AOPA Access

April 1, 1997

One of AOPA's premier member benefits is the team of dedicated pilots and instructors who interact one-on-one with members. Together, they own 11 aircraft and have more than 53,000 hours accumulated over 321 years in aviation. Any member can reach the specialists by calling 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), or through AOPA's World Wide Web site (

Flight instructors have a tough life. The pay can be dismal, the hours may be erratic, and the responsibility is onerous. Despite it all, we continue to instruct because we love it. But how do you stay current, especially if you work at an unrelated 9-to-5 job?

AOPA has tremendous resources available to CFIs that can help you to stay informed about regulatory changes and new technology. This information will be helpful to your students, too, whether they're pre-solo primary students or advanced pilots who come to you for transition training or instrument competency checks. Other information will help you to recruit and retain students.

Project Pilot Programs

AOPA Project Pilot Instructor provides CFIs with direct help in attracting and keeping students. In return for names of at least two active students, you receive regular newsletters containing up-to-date briefs on the newest technology, teaching techniques, and career guidance. A complimentary videotape explains techniques for recruiting and retaining new students. Your students receive the popular Barry Schiff flight training video and, of course, invitations to join AOPA. Why is this important? Surveys tell us that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their training than those who do not. CFIs earn a year's membership for every three students who join.

A companion program, Project Pilot Mentor, invites AOPA members to find prospective new student pilots among friends and coworkers, then mentor them through the training process. To date, AOPA members have nominated more than 20,000 new student pilots. AOPA support includes an informative newsletter, a videotape, and even a special issue of Pilot called "Invitation to Fly."

Continuing Education

Take advantage of the publications offered by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Last week, I scheduled a pilot for a flight review in his own airplane. Good thing we talked before the flight, because he wanted to learn how to fly GPS approaches. A well-written Safety Advisor booklet from the Air Safety Foundation called GPS Technology outlined the topics and techniques that I should teach during our session.

Other ASF Safety Advisors that instructors find helpful are:

  • Operations at Nontowered Airports
  • Instructor's Guide to the Pre-Solo Written Test
  • Single Pilot IFR
  • Pilot's Guide to the Flight Review
  • Airspace for Everyone

AOPA Air Safety Foundation Safety Advisors are available for the cost of postage — and don't forget ASF's flight instructor refresher clinics. Call ASF at 800/638-3101.

Straight Answers

Some of the most interesting questions that I hear from instructors come on Mondays after a long weekend of flying and hangar-flying.

"One of my students told me that I didn't need a medical to instruct," said one instructor. "If that is true, I'll eat my hat." I had to tell her that hats can be palatable if properly seasoned. Instructing sans medical can be legal, but there are some limitations.

"A flashlight with two D-cell batteries is required for night flight, right? I see it here in FAR Part 91, but then I read an article that said it ain't so." That requirement is in Part 91, all right, but it's in subsection F, which relates only to large (gross weight more than 12,500 pounds) multiengine airplanes or turbine-powered airplanes.

Hot Topics

More and more "topic sheets" answering common instructor questions are being loaded onto AOPA's World Wide Web site (

Other Resources

Need financial help? AOPA keeps tabs on many aviation-related scholarships. This otherwise-hard-to-find information is available free to members.

Want aviation statistics? To answer pointed questions about general aviation safety, numbers of aircraft, or equipment in use, check AOPA's "Fact Card."

For more information on any of these topics, call the toll-free pilot assistance line, 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).

Rob Hackman, 26, graduated with an aviation degree from Hesston College in Kansas in 1991. Before becoming a full-time CFI and traffic pilot, he labored as a steelworker in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He joined AOPA in February 1996 as an aviation specialist.