Teaching the Teachers 

Howard Deevers 


Learning to fly was wonderful, getting an Instrument Rating was stressful, training for the Commercial Pilot’s License was eye opening, and then my instructor/mentor suggested that I become an instructor. This had not been my goal in aviation, but he kept encouraging me to do so. His comment was, “If you really want to learn how to fly, get yourself a couple of students and let them teach you.” What! Really?

The decision was made. I would give it a try. Working on my CFI was stressful and hard work, but rewarding. I flew with not just one instructor, but with several at different times. Moving to the right seat took some time, but eventually I got the hang of it. Regulations say that a CFI must have logged at least 200 hours of instruction given before training another candidate for the CFI. I passed that mark in the first year after getting my CFI and instrument instructor rating (CFII). Now I have had the unique pleasure of signing off 3 other CFI candidates.

While each CFI candidate had different backgrounds and different personalities, each had (and still has) a passion for aviation and a desire to pass that passion on to others. I’m also sure that each will have different teaching styles as well, but the end result should always be a new well-trained private pilot or instrument pilot. Maybe these new CFI’s will go on to teach other CFI candidates as well!


Several years ago I had the honor of leading the FAA CFI Renewal Program in Arizona. The program allowed a CFI to attend 8 two-hour seminars in a 2 year period (one each quarter) and get their certificate renewed at no cost. The program continued for 4 years before the FAA discontinued it. During that time I met many CFI’s in Arizona and presented programs that the FAA provided, along with other optional programs of interest to CFI’s. Most of the FAA required programs covered such things as FAR’s, teaching methods, flight reviews, and other subjects. There were many changes coming about in aviation at that time, so it was easy to find new subjects to talk about: GPS navigation, changes in airspace, ADS-B, iPads and Electronic Flight Bags, technically advance aircraft, and more. We had no problem filling up 2 hours of subject matter plus discussions from participants. What impressed me the most during that time was how much I learned from other instructors. The attending CFI’s would question everything, and there was a lot of interaction between those attending and the presenters. I did not do all of the presenting, but recruited other CFI’s to do a program if they were comfortable with the subject matter and with presenting it to a very critical group.

So, getting back to my instructor: “If you really want to learn to fly, get yourself a couple of students and let them teach you.” Of course, that could apply to any subject. There is no better way to learn a subject than to teach it. It didn’t take long for me to understand the value and impact of that statement after getting my CFI Certificate. I had to take the controls several times until the student developed the skills to fly the airplane. However, with the CFI candidates, you let them teach you a maneuver, because they already know how to fly. How do you teach how to take off and land? I had to remember back when I was a beginning pilot and the things I put my instructor through.


After passing my CFI check ride, I called my instructor to let him know. He said, “Great, I need a BFR!” (now just called a Flight Review). What a surprise to me! I said to him, “but Woody, that would be like the newest ordained priest hearing the confession of the Pope.” His response was “Maybe it’s just another part of the training!” We did the BFR the next day, and I felt great about it. My first act as a CFI was to give my 50,000 + hour flight instructor a BFR. This guy really knows how to teach.

Please remember that the ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION presents a safety seminar somewhere in the State each month. Don’t miss out on these free ways to keep current and learn more about being a safe pilot. Check the website for locations and times, and, don’t forget to “Bring your wingman!”

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