SAFE Session Addresses Initial CFI Applicant Weaknesses

Better instructors will create better pilots.

Most of the weaknesses DPEs discuss about initial CFI applicants are so basic, they're almost laughable.Courtesy Daryl LaBello

Doug Stewart, the Society of Flight Educators (SAFE) executive director emeritus and a Designated Pilot Examiner, hosted an online forum at last month's Sun n' Fun at Lakeland, Florida to discuss the kinds of problems he sees with new flight instructor applicants. He was joined by two other DPEs, Mike Garrison and Bill Ziesenitz. The trio hoped the tips they offered might help stem the tide of pilots busting their initial CFI checkrides.

Garrison said a huge problem is applicants arriving for their test who aren't really prepared. "I've had applicants show up without having passed the knowledge test or having the proper FAA 8710 application correctly filled out," he said. These two components are absolutely elementary he said. Garrison mentioned too that he often sees weaknesses in flight instructor candidates' abilities to program the GPS in their aircraft, something he attributes to the weakness in that area of the applicant's own instructor. Another big weakness is effectively understanding risk management and the ability to teach to the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS).

Ziesenitz pointed to fundamental weaknesses in CFI applicants focused around their lack of in-depth understanding of aerodynamics. He also said the initial CFI ride is the most important test because a poorly prepared instructor is going to create poorly prepared pilots.

Stewart spoke to a unique experience with a CFI applicant recently whom he asked to explain “P-factor.” The applicant, Stewart said, “told me P-factor was caused when the descending propeller blade moved faster than the ascending blade.” Scratching his head, Stewart dove in closer trying to figure out where the applicant had learned such a thing. The answer was simple Stewart said. “He told me he learned this from a YouTube video.” He also questioned why many instructor applicants are earning their CFI in the first place, to build hours to qualify for their ATP certificate.

The remainder of the 25-minute session is filled with equally engaging gems and is worth watching, not just for anyone preparing for their CFI ride, but for most any pilot since these errors could easily apply to a private pilot applicant.