Changes are coming
Are you ready for these market trends?
There are several things happening that will influence the market for CFIs, and many of them are positive.
Flight training will be a major need as very light jets (VLJs) enter the marketplace. Training will be especially critical for owner-flown VLJs, and not just because insurance companies will require this training. For these aircraft to succeed in the marketplace, their safety record must be good. Somebody must train these pilots, and that will tend to increase demand for CFIs and thus tend to raise CFI salaries. (Note carefully the use of the word "tend." That doesn't mean it will happen. There are other influences in the marketplace that may offset this tendency.)
Ah, you might say, VLJ flight training will only employ CFIs at the top of the heap. They aren't going to use beginning CFIs to teach people to fly jets. True, but to the extent that the VLJ market attracts those top-of-the-heap CFIs, it will remove them from competing with beginning CFIs. Basically, anything that employs more CFIs at any level is good for all CFIs at all levels. Next, someone must train pilots for the emerging light sport aircraft (LSA). Nobody knows for sure how big this market will be, but the fact that Cessna took an LSA "proof of concept" to EAA AirVenture this year says a lot. Cessna has a record for betting successfully on new airplanes for new markets (can you say Citation? Caravan?). Once again, a healthy LSA market will increase demand for CFIs, which will tend to raise CFI pay. (An economist might say it will put an "upward pressure" on pay.)
Another factor: AOPA is expanding its Project Pilot program to increase student starts and retention. You can read more about that elsewhere, but one fact is evident. When AOPA moves, things happen. It's not a question of will they create new pilots, it's a question of how many. Those new pilots will have a positive influence on demand for CFIs.
It may be hard to believe, but according to business publications, the airlines are on the cusp of tremendous, long-term growth. I first read of this several months ago in The Economist, a world-class magazine of unbelievably good repute. It has been repeated since by many credible sources. This airline growth will increase demand for CFIs and reduce supply as more pilots go to work for the airlines. True, there are offsetting influences. Aircraft and fuel prices are the most obvious, but remember that LSAs cost less to buy and use very little fuel. Our pilot population grows older each year, but AOPA hopes to counter that with Project Pilot.
All in all, it appears--to me, at least--that the positive forces outweigh the negative. Perhaps the sun will indeed shine more brightly on the world of aviation, and all God's CFIs will prosper. I certainly hope so. One thing's for sure. Those CFIs who start now to align themselves with these market trends are most likely to reap any resultant benefits.
Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying since 1971 and has more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. Visit his Web site.
By Ralph Hood