For me, it’s that time again: Flight Instructor Certificate Renewal
I graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology back in 2005. I worked for and received my B.S. in Aeronautical Science with the intention of becoming a career pilot. After graduation, I moved down the street to Vero Beach to teach at the FlightSafety Academy. I absolutely loved teaching students how to fly and advance into a career in aviation.
As this was my first paid post as a pilot, I was (pardon the expression) on cloud nine. The hours were long, the days were many, but waking up at 04:30 to meet my students on time was enjoyable for me. I’d wanted to fly since I was 3 and I was finally getting paid to do it. Additionally, the gratification of seeing a student’s understanding happen was amazing for me. In a way, I miss it. But, in others I’d rather never do it again. I miss the romance of it all, to be honest. But, there’s no way I could support my family on that income today. It wasn’t enough for me to even support myself, really. But it was all a stepping stone into a career I’d always wanted.
I decided to teach because I wanted to learn
My first flight lesson was cancelled on the morning of September 11th. I woke up that day to my flight instructor calling me and telling me to turn on the tv to understand why my lesson would not take place. If you were around for that event, I’m sure you remember exactly where you were. I was in Roberts Hall at FIT in Melbourne, just days into my freshman year of college. Embarking on career in civil aviation at that time was a little frightening. I was facing a very expensive education to make it happen and the threat of not having a job after graduation was very real. A professor of mine talked us all into continuing our education and, for better or worse, I listened.
Near the end of my four year education, I took some classes regarding the Fundamentals of Instructing as well as a flight course to earn my Certified Flight Instructor Certificate. I’d previously earned a Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Multi-engine Pilot, Commercial Pilot certificate. I’d subsequently earn an Instrument Instructor and Multi-engine instructor rating. I now hold an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate.
I worked harder on my initial Flight Instructor Certificate (CFI) than any of my other certificates. I did that of my own accord, because I knew that if I didn’t get it right I would not be able to influence a portion of the next generation of flyers to treat this business with the respect it so crucially deserves. It bothers me a bit when pilots get a CFI with minimal care or effort. If a substandard flight instructor teaches a young pilot (experience-wise, anyway) the wrong thing, it could and does lead to fatalities.
Clearly I take the responsibility seriously
I was blessed with the opportunity to teach numerous pilots how to fly during my tenure at the FlightSafety Academy. I taught nearly all levels of certificates while there. I left with a pass rate of which I could be proud. I’ll always endevor to go above in beyond in this industry, particularly in regards to safety and education. Title 14 CFR 61.197 spells out the requirements to keep a flight instructor certificate current and valid. Unlike other pilot certificates, the flight instructor certificate has a 24 month effective period before it needs to be renewed or allowed to expire. During those days, I either earned new ratings on my CFI certificate, such as the multi-engine or instrument ratings or was able to renew simply based on my exemplary pass rate.
After I left the world of flight instruction of ab-initio students, I had to transition to a different method of doing my biannual renewal. These days, I use the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) electronic Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (or eFIRC). It covers 16 hours of academics, which I can conveniently complete from home or on my iPad. There are those out in the industry who let their certificates expire. There are those who even go through their renewals this way, giving little regard to soaking up information. Though I’m not currently teaching, I always believe there can be some takeaway from the coursework.
I’d say this year is no exception. There are even things within a flight instructor refresher course that can apply to me, a Captain on a Hawker 850XP. I’ve learned new information about new technology, changes in special use airspace, and a myriad of things that would apply even more readily if I was teaching. It’s all useful, as far as I am concerned.
After all, a good pilot is always learning.