June 2002 Issue

CFI Care

Flight instructors can help you learn, but you have to do some of it yourself

I just read Ken Ibold’s article, “Pick Your Potion” [Training, April]. I started flying in 1986 and can appreciate a lot of the arguments made by people regarding CFIs. However, I’ve been a CFI for seven months now and can appreciate what it’s like on the other side of the fence also.

I now realize how hard, tiring, stressful and sometimes tedious it can be instructing. I work part time at the local airport and can attest to the low pay received. As Mr. Ibold pointed out, it’s only received when instructing – not for paperwork or waiting for the student to do their pre-flight inspection.

When asked how much I get paid to instruct, I’m embarrassed to say. Still, there is no excuse for not providing someone with the best teaching you’re able to offer. How much money a CFI gets paid is between him/her and the employer and should be of no concern to the student.

The fact that CFIs don’t get paid much is a well-known fact to anyone seeking to be a CFI, so the complaining is unjustified. Like Mr. Ibold pointed out, the CFI is getting to log flight time they would probably be unable to afford on their own.

I think something people should keep in mind when paying $45 an hour for an instructor is that the instructor is training them to meet the PTS standards for the certificate/rating being sought – nothing more, nothing less. Sure, an instructor can go beyond that, but does anyone really want to pay that kind of money to listen to someone talk for two hours about airport markings/signs when they can open the AIM for free?

I always tell a new student that self-education is extremely important in flight training. The more knowledge they bring to the table, the more money they’ll save and the easier their flight training will be for them. Know the PTS because that’s what you’re paying for.

There have been many times I could go on talking for an hour with a student, but I don’t because when he/she gets the bill, I guarantee you they’re gonna look elsewhere for another instructor. You don’t retain students by making flight training more expensive than it needs to be, but some people probably perceive that as incompetence on the CFI’s part. If you want your CFI to go beyond the PTS and can afford it, let him/her know. They get paid the same whether it’s flight or ground instruction, so I’m sure they’d be more than happy to.

Ask questions and provide more feedback to the CFI. There are times when I have to ask the student if there’s something they think I’m teaching incorrectly or contradictory to what they’ve read because I get no feedback whatsoever from them on how I’m doing. I’m sometimes amazed how people are willing to spend thousands of dollars on flight training but don’t take control of the situation.

-Chuck Lumia
Via e-mail

We think your points are right on when it comes to pilots working for a certificate or rating. But those who are just trying to be more knowledgeable about their own kind of flying are the ones left out in the cold.


New CFIs Welcome Here
I realize that there will forever be certain self-proclaimed “old-salts” who will sit around and thump their chests, and bemoan the existence of “time-builder” CFIs, but as a former “time-builder” myself, I think that any potential student should consider some important facts about low-time CFIs.

1. New CFIs have a reputation to establish and uphold, and they take this very seriously. That reputation is on the line on every flight they make, and it doesn’t matter which seat they are sitting in. That reputation is especially at stake when you take your check ride, so it is very unlikely that you will receive anything less than their best efforts.

2. No “airline” will hire an applicant with a poor track record. Resumes exist for a reason, and when references are checked, it is much better for a potential employer to receive a glowing recommendation from the Chief Flight Instructor, than a litany of reasons why an individual made a poor CFI. Glowing recommendations in turn, are established through solid performance as a CFI.

3. Having made the transition from a full-time CFI to an aviation career that enables me to subsist on something more substantial than Ramen noodles, I can say that about 90 percent of what I have learned about flying, I have learned on my own. I won’t deny that the 25,000-hour Yoda-type CFI is ideal if you can find one, but you also have to realize that he/she will not always be sitting next to you. Plus, all the “war stories” in the world won’t help you pass your increasingly more rigid check rides.

Someday I hope to open my own flight school as a way of returning something back to a career that I enjoy greatly. And as long as they are solid pilots and teachers, new CFIs will be a welcome addition to my staff.

-John Martin
Via e-mail

If you’ve learned 90 percent of what you know about flying on your own, doesn’t that imply that you, as an experienced pilot, have more to offer a student than a beginning CFI who does not have that experience? We’re not saying new CFIs are useless, only that there are legions of accomplished pilots who are looking for someone more capable to help them refine their knowledge of the nuances of flying. The current economic model of flight instruction discourages that from happening.


Portable Gyro Info
In Unicom of your April issue you indicated that there were now on the market some new portable instruments that could be used in the event of a vacuum failure in IMC. I would be especially interested in a portable attitude indicator which while maybe not perfect would be much better than nothing during a vacuum failure. I have not seen any such devices advertised yet. Could you provide me with any specific information?

-Carl Whilden
Via e-mail

The trendsetter in the field is Sellers Aviation in Ocala, Fla., which makes the PC Flight Sytems E-Gyro Micro-horizon and the GlassHorizon PC-EFIS. The GlassHorizon information is displayed on a Compaq hand-held Ipaq computer. For more information, visit or call 352-804-7217. It’s also sold by Icarus Instruments as the microEFIS; visit An evaluation of the unit by our sister publication Aviation Consumer found the GlassHorizon to be capable, although it does have a few shortcomings. We’re sure more devices and more improvements are on the way.


Get Down, Get Down Tonight
Pat Villette’s article on emergency descents in the February issue, and the follow-up letters on using a slip to descend in your April issue were intriguing. Please allow me to throw another technique into the discussion on the fastest way to get an airplane on the ground in an emergency.

If I ever have to find myself needing to get down in a hurry, I will be sorely tempted to use either the “slice-back” or “split-S,” both of which I learned in the military. If I find it extremely urgent to get down NOW, I will pull the power to idle, roll to about 135 degrees of bank and pull, keeping the airplane loaded to 3 to 3.5 g’s. (If at high altitude, I might even have to do a series of slice-backs to get down.) While a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam, I routinely used such a maneuver when I needed to get to treetop level in a hurry, and it got me down fast. I haven’t tried it in the planes I fly now (C-182 and C-210) but if it worked in an O-2A (C-337) it should work equally well in them.

Of course its use depends on how comfortable the pilot is with pulling g’s and being past 90-degrees of bank. When doing the maneuver, it would be important to get the g’s on early and to keep them on to keep the airspeed from building up. I also flew and instructed in the T-38 and the F-4, and am comfortable seeing the ground out the top of the airplane and flying with g’s on the airplane, and I realize this technique isn’t for everyone. Someone with low experience could easily become disoriented, and over speed or over stress the airplane. But I think it is a realistic option for those who can handle it and who have thought about it ahead of time.

It would be interesting for you to fire up the Citabria and see how fast you can get down using a series of slice-backs.

-Gary Dikkers
Madison, Wisc.

At this rate, we have the next few Citabria flights all planned out. We have no doubt that a split-S or slice-back would lead to a prodigious descent rate, but we hesitate to recommend them for several reasons.

First, practicing aerobatic maneuvers such as these in non-aerobatic airplanes is just asking for trouble. And the techniques that work in aerobatic airplanes may not work as well – or at all – in a non-acro airplane because of a lack of control authority. So without a realistic way to evaluate the maneuver in your airplane, it loses value as an emergency maneuver.

Second, it’s unreasonable to expect a non-aerobatic trained pilot to pull a sustained 3 to 3.5 g’s in an inverted or semi-inverted position. More likely they’d pull just enough to point the nose down until something important ripped off. Plus, without a g-meter, would you really want to cut it so close to the edge of the airplane’s structural envelope?

Finally, we lump this maneuver in with intentionally spinning downward, which was also suggested by some readers. It may work really well in some circumstances, but the margin for error is slim and the success would depend largely on the skill of the pilot, the type of airplane involved and the luck of the draw. We feel the techniques we recommended apply to a much wider variety of situations with a much greater likelihood of working.


What Are the Rest?
Let me first say that I enjoy reading your magazine and feel I learn a lot from it. The Editor, staff and writers do an excellent job. However, no one is perfect. For example, in Raymond Leis’s April 2002 article “Spring Polish” he states, “About 24 percent of stall-related accidents come in the takeoff/initial climb phase. Nearly 40 percent occur during cruise flight and approach and landing accounts for about 36 percent.” Perhaps I did not understand the second sentence but he does not present anything about the 40 percent during cruise but goes on to explain the usual and classic errors during take off and landing. I for one would appreciate some information, wisdom and understanding about the other 40 percent during cruise and how to avoid in this phase of flight also.

-Jack Limberg
Granger, Ind.