Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Finding CFIs

A recent aviation magazine article lamented the shortage of flight instructors and wondered where we will find them. According to the author, the industry just can't find CFIs.

Well, hogwash!

Offer $100,000 per year for CFIs, and you can hire them all day long. What the author really meant was that the industry can't find cheap CFIs anymore. Is that bad?

I started flying in the late 1960s. At that time and all during the decades since then, CFIs have sounded like Rodney Dangerfield - they can't get no respect. (Dangerfield, unlike CFIs, did at least get a lot of money. His penthouse apartment was a point of interest on the Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan.) CFIs actually have gotten a lot of respect; they haven't been paid much.

CFIs, quite simply, have been on the wrong side of a law that has affected aviation as much as the law of gravity - the economic law of supply and demand. It just ain't possible to negotiate for big bucks when there's a whole slew of people who want your job. Well, perhaps it's time for those who hire CFIs to get acquainted with the other side of supply and demand; the CFI finally is in a position to say, "Show me the money."

It is possible to find CFIs. Just offer more money.

You think it won't happen? Hell, it is happening. Look through any aviation publication these days, and you will see flight schools advertising for CFIs, and many of them are talking money. In AOPA Pilot, Embry-Riddle claims to have the industry's "best-paying flight instructor jobs." In AOPA Flight Training, AirStaff advertises a $36,000 annual salary plus a 401(k) plan, health and dental insurance, and vacation and sick leave. Wings Aloft pushes benefits, too, and brags about "excellent income potential."

What's happening here is that flight schools are doing what other employers are doing in this tight-labor economy - they're competing with dollars and benefits to attract good employees. They are acting just as if flight training is a real business.

We can expect this to have long-term ramifications. If instructing becomes a better job, then ? voila - more people will become CFIs. You can already see this beginning to happen as schools advertise to draw more students into this suddenly booming field. To the extent that schools do attract new students, they will need even more CFIs; the good times will roll, and all God's CFI children will surely dwell in the house of prosperity forever. Right?

Not so fast. Nothing lasts forever. Eventually, supply will meet demand, and stability will return. The big question is, at what level will it stabilize? Neither you nor I can answer that question. In the meantime, CFIs might be reminded of Kenny Rogers. After his song Lucille climbed to the top of the charts, Rogers said, "I've been in this business in good times and bad, and all I can say is, thank God for the good times!"

By Ralph Hood

Back to the Index of Instructor Reports