Create a positive CFI culture

Recently I had an opportunity to visit with the NTSB. Normally any visit with the NTSB would be under circumstances that none of us would like to be in, but this was different. I was invited to the NTSB training center by a flight school owner and his instructors. We had just eaten pizza and I was sitting in the classroom when I really began to see some of the secret sauce of this successful flight training business.

This flight training business has a yearly full-day CFI standardization workshop, but they also bring the group together once a month. The monthly meetings do have the usual updates for standardization and ongoing issues, but they go quite a bit farther. They take the time to really share and celebrate successes in a way that makes it obvious the staff feels like they are part of something important and meaningful. It was such an upbeat and inspiring meeting, I secretly wanted to fill out a job application.

This particular monthly meeting included the NTSB meeting, which consisted of a full program of looking at actual evidence of training accidents and a tour of the NTSB training “laboratory.” The obvious effort involved in putting the evening on and having it go beyond the day-to-day logistics and issues of training operations was obvious. The investment of time and energy in the CFI as a person and whole aviator has resulted in such a positive and supportive CFI culture that it overflows into a positive and supportive customer experience at this school.

The CFI is the face of a flight school and the face of aviation as a whole for our new pilots in training. Efforts that show school leadership has an interest and values its CFIs are modeling the behavior we expect to be projected by the CFI to our customers.  As humans we tend to emulate behaviors that are modeled for us. So you may not have the NTSB training center with the pieced together remains of TWA flight 800 in your backyard, but there is always some type of experience you can make available for your staff to feed their own desires as a pilot and a person.

What do you do to create a positive CFI culture?

–Shannon Yeager, AOPA vice president of strategic initiatives in the Center to Advance the Pilot Community


  • Stephen Gatlin

    During these tough economic times it is difficult at best to recruit, train and pay fair market rates for quality CFIs. I think CFIs who are well paid, have ancillary company benefits such as reduced aircraft rental rates, reimbursement for continuing education programs such as FAAST seminars, etc. schools could retain the best of the best.

    The more savvy and “glass” proficient and experienced in conjunction with good business and PR skills the greater the value the CFI is to the school. Career CFIs may have the background, training, and experience to avoid having accidents, but on the other hand, experience sometimes equals complacency.

    Time builders and those that have a dozen job applications who may up and leave without advance notice for that ever enticing airline job may not have the concern for the student, the flight school or it’s principals and therefore the risk of recruiting and retaining younger CFIs may not be the best fit. (Keep in mind I am not insinuating all young CFIs have this mindset.)

  • Rod Beck

    Steve; Best and most “common sense (cent$)” response to date! Pay/wages – performance bonus’s for license completion; LSA, Private, Instrument, etc and a 3 day trip to Vegas – or is that to far out of the “wingspan” incentives thinking for GA?

  • Venus Savage

    It’s astounding that the CFI is the face of the flight school, and is probably living on food stamps and wishing to get out of that job as quickly as possible.

    CFIs, thanks to their low wages, are bearing the cost of flight training so their more wealthy clients can save money. And yet, time building CFIs are bashed regularly in the aviation press.

    So, we’re paying them very little, then castigating them for not wishing to remain below the poverty line.