Real Answers from Real Pilots

About to start working as a CFI...any tips or thoughts?

Hi everyone! This is Alex, I’ve been posting here before and I’m the one that got back in aviation after a nine years “coffee break” doing a different career. I just got hired as a CFI and I’m about to start working in a couple of weeks. I did put a lot of effort in the last few months to get back in aviation, studying and flying and here I am, 340 hrs total about to start this new exciting chapter of my life.
I’m sharing this because I’m also a lil nervous, I’m thinking about how am I gonna do with my really first student, how can I approach the first few students and make sure that they are not disappointed because they just had a brand new CFI assigned? How did you guys felt when you were in my shoes? Any tips or thoughts?
Also should I tell my first, second, third student that they are my first students?
For me it has been a fantastic experience learning how to fly, but obviously at my hrs I still have a lot to learn and I believe that if I will ever be an airline pilot one day, I will stop learning the day I die.
I’m excited about teaching people how to fly and I feel it’s also a big responsibility and I’m gonna put lot of effort and aim to be as much professional as I can be.
I also saw some comments here and there from students saying that they were looking at their instructor like somebody that was just trying to build his hours and didnt care about them and plus they paid lots of money for that. I would seriously hate if that happen to me! I would feel that I failed something! I want students to like me, I want also share my passion of flying with them or anybody that like aviation. I dont wanna be bossy or arrogant, I wanna be a professional instructor and teach, coach them and leave some good memories of their flying training with me.
Any advice to achieve this?
Of course I’m gonna build my hours and I will try to be an airline pilot, but my attitude is not like using student for that! I saw a very cool instructor on youtube that is really inspiring, he’s an airline pilot now and he still works as a CFI when he’s off. Awesome guy! Hat off to him…

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCPiPmwDammRsj7ZIzKyc74A&ved=2ahUKEwjwt-zpg8XlAhUITKwKHaaeALgQjjgwAHoECAMQAQ&usg=AOvVaw2l07pIZ2xp34CY3fZIKGDu

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Alex,

I believe just the fact that you’re cognizant of the type of instructor you don’t want to be makes it clear you’ll be a good instructor. The fact you’re excited and want to share your affection for aviation will all translate well. I don’t think it’s necessary for you to tell your students they’re your first, second, etc. (more for their comfort) but if it comes up I wouldn’t lie either.

The most important thing is do your best and be safe. You’ll find out what works and doesn’t. You will make mistakes but this is how we learn. Again the fact you care speaks volumes. Oh and don’t forget to have fun!

Adam

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Accept the fact that you will make mistakes and teach someone something incorrectly—then own up to the mistake and try to fight the law of primacy to undo the “damage”. Stay humble and remember that while it may be your 3rd or 4th flight of the day and you had several dozen “slam-and-goes” with your students prior, it’s the next guy’s first flight of the day and he deserves the best “you”. Shine on, crazy diamond! I bought the CFI’s Survival Guide book and started reading it early on. It’s well written and an easy read—many useful stories and tips in it. Good luck out there on the front lines! Keep the shiny side up and the oily side down…

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Alex,

I did not tell my first students that they were my first when I was a new CFI, no student wants to hear that. I was also very young and looked like I was twelve, so that didn’t help my case either.

I was of course very nervous, but you very quickly realize that you know a lot more than the students know and that they are looking to you for guidance and insight. Of course this is a doubt edged sword of being both confidence building and nerve wracking.

Please, please, please don’t ever be that guy that is just there to build flight hours and get to the airlines. Those are the worst and no student wants to fly with them. A wise old CFI once told me “We are not here to build time for the airlines, we are here to provide the best instruction possible. If you do that, you will have all the flight time you can possibly handle.” He was right.

Ditch the words “wanna” and “gonna”. I know this doesn’t relate to aviation, but part of being a professional is speaking and writing like one. Little things matter.

Good luck with your instructing!

Chris

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Alex,

In addition to what everyone else has said, be mindful of having the right balance of humility and confidence. You’re a new CFI. There’s room for you to improve your confidence. That will come with time, but it needs to come quickly if it’s not already there.

Not enough confidence could negatively affect your students’ trust. Not enough humility could negatively affect your students’ respect for you. A CFI that balances those two characteristics shows a student that not only can they trust you with their time and money, but also you’re a respectable pilot that cares about the students.

What helped me with my confidence in the beginning were my lesson plans. I wove the ACS into my lesson plans as much as I could. Then, during ground lessons or debriefings I would take notes on what was satisfactory or unsatisfactory. That allowed me to go back and review the unsat items with the student until the student could demonstrate satisfactory knowledge and application.

Another thing that helped was listening and talking with other CFIs at the training center. You’ll quickly pick up things from other CFIs that you would have never thought was important to teach. When you hear those things, take note of them. Talk to them if you can. If you truly care about your success as a CFI and the success of your students training, learning helpful tips, tricks and techniques will inevitably happen. Your ears will become tuned to sound bites of information. You will easily be able to pick out which CFIs are on a higher level. Gravitate towards those CFIs.

Tory

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Excellent points raised by Tory.

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You guys are awesome! I read your answers ten times and I’m going to make treasure of all the tips and suggestions that you guys have provided. I’m going to have some challenges, I sure will make mistakes and I will also learn a lot. Like Chris friend said, I will strive to provide the best instruction possible. I have a lot of humility already, but I definitely need to build some more confident…that’s why I keep studying and reviewing things, the more prepare I am, the better I feel about teaching. As far as flying, the most challenging thing for me is being able to talk through as I perform the manuevers. I’m a bit nervous, but I also have this incredible feeling just thinking about that in two weeks I will be sitting on the right seat, flying, teaching, talking on the radio and make the guy sitting next to me a new pilot. That’s awesome!
Thank you guys for all your precious comments and congratulations for all your achievements in your career. I appreciate the fact that even if you’re light years ahead of me, you are still taking the time to help newbies out and contribute to make the aviation community great!

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Anytime. Let us know how else we can help you.

Chris

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I had no idea I was my first instructor’s first student (until years later) and he was by far the best instructor I ever had – patient, smart, but when he didn’t know something off the top of his head he wasn’t too proud to admit it and re-learn/study it. You could tell he really cared, was putting in a lot of effort, instilled confidence in me, and I went to every checkride feeling prepared and confident .

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Thank you Tracy for sharing your experience…that was nice to hear. I’m going to put in a lot of effort too, I always did it on every job I ever had, plus I’m really enthusiast and excited and this should reflect on all my students too. I’m going to make it fun whenever possible, people pay lots of money for training, so why not learning and have fun at the same time. I don’t care if I did a thousand touch and go and twelve hrs at the flight school per day, I will be excited every single minute until the end of the day. I’ve been dreaming about this for so many years and I’m used to work 14 hrs a day as a truck driver, working nights and weekends, but now that I’m going to do what I really love, I’m on top of the world! Can’t wait to start!

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Hi everyone,

I would like to say thank you to all the mentors on this website for all the tips and info that you guys shared with me and for answering to all the questions that I had.
I would like to share my adventure as a CFI especially with all the people out here that are considering starting late in aviation like I did. I’ve been working as a CFI, CFII for four months right now and it has been a fantastic experience, I was able to sharpen my flying and knowledge skills and made some great friends. I am 39 and I made this career change, this is the best choice I ever made in my life. I had to downsize several things in my life to afford to live on a flight instructor salary, but I have no regrets and teaching people how to fly, sign their logbook for their first solo and take them all the way to the checkride it has been really rewarding. It’s definitely awesome to be back in the air and I hope one day I can be a pilot.

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Alex,

Thank you for coming back to share your insights and kind words. I am glad it is going well for you.

Chris

Beyond what has been said previously, my thoughts have always been.

“My students success is my success.”

Now for each student that is different, and how you get to that will be different but if you have that attitude you will will successful.