CRM for success
It's not just in the cockpit
Many of my clients ask, "What are your secrets to success as a flight instructor?"
With more than 7,500 hours of dual given, I can honestly say that there really aren't any secrets. Just instruct with integrity and use all available resources, also known as cockpit resource management (CRM). Remember that CRM does not have to be limited to the cockpit; it can be extended outside the cockpit as well.
CRM means using every resource at your disposal. In the cockpit, it might include advice from other crewmembers, help from air traffic control, using other equipment in the panel, or even suggestions from an alert passenger. How about using that same CRM concept outside the cockpit, to ensure your career success?
A couple of years ago, several of my mentors (yes, even we old "graybeards" have mentors) suggested that I should apply for the National Flight Instructor of the Year award. I wasn't sure how one would begin to apply for such an honor. Adopting the principle of using "all available resources" from the cockpit, I looked everywhere, found the General Aviation Awards application package with complete directions on AOPA Online, and downloaded it.
Each CFI of the Year competition is part of a larger awards program run by 13 sponsoring groups, including AOPA and the FAA, among others. The application requires candidates to show activity in three areas: professional activities; pro bono service to the aviation community; and continuing professional education and development.
Showing "professional activities" wasn't difficult, as it wouldn't be for any active CFI, but resources for the other two -- pro bono service and continuing education -- may be more difficult to come by.
Applying the principles of CRM, I continued my search and found a gold mine: the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Online Safety Center. It's a CRM resource not to be missed. For instance, one form of pro bono service I could include in my application package was presenting safety seminars. Not all CFIs have the skills to write and produce seminars, but ASF has a dozen or more different prepackaged "Seminar-in-a-Box" programs that provide everything needed to present a safety seminar to local pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Presenting safety seminars has multiple benefits, the most important of which is advancing the cause of aviation safety. Furthermore, you are satisfying the requirements for pro bono service, as well as giving back to the aviation community. And you will be revealing your talents to potential clients. Most likely, you will acquire some new flight students for your efforts.
As every CFI knows, the FAA's Pilot Proficiency Awards (Wings) program requires that participants attend a seminar and then obtain three hours of flight training, including an hour of maneuvers, an hour of takeoffs and landings, and an hour of instrument flight. Many of the clients who come to me for the flight-training portion first met me when I presented a safety seminar; there were times when that seminar was an ASF Seminar-in-a-Box.
Not all instructors feel confident enough to stand in front of a group and present a seminar, but still want to increase their client base by offering Wings programs. Many of the ASF online courses qualify for the ground-training portion of the program. If you have a Wings client who hasn't had time to attend a live safety seminar, point him or her to one of ASF's online interactive courses, such as "Say Intentions" or "SkySpotter." In a short time -- usually less than an hour -- your clients can complete the Wings ground-training requirement.
While we're talking about ASF online courses, remember that they're good for CFIs as well as for students. I have personally used them for my ongoing Wings recurrency training as well as to satisfy some of the continuing professional education and development requirements of the awards application. They're also fun, informative, and challenging.
Other tools available to any active CFI include AOPA Flight Training magazine, AOPA Flight Training Online, live ASF safety seminars, flight instructor refresher clinics (FIRCs), and Pilot Town Meetings. Schedules for all of these can be found on AOPA Online.
Even if you don't aspire to apply for the GA Awards program, I'm sure you aspire to be more professional. By using all the resources available, you can easily increase your market base while improving the quality of your instruction. There are many other ASF tools that can be applied to your career. Remember, CRM works outside the cockpit, too.
Doug Stewart is the 2004 National CFI of the Year and owns DSFI, Inc., a flight school located at the Columbia County Airport in Hudson, New York. He is a designated pilot examiner and safety counselor for FSDOs in Windsor Locks and Albany. E-mail him.