Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Professionalism, Antiquated Advice, and AOPA

I just received my copy of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association newsletter for flight instructors, called "CFI to CFI." There is an article called "The Art of Professionalism" that purports to tell me how I can be a more professional flight instructor, and thus, secure more students.

Front in center is the idyllic scene. A new student stands, beaming, next to his new flight instructor. Our hero, the truly "professional" flight instructor is wearing epaulets (with 4 stripes no less), a uniform shirt, and a tie.

The article goes on to expound upon the virtues of basically being the sharpest-dressed guy at the airport so that you can get students. After all, you should "dress the part" even if that means wearing a uniform. Let me just stop you right there and say, "really?" And, God forbid you show up for work in shorts!

I'm all about looking presentable. I tuck my shirt in and I shave every day. But, my "uniform" consists of those Magellan button-up fishing shirts from Academy (they're inexpensive, they're comfortable, and they're practical) tucked into a pair of blue jeans or *gasp* khaki shorts. Then there's my ballcap (complete with company logo) and Red Wing boots.
Hey uniform-wearers: Guys like the one in the blue shirt are who your students are coming to when they get tired of you day-dreaming about flying ERJ's instead of teaching :).

And you know what? I stay busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. I worked 14 hours yesterday. That's the norm. What's my secret? I focus on flying airplanes. The kind of airplanes I teach in. That means Cessna 150s and 172s, mostly. No, they are not "lowly." They produce lift through the same physical process that a 737 or Airbus does. And, complexity of systems aside, require every bit as much skill to fly professionally. I focus on my students and how they're learning. I focus on the reputation I earn for the "product" I put on the market.

I DO NOT focus on what may be next. I've mentioned before that I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, and I'm serious about that. The options are innumerable in aviation, especially with the looming pilot shortage, and that's liberating, not frustrating. When it's time, it'll be time. Until then, this is what I do.

The skills I acquire as a flight instructor will serve me well no matter where I end up. So I don't try to fly a 737 final in a 172. I don't checklist the 150 to death like it's a G6. And although federal law does consider me the "captain" of civil aircraft on which I'm serving as pilot in command, I'll leave the epaulets to my friends who are airline pilots.

So, AOPA, if you want to help bail flight instruction out of the hole that it is undeniably in (and I've discussed in earlier blog entries), quit giving bad, antiquated, useless advice. We have much more to worry about than matching our ties to our slacks! And while you're at it---an AOPA wine club? What the f***? Get real. I'm beginning to wonder what it is you're doing with my $49 in annual dues.


1 comment:

  1. I could not agree more! I had just read that same article when I saw your post. Damned AOPA