Freddie wrote me to ask:
Hi Paul. I have waited my entire life to finally get to this point where I am able to make flight teaching my one and only. My wife has taught high school for 25 years, and that helps a great deal so now I can devote my heart, soul and mind into becoming a CFI. I will not go any further up in the career ladder. My heart is set on the intimacy of teaching. So my question is, where would be a good start for me? Where would I be needed most? Ex: Hometown? Or when I finish will I be able to teach in one or multiple airports? Thank you.
Well first off, BRAVO! That is awesome, and I am excited for you and the career choice that you have chosen. I wish there were a lot more pilots and people like you who value general aviation flight instruction.
One of the interesting aspects about becoming a CFI is that once you are an instructor you automatically become a small business owner. And as in any business, you now have products to sell. The products are 1) Aviation and 2) Yourself. As the owner of this business you also have complete control over the development of this business. You can decide, How many clients do you want? What flight training market do you want to develop? and Which sales region do you want to establish your business in?
As I travel around and talk to people, it seems the area hurting the most for good quality instructors is the smaller local hometown airports. Instructors at these airports seem to be the ones most likely to be lost to either regional airlines, corporate outfits or larger flight schools at bigger airports. A smaller airport also has a harder time providing enough demand to keep a instructor on the field “full time”, especially if the airport is located where flying weather is very seasonal. Because of these factors, these airports are the ones most hurt by pilot shortages and lower regional airline experience requirements.
My advice to you would be to grow your business at a local “hometown” flight school. I mean, really take control of it from top to bottom. Work hard to create new pilots and grow your business by word-of-mouth. A good first step would be to create a PP ground school program, advertise it heavily locally (your investment) and bring in as many new student pilots to the airport. A ground school is a cheap and easy way for people to try out aviation. Try and get as many of your ground school students to flight train with you as well. Once these students have passed the private pilot rides. Simply repeat and recycle this process again. You’ll soon have more primary and secondary clients. You’ll also have about as much flying and business than you can stand.
I know I’m simplifying things quite a bit but I’ve had some great success using this method. It works really well enticing a lot of non-pilots out to the airport and keeping me busy for months until I was ready to start the next ground school.
I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but I really can’t say enough about, “The Savvy Flight Instructor” by Gregory Brown, if you want to learn how to approach flight instruction as a business endeavor. So many pilots simply look at flight instruction as a career stepping stone and not as the business of selling and promoting aviation.
I wish you all the best in becomming a CFI. If you have any questions about flight training or aviation, you know where to ask and as always…