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? for flt school owners, CFI's, thinkers

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Well-known member
Jan 6, 2002
I'm a CFI at a flight school and was thinking about becoming a freelance instructor. Many of my students at the flight school have become good friends and I enjoy flying with them. Will I be shooting my self in the foot if some of my students leave with me? One of my main reasons for wanting to leave is because I have been treated like a whore. I know for sure if my boss losses one flight because of me, that the second a future employer calls for refernce he will bad mouth me. I feel like I am stuck. As big as an A$$ he is, he did give me my first aviation job, and I am forever grateful.

What would you do?

Did you sign an employement contract or a non compete/non disclosure agreement? If you did, then you may very well be sued.

If you didn't sign, then it is more a morals question. Are you going to take business from him? If so, I wouldn't use him as a reference. Personally, I wouldn't take the students. More than likely, the students will ask where you went and they will find you.

I would do everything possible not to burn a bridge no matter how irrelevant you may think it could be now. It could come back to bite you later.

If you want to freelance fine. Go advsertise and get the business yourself.

Lastly, I would put yourself in your employers shoes and ask yourself how you would feel.
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I'd freelance in a heartbeat if you can get away with it. Do you own a plane? Part of the problem with freelance is finding an airplane to use since most fbo's don't want you to freelance in their aircraft. If you can keep busy and make a name for yourself, I think you are much better off as a freelancer. Personally, when I was in your shoes I was shown very little reason to be loyal to an employer. At that level, it's dog eat dog and if these guys are gonna treat you like crap then don't bother worrying about them. I don't see a reason to have a lot of loyalty to an employer. You do a job for them and they pay you. The second they don't need you, you are gone......no reason to be loyal. Do what's best for you and don't worry about it.
Loyalty - or lack thereof

Look at it in terms of terminating an employer-employee relationship. Do employers give you notice that they plan to can you? No. Do they expect notice from you? Yes. Is loyalty a one-way street, with you being the only driver on that street? Sadly, in most cases these days, yes.

Attorneys wrestle with the same issue that you are facing. They may feel loyal to their firm because they were given a break, but want to leave for a better opportunity. They leave a lawfirm and want to take clients with them. A better way to look at it is an attorney may leave a firm and the clients want to go with him. Attorneys have strict ethical guidelines they have to follow in terms of not hijacking clients from a lawfirm. What attorneys will do is send an engraved announcement to their clients that says they've joined another firm or that they started their own firm, whatever applies. That's all. The clients can decide if they want to go with that attorney. They then call the old firm and have their files transferred if they want to go with that attorney.

I worked at a lawfirm in which three associates left to form their own firm. They stole the firm's database and sent their clients letters that misrepresented the Rules of Ethics. They explained in that letter that the Rules permit them to use any attorney they want. The letter then said that they should call the file person at our firm (their old firm) and tell them they they want to have their file transferred to the new firm. That was entirely unethical. Our principal at the old firm had brought in the clients. These other attorneys happened to have been assigned the files.

My point is you should not act that way with your students. Handle it professionally. You don't need an engraved invitation, but you can tell your students you are leaving the FBO to freelance. That's all you should say. Don't ask them specifically to come with you. They just might join you. Although your FBO will undoubtedly accuse you of stealing its business, at least you tried to act professionally.

Good luck with your plans.
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in this industry, make no enemies...

The point above is important. NEVER burn a bridge. Aviation is a pretty tight knit organization, and you don't want ANYONE saying bad things about you. If you want to take some students with you, ask your employer before you do so. To do otherwise would be unethical.

Remember, your employer paid for whatever advertising he did, even if it's just the cost of rent at the airport. Students that came to the school and ended up with you as their instructor should remain with the school unless you have been authorized to take them. Remember that you also are not just cheating your employer out of some cash, but also your fellow instructors at the school who could have had another student.

Viewing the situation as dog-eat-dog, they screw me so I'm gonna screw them is NOT a good idea. Be the better man and do everything ethically. I'm sure many people here can tell you that when you meet another airline pilot, at least 3/10 times, you share a former or current acquaintance. If someone says a few bad (or good) things about you, it doesn't take long for word to spread.

Example, I was at a CAP meeting just observing, and I introduced myself to someone. A girl standing behind me who I did not know overheard me introduce myself and turned around and asked me, "Didn't you work for (Name of my old flight school)?" I said yes, and she told me that her instructor talked about me all the time. I did her instructor's CFI and CFII and we are good friends. The point being: your name can get around, so make sure nobody is saying anything bad about you.

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