The New CFI Corner

Welcome to my blog! Last year, on April 30, 2020, I was suddenly informed that my services as classroom and simulator instructor were no longer needed! I was initially surprised but quickly figured it out. My boss, the Center Manager at a large FAR 142 Learning Center, thanked me for my service (teaching pilots to fly jets, the Cessna Citation 2&5), and, told me that unfortunately, he had to let me go. I was one of many being cut. A corporate decision, made at headquarters, not his decision. ‘Separated’ is the word he used. Not terminated, not furloughed. Separated. Ok. A corporate, legal thing. I could reapply at some future date, whenever they start hiring again.

Looking back, due to the rapidly growing global pandemic that was suddenly affecting ALL of us, in 2020, in ways that we could not yet imagine. I was one of many victims of this. As a result, the FAA had implemented a new rule, last March, that extended the annual training requirements for pilot ‘currency’, as it’s called, for Part 91 pilots (corporate, not-for-hire), for an additional 90 days. But not for Part 121 (airline) or Part 135 (charter) pilots. So, many clients were cancelling or postponing their required training, for 90 days, or longer. Suddenly we had too many instructors, along with other support staff. I was one of them. Many staff at other Learning Centers were also let go.

What a year. For all of us. Was this the perfect storm? Who among us was ready for this? I sure wasn’t. Retirement? Hell no! I’m not ready for that. Who can afford to retire? I can’t. Besides, I have an expensive hobby, owning and flying an airplane! Also, I have way too much energy to retire! And retire to what?? I’m NOT slowing down. I’m STILL in the game. Flying airplanes and all that goes with that. Adventure, and more! 

Fast forward. One year later. What a year it’s been. Many pilots out of work. Few jobs. And reaching age ‘65’ as well. I’m adapting. Working on reinventing myself in the process; learning new skills; many new skills required by technology and a constantly evolving aviation environment. The marketplace is changing, rapidly. And it’s suddenly very challenging, too, even for jobs as a contract pilot and instructor.

Let me explain. The aviation insurance underwriters have raised the ‘experience’ bar significantly, to provide required coverage to a pilot or CFI. It’s now VERY specific, meaning airplane specific. How much experience do you have in a particular make/model airplane? Over the years, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to fly many different makes and models of aircraft, but sometimes for only a few hours. Maybe 1 – 10 hours, or up to 20, but less than 25 – 50 hours, depending on what a client needed, or other circumstances. So, now I’m well short of the insurance required 25 or 50 hours in some aircraft, through no fault of my own. And more insurance questions like, when was your last ‘recurrent simulator check-ride’? And, in some cases, in which simulator was the check-ride in? Really.

This is due to recent accidents and insurance claims, especially the two Boeing 737 Max accidents in 2018 and 2019. Suddenly, I don’t have the necessary experience! After decades of flying. This was quite a surprise! The FAA says you are competent, proficient, and ‘fit’ to fly (satisfactory performance on a check-ride), and either re-qualifies you, or issues new pilot certificates and ratings, but the insurance companies write the checks after an accident, so they call the shots on this.

So, what do I need to do, to both catch up, and keep up? Get back in the books and take online courses. And Zoom webinars. There is an explosion of new technology. Learn the new technology, review as needed, and all that goes with that. How far we’ve come. The pace of change only accelerates.

That brings me to this blog. CFI Corner. I’ve been kicking the idea around for a while. Now seems to be a good time. It’s a way for me to contribute my ‘2 cents’ to aviation safety, to hopefully make a difference, and provide a service to the general aviation community. I’ve seen a lot over the four decades that I’ve been a CFI.

I am curious by nature, and have many interests in aviation, so I will probably discuss several topics, not just one. One big area of interest for me is weather. How many pilots don’t understand aviation weather well enough? Too many. Weather-related accidents continue to occur. I will be commenting on other topics, issues and industry trends, as well my own adventures, flying other aircraft or my Cessna 150, shown in the picture above.

And yes, of course, I’m still learning! It never ends. In fact, as I write this, I am going through my own CFI renewal, due by June 30, via an online course. It’s required every two years for flight instructors, like many other educators.

So, hopefully, I will pose the right questions and get pilots to think. What can be learned from a particular accident? What trends are we seeing? How has the new ACS (airman certification standards) changed flight training, for example? I’m admittedly ‘old school’, having learned to fly in the last century, ‘BC’ as I sometimes tell people who ask. Not that ‘BC’. Rather, ‘before computers’ and ‘before cell phones!’; that ‘BC’ 

As often as I have something to say, I’ll post it. Hopefully at least monthly. I welcome your comments. There is a learning curve with this, like everything. Let’s see what happens.

Fly safely!

John Mahany

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