Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Finally, a place for sport pilot instructors and/or wannabees to talk about instructing.

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Wm.Ince
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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby Wm.Ince » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:06 am

Based upon what I have read and witnessed, over the past 3 years, which I have been in light sport aviation, I'd say Paul has been a tremendous resource and great contributor to the LSA community, here and abroad. The time and effort he puts into LSA is impressive.

Thanks Paul, for everything you do for us. It does not go unnoticed.
Bill Ince
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Retired Heavy Equipment Operator

Nomore767
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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby Nomore767 » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:02 am

N918KT wrote:This question is for all the CFIs and Sport Pilot CFIs out there. Is it possible to make a living out of working as a CFI or maybe even a Sport Pilot CFI? Or is this more of a hobby or side job that one does instead of making this their main career? There are a few times where I thought that maybe one day if I obtained my Sport Pilot Certificate, I could continue to flight train for a Sport Pilot CFI and work for a flight school specializing in sport pilot training as a Sport Pilot CFI (or at least at a flight school with sport pilot training).


Can you define 'make a living'. I think it's possible at the bigger institutions , like Embrey Riddle, you could 'make a living' as in you can survive enough to feed yourself and pay your bills if you're single and can live cheaply.
From my own experience I worked at a hospital in the Northeast whilst I was getting my licenses etc. As soon as I got my CFI the chief CFI hired me. Since I only ever got paid for the hours that I actually flew, and not the hundreds where I sat around waiting, the pay-check was way too low for me to live on. I was also married with a daughter. CFI pay was chump change basically.
What I did do was spend many hours juggling my schedule into a 'part-time' one even though I was full-time. Needs must.
I shifted my hospital job to a night supervisor position with more pay and less work. The other supervisor and I would take split naps during the shift.
I switched CFI jobs a couple of times. One place tried to work me from sunrise to sunset, literally. I pushed back and the boss always seemed surprised since he thought he 'owned me' . He didn't know about my night job.
I eventually went to a bigger place which had more work rules and scheduled days off. With skill and cunning I was able to juggle my schedule so that I didn't work back to back at either job, at night and during the day. It wasn't easy. All the same it got old quickly and was tiring. As soon as a corporate co-pilot job came along I took it.
Being a CFI for yourself is one thing, working for someone else is another. No doubt there are some great schools with a great work culture. Most, however, believe you will almost sell your soul to build hours and so will have you at their beck and call. It gets old when you're there for a 7am student, have one at noon, and another after work at 5pm and the rest of the day you're sitting there doing nothing and making nothing, probably doing go-fer, make work jobs for the boss…because…he owns you. And for 3 hours pay.
One school I worked at had a traffic report contract at 8am and 5pm. Interesting but tough for me to get to from downtown at 7am after the night shift, and drive 30 miles for the traffic report slot. Basically, I had to fiddle schedules, create fictitious students at 8am who mysteriously cancelled and I forgot to remove them so I could get to work and not let a student down. The lady assistant CFI was nice about it but wagged her finger at me a few times. I figured I had to do what I had to do to survive, look after my family and get the best bang for the buck, for me. If it sounds bad figure the chief pilot was a jackass and an alcoholic , who was eventually fired for being found drunk under his desk at 8am one day. It didn't stop him for trying to bust every CFI's chops and humiliate and berate them every chance he got. He ruined what could have been a good first flying job.
This was my experience. I worked hard, did a pretty good job as a CFI if I say so myself, but I looked out for me and my family because nobody else did. If I lost the CFI job I still had a good paying job with benefits. All my employers didn't know this and thought I would do anything for them to make a buck, including some pretty dodgy things ,which to their surprise I refused.
Having been a student paying hard earned money for lessons, I tried my utmost to give them quality training and their money's worth. Many times the boss would just say get them in the air in marginal conditions so he could make money. One time I refused a plane because of a bald tire and the other CFI blew the tire on the second landing with his student and they went off the runway into the weeds.

It's tough to make money in aviation, as a business owner and as a pilot. My advice is to go into a CFI job with your eyes open, a good dose of reality, and a high level of personal integrity. I found instructing hugely rewarding on a personal level, and through hard work got me along the career path as a pilot, but as a job on it's own I personally couldn't make a living on it. As in home, car and family.
In most cases it's not so much a job as a rite of passage.

Just my two cents worth.
Last edited by Nomore767 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby drseti » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:17 am

Bill, many thanks for your kind words.

Howard, I'm afraid your experience is more typical than not. In a world where future airline pilots have to accumulate 1500 hours of flight experience just to be hired, and with FAA policies that allow hours sitting in the right seat if a 150 watching students teach themselves to fly count as experience, the young CFI becomes an indentured servant who will fly practically for free, on any schedule, under any circumstances. Thus, teaching has become not a calling, or even a career, but rather a stepping-stone, a rite of passage.

Jack, you're right that a different location would give me a different business plan, a different bottom line, and a different (probably single) lifestyle. Not my choice! ;)
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby Flocker » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:58 am

drseti wrote:Interesting numbers, Flocker. My prices are lower; I suspect you're in a higher cost of living area (or perhaps I'm not charging enough!)


The numbers I posted are actually the "pre-pay" rates. They are much higher for walk-ins. (C-162 = $144/hr & CFI = $65/hr) Sounds like I should have trained with you!

PS - the rates are "wet" rates.

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby drseti » Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:09 pm

Flocker wrote:Sounds like I should have trained with you!


I'm sorry you didn't!

My SportStar goes for $120/hour, wet Hobbs (including the fuel surcharge I had to institute a few years ago). I bill instruction at a flat $100 per 3-hour lesson block (which includes however much flight time we get in on a given lesson, plus any ground instruction and pre- and post-flight briefings). PA sales tax is 6%. Students can prepay a block of 10 Hobbs hours (the 11th is then free), or a block of 10 lessons (the instructor's time is free for the 11th). This saves them a little, and helps my cash flow.

I know the market will bear higher prices (especially since there are no other Sport Pilot options around), but can make enough at these rates to keep the doors open. Certainly don't want to make this any more painful for students than it already is...
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof H Paul Shuch
PhD CFII DPE LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC iRMT
AvSport LLC, KLHV
fly@AvSport.org
AvSport.org
facebook.com/SportFlying
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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby 3Dreaming » Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:00 pm

I was lucky, I was able to get out from under the high cost 100LL last month an pick some up for a much lower price. My 100LL price is now really close to what it was in early 2010. I am also lucky in that I run auto fuel in my CT. The cost difference between the 2 is not as great as it once was. We now have to pay a premium for our auto fuel instead of station pricing, because they have to pick it up special when we order.

My first 100 hours of CT operation doing mostly flight training my fuel burn was only 3.5 GPH. The only time I see 5 GPH is on long trips using cruise power settings.

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby sandpiper » Mon Feb 23, 2015 2:19 pm

You know the saying about how to make a small fortune in the aviation business? Start with a large one.

An ideal instruction situation would be if you had an adequate retirement income. Then, within reason, you would not have to depend on the bottom line. You could enjoy what you were doing.

Just saying. Certainly does not answer the question if you are trying to make a living. I've never done this and have no intention of doing so.
John Horn
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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby drseti » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:47 pm

sandpiper wrote:
An ideal instruction situation would be if you had an adequate retirement income. Then, within reason, you would not have to depend on the bottom line. You could enjoy what you were doing.


That's precisely my situation, John.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof H Paul Shuch
PhD CFII DPE LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC iRMT
AvSport LLC, KLHV
fly@AvSport.org
AvSport.org
facebook.com/SportFlying
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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby sandpiper » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:36 pm

drseti wrote:
sandpiper wrote:
An ideal instruction situation would be if you had an adequate retirement income. Then, within reason, you would not have to depend on the bottom line. You could enjoy what you were doing.


That's precisely my situation, John.


Thought it might be. Living the dream.
John Horn
Independence Airpark (7S5), OR
CFII, LSRM-A
Rotax Service, Maint, and Heavy Maint. trained
Flying a CTSW, building an RV-12

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby Hambone » Fri May 13, 2016 5:44 am

Excellent information from everyone! Paul's thorough knowledge, experience and insight is especially valuable.

I'm contemplating the retirement/Sport Pilot CFI path, too. As with many businesses, I think that location/target audience plays a significant part in the potential success.

I'm thinking about setting up in San Antonio with an S-LSA Zenith CH750 (or two). There is a significant retired community there with disposable income, decent weather, and I hope that the STOL capability of the CH750 will offer a niche in backcountry training in a tricycle-gear aircraft, as well as Sport Pilot training. And, insurance premiums permitting, I would like to considering renting out, too.

Any advice appreciated!

P.S. This looks too much fun! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkZNCrE1S50

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby pjcampbell » Wed Jun 01, 2016 6:06 am

drseti wrote:Bill, many thanks for your kind words.

Howard, I'm afraid your experience is more typical than not. In a world where future airline pilots have to accumulate 1500 hours of flight experience just to be hired, and with FAA policies that allow hours sitting in the right seat if a 150 watching students teach themselves to fly count as experience, the young CFI becomes an indentured servant who will fly practically for free, on any schedule, under any circumstances. Thus, teaching has become not a calling, or even a career, but rather a stepping-stone, a rite of passage.

Jack, you're right that a different location would give me a different business plan, a different bottom line, and a different (probably single) lifestyle. Not my choice! ;)


I trained recently with a CFI who was "getting his hours".

I can say there was an easily identifiable difference between him and other CFIs who didn't have the ATP / airline goal .

After all, just because you are / want to be an airline pilot, it doesn't necessarily make you want to be a teacher, let alone a good one!

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby azsportpilot » Wed Jun 01, 2016 4:04 pm

Jack Tyler wrote:" It is my "grand experiment" to see if Light Sport can draw enough students to make a school successful. Paul has done it. Chesapeake Sport has done it. "

For N918KT, Dave and anyone else following this thread with similar goals, be sure to accept Paul's invitation and read his annual reports. I didn't read his 2014 report, but the earlier ones clearly document the bottom line, dollars/hour revenue (actually, cents/hour). Yes, he's "done it" but just be clear about the level of effort, the experience base he draws on, and the level of professionalism involved - I think it's the exception rather than the rule - for the financial return it provides.

Paul, wouldn't you agree that - while you have developed many facets to your business and so it's revenue stream - AvSport still qualifies as an 'avocation without a vacation', as they say? Personally, I don't think you've missed many opportunities, from hosting the local news team to teaching seminars gratis at shows. Wouldn't you agree that the only significant variable that remains missing for AvSport is its location? One wonders what you'd be seeing if you were 20 miles outside Orlando!


there are a few in the Orlando Metro Area, though none seem to be getting rich

there was SunState Aviation... but I think they gave up on Sport Pilot and just do traditional Private and up

http://www.sunstateaviation.com/sport-pilot-training/

then there is FT-Pros at Orlando Exec, they have a 162 Skychatcher for $109.00/hr

http://www.ftpros.com/sport-pilot.html

then there is U-Fly-It in DeLand FL (orlando area)... dealers for multiple brands, consulting, builder assistance and training in YOUR plane

http://www.uflyit.com/Training.htm

But most people in the Orlando area just make the 1 1/2 hour drive to Lockwood in Sebring

http://www.lockwoodaviation.com/
John Sarra CFI-S
1946 Aeronca Chief

-Mankind has a perfect record in aviation; we never left one up there!

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby MackAttack » Wed Jun 01, 2016 6:28 pm

There is also First Landings near Orlando ...

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby azsportpilot » Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:45 am

MackAttack wrote:There is also First Landings near Orlando ...


I forgot about those guys

They operate out of the Orlando/Apopka Airport (uncontrolled) KX04

I think they are Tecnam guys, several Tecnam Sierra's and Bravo's for rent
John Sarra CFI-S
1946 Aeronca Chief

-Mankind has a perfect record in aviation; we never left one up there!

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Re: Possible to make a living as a CFI or even a Sport CFI?

Postby N918KT » Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:54 am

Quick question about flight instructing compared to other aviation flying jobs. Is flight instructing at a flight school more of a 9 to 5 (or morning to evenings) kind of gig albeit working on weekends compared with the life of a regional airline pilot? How does the life of a CFI compare to a regional airline or major airline pilot?


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