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Professionally Speaking

Create future training

How to be a great CFI

From day one with a student, you, the CFI, can work to make your future more rewarding, exciting, and fun.

First, tell students what a great airplane their trainer is. I can't remember how many times I have heard CFI comments that accomplish exactly the opposite. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life flying these dinky little trainers" is my least-favorite of all time, and I heard that almost immediately from my first CFI.

Let them know that their training airplane is a remarkable combination of safety, economics, stability, and reliability. Tell them why you admire it so much for what it is.

Then start creating your future. As you and the student taxi by a line of airplanes, or wait for your turn to take off, point out a particular airplane and say something like, "That four-place airplane is your next step after you get your private pilot certificate. It has more capacity, more speed, and more performance, and will be a perfect step up from this airplane." Or, "See that four-place retract airplane? You'll be flying those someday." Or, "You'll probably want to go straight from your private to get your commercial and instrument." Or, "You can learn to fly twin-engine airplanes like that someday."

What you're creating is a pilot who will want to keep moving upward and onward with you as his/her CFI. Those students make better pilots if only because they get more dual at the beginning of their flying, before they develop bad habits.

One caution: Be careful not to get them fixated too early on the super-slick, super-complex airplane that they really shouldn't fly until they have more experience. A student who is flying trainers today can become very excited about moving up to a Piper Warrior or Cessna Skyhawk. Why convince them that a SuperWhizBang is the perfect airplane? They'll live longer and fly more if you move them up one step at a time. Get them excited about each step up instead of one big leap up.

Another important factor is making sure they have fun learning with you today, so they'll want to continue their flying education with you. Many students feel nervous because flying is a totally new world. If you mention a (so-called)[?] vacuum pump, then take the trouble (during ground training) to show them what it looks like and what it does. You might take them out into the shop to meet the mechanic(s) and into the charter department to meet charter pilots. Students appreciate that, and it reassures them.

Let them know that the two of you can fly to a nearby airshow, fly-in, or aviation museum. You'll both have fun.

Funny thing--your students will tell their friends what a great CFI you are, and how they're going to go on to get their instrument ticket from you. You will benefit from the free advertisement and probably increase your business.

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

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