complete the
certification, so low?
- CFI Bruce: Some people just realize that
flying is not for them. Sometimes it's the student, sometimes the
CFI, and sometimes just the teaching technique
- CFI Joe: Agrees that flying is not for
everyone, but also agrees that anyone can learn to fly.
- What should a student look for when selecting a CFI?
- CFI Joe: Recommends the first 4 to 6 hours of
instruction be taken with 4 to 6 different CFIs. Realize that the
first few hours of instruction will be almost identical across
instructors, so use that time to learn the personality and teaching
style of the instructor so you can choose someone who's
- CFI Bruce: Also recommends flying with several
instructors and use your gut feeling to choose the one who could be
a mentor. There's a difference between instruction and education.
Even an excellent student, though, can learn from a miserable
- CFI Ron: Come to it from the perspective that
you are the customer, choosing a service provider. Look for
compatibility first, but ask a lot of questions about who the
person is, their background, their experience, their capabilities,
how they do business, and previous students. You are hiring a
person and need to make sure they fill your job requirements.
- Which is better, a full-time CFI building hours for an airline
job, or a part-time CFI who just enjoys the job?
- CFI Bruce: The connection and relationship
between the student candidate and the CFI is the most important.
Some CFIs just seem to have an ability to easily make that
- CFI Ron: Take a close look at the training
environment. A new CFI who's working for a structured flight
training school is much more desirable than one who is working
independently. The less structured the training environment, the
more important it is to have an experienced instructor.
- CFI Joe: The third option is a full-time CFI
who has lots of experience but has no interest other than to stay a
- CFI Ron: Agrees that those CFIs are usually
the best choice, but can be difficult to find.
- CFI Joe: Those CFIs are not necessarily the
best choice, but are just another option. It all comes back to the
match between the student and CFI being the most important
- There are resources where you can check an instructors
- Some CFIs have personal websites
- Chicago Flight Instructors Association
- CFI Bruce: The best way to find those
full-time CFIs is to ask other pilots
- How should a student candidate handle a less then enthusiastic
response when they first contact an FBO about learning to fly?
- CFI Ron: It's an old problem that exists
because the people that run FBO's are pilots, with little or no
experience in business, marketing, and customer relations.
- CFI Joe: The industry as a whole has a profit
structure that doesn't attract entrepreneurs
- CFI Ron: If you're treated well when you first
enter a flight school, and get the impression they are customer
oriented, that's a good sign.
- What is the most difficult stage of private pilot training?
- CFI Ron: The near-solo phase is the most
difficult and the most frustrating for the students
- CFI Bruce: Agrees with CFI Ron but adds the
stabilized approach and crosswind landings
- CFI Joe: Teaching crosswind landings is also a
tough time for the instructor
- Are there different tendencies between the young, middle age,
and elderly students?
- CFI Joe: Younger students tend to immediately
accept the different aspects of flying, but an elderly student
wants a more comprehensive understanding of the whole picture
before he or she will accept them.
- CFI Ron: Younger students to to be more
motivated and have good hand/eye coordination, but often don't have
very good learning skills. Older students tend to be better
learners, but lack some motor skills.
- CFI Bruce: The teaching has to be appropriate
to the student. This is why you need to find a mentor.
- Some students seem to think they can buy their way to a
- CFI Ron: Sometimes the hard charging attitude
of a successful businessman can be the wrong attitude for a
- Case study: Boise, ID Pilot lands and departs on a runway
closed for repairs at KSUN
- CFI Joe: Sometimes an instructor has to refuse
to sign a pilot off because he doesn't believe he is or ever will
be a safe pilot
- Is there a problem with CFIs and flight schools not emphasizing
the medical certificate prior to solo?
- CFI Ron: Always recommends obtaining the
medical early, but sometimes students put it off assuming all will
go well. A flight school needs to be up front about everything a
student needs to do.
- It's important to research any possible medical issues before
getting checked. AOPA can help with this.
- CFI Bruce: The average pilot age is older than
it used to be so they will have more disqualifying conditions.
There also seems to be more of a acceptance to take medications
that may disqualify you.
- CFI Joe: CFIs need to remind students to check
how any medications they may be taking will affect a medical
examination, before they go too far with their training
- CFI Bruce: Find a AME you can honestly discuss
any potential issues with, without filling out the actual
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