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Professionally Speaking

Expanded Instruction

As the song says, "Wouldn't it be wonderful?"

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a way for CFIs to make more money and have more fun doing something that improves general safety?

Perhaps there is.

There is no federal aviation regulation that says CFIs must spend all of their time training pilots to obtain certificates. In fact, the most money in flight training may well be in transition and recurrency training.

The primary training market is very competitive. Prices are known by all, and they tend to be pushed by competition to the lowest possible level in any given market. The private pilot course is wrongly, but strongly, perceived by many to be almost a commodity, like corn and wheat. Anyone with a telephone and a copy of the Yellow Pages can - and does - compare private pilot training prices throughout the market. Since the new primary student doesn't know enough to compare anything else, he tends to compare flight schools on price alone.

Recurrency training is different. It is purchased by those who have gained enough knowledge of the product to buy on price and quality, rather than just on price.

Even the newest CFI can start tomorrow to build her own personal recurrency training business. As you train people for their private certificate, emphasize that regular recurrency training should be routine for every pilot at every level. Point out that airline pilots get more regular checks than anyone, even though they are monitored closely by other professionals on each and every flight. Surely that is one of the main reasons for the airlines' near-perfect safety record.

Point out to your students that if the professional airline pilot - who flies regularly and has a crew on every flight - benefits from a checkride every six months, then the general aviation pilot - who may fly only a few hours each year, usually solo - can benefit even more.

In other words, create within your students the idea that professionalism includes regular checkrides. Lord knows it's the truth. That's why insurance companies insist that pilots of more sophisticated aircraft obtain regular currency training.

So set up a tickler file - by computer or on paper - to alert you when one of your certificated pilots approaches the six-month mark. Remind her - by mail, e-mail, or personal contact - that if she were flying for the airlines, they would be scheduling a checkride for her about now.

Does this work? Yes indeed. Every CFI who does it will tell you that it does indeed work. Furthermore, it gives the CFI a chance to participate in a more advanced type of instruction on a regular basis.

Another advantage: You can continue this type of instruction even after you move up to fly that Boeing 747. Check it out. Most areas of our country have at least one airline pilot who is busy conducting recurrency training - on a very professional level for good money - when not flying the heavy iron.

There you have it: Make more money, have more fun, improve general aviation safety. Such a deal!

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.

By Ralph Hood

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