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MEI or CFII as an Initial Certificate? The difference between a lesson plan and pre-flight briefing.

November 2021

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Getting the MEI or CFII as an initial Flight Instructor Certificate – Good or Bad idea?

If you have been thinking about training for a flight instructor certificate you may not realize there are alternate paths than getting the CFI for Airplane Single Engine first.

The most traditional path to becoming a CFI is to get the Airplane Single Engine certificate first. This allows you to provide training for student pilots, the recreational, sport and commercial certificate and certain flight instructor ratings. It also allows you to conduct a flight review, solo a pilot who doesn’t hold the category or class and endorse applicants for knowledge and practical tests. Quite a lot you can do with that.

The training is pretty comprehensive, and the content is sometimes deep. In addition to all of the technical subject areas like airspace, systems, regulations, endorsements, aeromedical, aerodynamics etc. there are two additional large content areas that need to be mastered:

  1. The fundamentals of instructing (FOI).

  2. Development and teaching using lesson plans.

These two new areas are in themselves an entire course of study. Because they are new to you there will be a lot to learn, memorize and master. Most of our students say that these two areas are the most difficult. The way these areas are tested is very much dependent upon who conducts the practical test. We have had DPEs who never ask a question about it and instead observe you teaching and preparing and see that this covers all of the areas in the fundamentals of instructing. Other DPEs go through each required element and ask specific questions about each. Add this volume of knowledge, the variations in testing and all of the other technical subject areas that you need to master, and it can be overwhelming.

Deciding to pursue the CFII or MEI as your first flight instructor certificate can trim down the amount of knowledge that you need to master. You can do either the CFI, CFII or MEI as your first certificate. Of course, you can only do what those certificates authorize you to do but it trims down the test.

The easiest is the MEI. The number of tasks is pretty small, and the endorsements and regulations are manageable as well. Second easiest is the CFII.

In any initial flight instructor practical test, you will be required to be tested on the fundamentals of instructing. Once you pass the test you won’t be tested again on that for the additional flight instructor ratings. So, it may make sense for you to do either the MEI or CFII first, so you have the bandwidth to master the fundamentals of instructing (FOI) and the limited amount of technical subject areas that are in either of those ratings. You would then do the CFI airplane single engine as an additional rating after the MEI or CFII is passed.

Although most people will take the traditional route, because it’s the fastest way to get a job, knowing there are options can really take down the stress level and can provide a path forward if you get overwhelmed or if you just got your multi-engine rating for example.

Either way, CFI Bootcamp can provide the required training for any airplane flight instructor certificate.

The difference between a lesson plan and a pre-flight briefing.

There is a big disconnect between what we prepare and how we are tested on a checkride vs. what we do as working CFIs. What I mean by that is that we prepare for the checkride by either using or creating lesson plans as if the student has no aeronautical knowledge. Meaning that they never did any self-study, took an online course, or attended a ground school. This means that our lesson plan must be comprehensive enough to teach a maneuver and the supporting aeronautical knowledge behind that. This is the traditional way to do things and it does two things for you on a checkride:

  1. It shows you can prepare and teach a lesson.

  2. It shows you have the aeronautical knowledge.

This is great on a checkride, but this isn’t usually the way we do it in the field. We assign reading, videos or have the student attend a ground school and then we just recap important things within a pre-flight briefing. Large Part 141 schools do this all the time. The student completes the ground school and then begins flight training. The CFI gives a short pre-flight briefing, usually 10 – 15 minutes, does the flight and then does a 5 – 10-minute post flight briefing. This instructor never uses a lesson plan like the one that they used for their training and checkride. This keeps the 141-school student moving along and optimizes the instructors daily schedule because they are not bogged down with doing ground instruction.

You can use the same strategy. You’ll just need to create the pre-flight briefings. You can use the formal lesson plan and strip off the relevant pieces and particular maneuver guide. With those in hand you can give a briefing on what needs to be done, and how to do it in this particular airplane.

It would be a nice touch if on the checkride we were asked to give a formal full lesson on something, or a pre-flight briefing on the same thing. That’s not usually the way it’s done on the test which is why its cumbersome to train students using lesson plans that are designed to do a full-blown lesson with ground and one that also had enough in it to prove to the examiner that you knew the content. Imagine having to do the Slow-flight and stalls on one lesson and you use the lesson plans that you either purchased or created for the checkride. Each one of those lessons would probably take around 20 minutes each. So, about an hour on the ground before you go fly. If instead the student did the assigned reading, watched a video, etc. you could give a pre-flight briefing on how to do the maneuvers in the airplane you are going to use. That would take all of maybe 20 minutes for all three. The information is fresh in the student mind and the student didn’t get bored or overwhelmed with information.

So, in the end you’ll need to be able to either use your lesson plans like a pre-flight briefing or you can use ours.

At CFI Bootcamp we have a product called Teach Brief-Fly! and it does just that. It has three sections:

  1. Comprehensive set of lesson plans (Like the ones you would use on a checkride or some students)

  2. Pre-flight briefings constructed on a miniature white board including any sketches.

  3. What to say in the airplane while you are demonstrating each maneuver.

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