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Should I go for my CFI or change careers

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Well-known member
Feb 16, 2002
Hey Folks,
I was a little discouraged when I read the last CFI article about the guy who just got his ticket and can't find a solid job. I plan on going for my CFI in July. I also have an interview for ATC. I'd rather fly but will I be able to get a job once I get my CFI ticket? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
So what?

Stay the course. Finish all your ratings. A lot can change in this business in a few months. As long as you have your CFI you have a tangible credential with which to find work, perhaps at the school where you earn it. So many people who get their pilot certificates only end up joining the ranks of other 250-hour wonders who wonder why they can't find work. A Commercial and 250 hours means nothing. Truth is, most jobs require far more experience than 250. Unless you are lucky, very lucky, and fall into something, you won't be working with just a wet Commercial. It means nothing without the hours to back it up.

Don't think about changing careers until you've tried this one. If this doesn't work out, come talk to me and we'll discuss going to paralegal school. :rolleyes: I really rather doubt we'll ever have that conversation.

Good luck with your plans.
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The short answer is 'yes'.

Time is the variable. It's a matter of when you will receive work.

The previous poster in the last CFI article you mentioned already had the CFI, so this advice would not apply to him.

Many of the schools I spoke with have a mandate to hire their own graduates for their instructor positions. Make a list of these schools and start comparing them. If you train there, you have a much greater likelihood of being hired.

When I was considering the move you are about to make, a close friend recommended that I stay in my home area and join him on the staff of the flight school where I had recieved the balance of my training. He seemed very busy, and happy with the boss.

When I took his advice, I found that several other new instructors were eating at the same trough, and I never was even half as busy as my friend had been only a few months before.

In retrospect, I should have taken my trainng at a school that had enough student volume to support my need for money and experience in the shortest period of time. I am counseling student pilots in my area to avoid trying to get hired at a school with twelve airplanes and and eight instructors, but only enough students for four planes to be flying at any given hour.

Plan well, and go for it.
I agree with the others: go for the CFI. I got mine back in 1992 during that whopper of a recession. It took me a year to find an instructing job, which was tough, but in the end I landed a great job at a small town FBO. I gave sightseeing rides to tourists (very cushy) in addition to instructing plus as I built time I got into charter flying in a Navajo. In just two years I was headed for the regionals.

If you want to be a professional pilot just ignore the forecasts and follow your dream. It's worth the wait.
The next big hiring boom is about to start!

Bold statement? Not really. According to Air Inc. we will see a peak retirment year in 2007 with 2,300 pilots required to retire due to their age. Compare that to the rate in 1998 of 1000 pilots retiring per year.

Because most airlines are not hiring right now and will soon be flying full schedules again, they will need to hire after they recall all the furloughed pilots. Assuming 1998's attrition rate (I can't find the projected numbers for 2002) 750 pilots should have retired between September and now. That means airlines will have to hire 750 new pilots to replace them, then continue to hire pilots at a rate of 83.3/month to keep up with attrition. That will gradually increase until 2007 when 191.6 pilots/month will have to be hired to replace retirees.

The above uses projected retirements and assumes no shrinkage or growth of the industry. All numbers above are for the entire airline industry and not any individual company.

Get the CFI. Even if you can't find a job, you can instruct part-time, and someone pays you to fly, you can't beat it! I left a "safe" dispatching job which paid pretty well, to instruct and starve. It was the best move I ever made, and I have never looked back. Now, I love my job at a regional. Even if you never use it, you will be happy you got the CFI. And if the jobs ever pick up again, you will be first to get one of them, especially with your experience you gained by doing it part-time. Good luck to you.
Get the CFI anyway

Get the CFI anyway. I know someone who is a CFI AND an air traffic controller. She has a good paying job in ATC and still can fly on the weekends. You don't have to give up having the CFI and instructing on the side to do ATC work.

Additionally, I have a friend who had a very successful oil business, and another who is a successful master electrician who have or had their CFI's. They made excellent money in their nonflying careers but also enjoyed flying/instructing on the side.

I already have my CFI and plan to keep it up, even though I am not involved in a flying career anymore. Do I regret having the CFI?? He**, NO!! Nor do I regret having learned to fly. I enjoy day trips to various places and also look forward to the day that I am successful enough in business to buy a company plane, even if it is a light single engine aircraft. It's just a great accomplishment in of itself to learn to fly. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to pursue a flying career to the point where you put your financial future at risk. Continue the nonflying career, save some money, get the CFI and keep on instructing until it's time to go to an airline (if the opportunity becomes available to you) with some savings in the bank to take care of the pay cut when you do join an airline. Regardless of your career decision, I know you will not regret having a CFI.

Fly safe and never stop enjoying the beauty and wonder of flight.


ksu_aviator said:
The next big hiring boom is about to start!

Bold statement? Not really. According to Air Inc. we will see a peak retirment year in 2007 with 2,300 pilots required to retire due to their age. Compare that to the rate in 1998 of 1000 pilots retiring per year.

Air, Inc.....

HAHAHA... don't drink too much of their cool-aid, they are in the business of selling dreams! It helps their business if there is a "preceived" pilot shortage...

Air, Inc. has been yelling pilot shortage for the past 10 years... still waiting to see one.... Don't believe everything you read... Once you have been in the business a little longer you will understand what I am talking about...

Fly Safe!
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I wouldn't let the hiring discourage you. Aviation is not the only field where hiring is slow. I've dodged 3 rounds of layoffs in 6 years and thats not in the aviation field.

Get the CFI and do the interview, then see what develops. Why not do both, its not liked you have an obligation with ATC.
Kit's Kool-Aid

Don't believe ANYTHING that Kit Darby and his Pied Pipers of pilot shortages put out! As FAPA impressario in 1987, Kit said that forty-thousand pilots would be needed during the next ten years because of retirements, etc. Fast-forward to 2002 and Kit, as AIR, Inc., is still purveying that garbage. Pilots who tried and tried for years to get jobs and to advance past flight instructing know the truth: There is NO pilot shortage! Evidently, Kit can't handle the truth!

Just the same, one should not be discouraged. It's a slippery slope to climb, but people do reach the summit, usually through extreme hard work and great personal sacrifice.
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