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My take on the Fundamentals of Instructing.

December 20th, 2021

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My take on the Fundamentals of Instructing.


The fundamentals of instructing are required to be taught and tested in order for you to become a flight instructor.  The biggest complaints I hear from CFI applicants is related to the fundamentals of instructing (FOI).


There are a number of reasons and I’ll discuss those in this article.


  1. The instructor applicant has never been exposed to the FOI in any of their training in the past.

  2. The Aviation Instructor’s Handbook it large and filled with a lot of theory and overstatements.  People find it difficult to read and make sense of.

  3. How will the DPE test this?  Do I have to memorize this stuff?


When I form an opinion about something like this, I like to lean on my experience teaching in the UK and observing other countries teaching and testing requirements.  If we are the only country doing it and all of the other countries seem to be able to create ICAO aligned flight instructors, then why are we doing it?  That’s my question and now my opinion about the FOI.


To become a flight instructor in most countries you just need a Private Pilot Certificate and then a number of hours, typically 150.  You would also need to complete flight instructor training and then pass knowledge tests and a practical test.  There is no need to have an instrument rating or Commercial Pilot Certificate.  Interesting that we require this of our flight instructor applicants.  That adds a significant amount of training time and money to become a CFI in our country.  The reason I’m telling you this is because when those pilots train to be a flight instructor there is no FOI, at least for most.  Australia snagged some of the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook and they use that, but its only about 65 pages.


So why are we being tested with this giant handbook as our responsibility to read and master?  Maybe for the same reason you need to have an instrument rating and be a commercial pilot.  Who knows?


When I ask DPEs how they test this I get two general answers.  Line by line in the PTS or I test it by watching the person teaching and see that they have created and use the tools necessary to teach the lesson.


To show how absurd it is to make pilots memorize this stuff I’ll use an example.  Any high school teacher with a 4-year BA in education would not pass this test given by a DPE that goes line by line.  They will provide an effective lesson but may not remember what the characteristics of learning are from the handbook, (PEMA) by the way, yet they are great teachers.


My only hope is that the new ACS for Aviation Instructor comes out in a form that I last saw it in.  It took all of those open-ended line items and showed the applicant what will be tested as opposed to “the entire book”.


Currently we teach the FOI by using our FOI Roadmaps product.  It’s a mind map for every chapter showing how things in that chapter are related and where they fit.  There are also worksheets that allow you to see how much you retained.  It’s about as good as we can do until the ACS gets released.


The issue with the handbook is that it’s hard to make a lot of it operational.  How do I use the information?  So, I decided to write a companion guide that shows how to use information from each chapter.  That may just ring the bell!


In the meantime, I’ll continue to work on the FAA in the hopes that one day we’ll be able to make CFIs with a private pilot certificate and a trimmed down version of the current Aviation Instructor’s Handbook.  We’ll see.


On creating your own lesson plans... 

Most people who are in training for a flight instructor certificate create their own lesson plans.  Wow, that’s a mountain of work.  I’d estimate it will take about 6 months of pretty steady work to do all of the maneuver and technical subject areas in the Private, Commercial ACS and Flight Instructor Airplane PTS.


A little secret.  Those have already been done.  We’ve been teaching flying for over 100 years and that has been done over and over again.  So why do I say this.  Well, if you want to see light at the end of the tunnel, stop writing all of your own lesson plans.


So why do most CFI programs make you do them yourself?  It’s because you know must fully understand what you are going to teach.  Maybe you got away with not understanding the aerodynamics section, because the DPE you were using never tests it.  Maybe its airspace or whatever.  Forcing you to make your own lesson plans cleans up your aeronautical knowledge but in my mind it does little else.


I’d make a list of the aeronautical knowledge areas I’m shaky on and get an online course and read the PHAK or Airplane Flying Handbook and get proficient instead of creating the over 85 lesson plans you are going to need.


I wrote our lesson plans and those have been used by hundreds of flight instructor applicants.  The trick is to learn how to use those and do them out loud.  You won’t see where you fumble or realize that you forgot something like “Adverse Yaw”, until you get to it in your out loud lesson.  If you just read the plan, you’ll convince yourself you know that because the words are very familiar.

So whatever path you choose be sure to understand the lesson plan is not designed to teach you something, its designed to tell you what needs to be taught, graded, assessed, shown, demonstrated etc. in an outline format.  You can see a preview of what ours look like at


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