Well, it’s been a lot longer than I had planned before getting out my first post as a working CFI, but I guess it’s better late than never! About a month after finishing up the professional pilot training program at Mauna Loa Helicopters I was hired on with a group of three other new instructors. I remember that as I neared the end of my program I was looking forward to finishing up because I was tired of the non-stop work. In my mind being an instructor would be so much simpler, time between lessons to read and improve my knowledge, days off to relax…well it hasn’t really worked out that way!
Immediately after being hired the work began. I had anticipated paperwork galore but there was much more than that. We had several sessions of training that focused on what was expected of us as we started teaching students. We also talked about common mistakes made by new instructors and the various guidelines the school has in place to help keep us out of trouble. In addition to these meetings we had to sit in on several ground classes given by experienced instructors, sit in on a couple of simulator lessons, and sit in on a few IFR flight lessons. That wasn’t all, another piece of work assigned to us was creating a plan of action for both a private student and an instrument student. A plan of action is a guideline used to give a checkride and includes the oral and flight portions. We won’t be giving checkrides of course, but the goal was to put us in the shoes of the examiner so that we could better prepare our students. It was a pretty heavy workload right off the bat.
The ground training and homework gave us all plenty to do, but on top of all that we needed flight training as well. It might sound a little crazy that after almost 200 hours of training we still need more, but all the training received while earning our certificates didn’t really prepare us for our jobs, it prepared us to pass checkrides. We still needed job specific training. The goal of the 141 training is to provide that training and prepare the instructor for their first students. A big part of flight training is having “student play” where an experienced pilot pretends to be a low-time student and makes common errors. A lot of the common errors are easy enough to handle, but there are more than a few that can come as a real shock. Nothing like having someone put in the completely wrong inputs during a maneuver! But of course this kind of thing should be expected of new students and it is essential that new instructors are exposed to how it feels and how to handle it.
It would be one thing to complete all of this training with a relatively open schedule but as fate would have it the first student I was slated to work with completed his commercial and CFI certificates just after I started working. Instead of having him start with another instructor and then move over to me after a couple weeks they just pushed me through the initial part of my training so that I could start his ground. Since he had just completed his comm/CFI the next step was IFR/CFII and the nice thing about that was I had just finished this training myself so it was still relatively clear in my mind! Nonetheless I don’t think anything can really prepare a teacher for taking on their first student. To say it was stressful would be to oversimplify things. There was stress without a doubt, but I had a much greater feeling of responsibility. My student would be paying out a huge sum of money (the smallest piece of which actually goes to me) and in return was counting on adequate preparation for his instrument and CFII checkrides. Whoa!
A few weeks after starting with my first student I was given a second IFR/CFII student. Everything is easier the second time, right? Well it was less intimidating, that’s for sure. It wasn’t too much longer before I had my first private student and just like that I found myself headlong into my new job as a CFI. The workload of students and paperwork keeps me going all day long most days of the week. My private student wanted to train weekends as well and I haven’t had a day off since he got here. I have to say that even though it has felt rushed, hectic, intense, stressful, and crazy at times I am very thankful to be in my present situation. I had done enough teaching in the past, informal though it may have been, to know that I would like being a teacher. That alone is quite rewarding, but getting paid to work with helicopters, wow! I am very happy to say that I have had many surreal moments already where I can hardly believe that I am standing in my own shoes. There is a lot to come from this job, more training to receive and many more students to work with, but I feel that I’m off to a great start. This is an incredibly exciting time for me and it has been worth every bit of hard work to get here. In some future posts I will try and write a little bit more about my first impressions working with students and the many insights I am already experiencing. But for now I am taking almost every moment away from work to just unplug and rest up.
Thanks for reading and being patient out there, as usual feel free to share the blog or contact me if you have any questions.