The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) recently hosted its first summit, bringing together instructors from around the country to discuss and educate on various topics related to flight instruction. The event included panels with designated pilot examiners, discussions on the state of check ride preparation, insights into running a flight instruction business, and a presentation on GA Type Ratings. Attendees had the opportunity to network with industry leaders and gain valuable knowledge and tips to improve their own instruction. Overall, the summit aimed to raise the level of flight instruction in the United States.
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The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) recently hosted its first major event, the NAFI Summit, which brought together instructors from all over to discuss, educate, and debate on various topics related to flight instruction. The summit, held in Lakeland, Florida, at the Florida Air Museum, aimed to improve the skills and knowledge of attendees. The tagline “Come to NAFI Summit, go home a better instructor” accurately summed up the experience. The informative and engaging sessions held on Wednesday and Thursday proved to be enlightening for many participants.
It’s interesting to note that NAFI, despite being established over 50 years ago, recently organized its first major event. The turnout was impressive with about 200 attendees, including 150 who attended both days. This showed great support and interest from the approximately 7,000 paid NAFI members, making it a representative sample of the group.
The summit began with a panel discussion led by highly experienced designated pilot examiners (DPEs), including Karen Kalishek, Mary Schu, and Doug Stewart. The panel focused on examining the state of check ride preparation and success. One concern raised by the panelists, particularly Schu, was the lack of real cross-country solo time for students from Part 141 programs. This lack of experience can negatively impact their ability to make independent decisions as pilot in command. It is worth noting the similarities between this situation and the classification of time under European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations as “supervised solo,” where the instructor remains present but remains silent.
It’s surprising to learn that the examination pass rate has significantly dropped over the past five years, ranging from 50 to 60 percent. This information was shared by Kalishek, who is a DPE based in Wisconsin. Such a decline is alarming and raises concerns about the overall competence of aspiring pilots.
Flight School as a Business
Another informative panel discussion explored the business aspect of flight schools. Moderated by flight school owner George Allen, the panelists—Aaron Dabney, Frank Gallagher, and Ned Parks—discussed the keys to running a successful flight instruction business. One crucial factor they emphasized was maintaining a high quality of employees and equipment. They also highlighted the importance of presenting a polished image by properly servicing the aircraft and ensuring a clean appearance.
Dabney, who specializes in CFI to tailwheel instruction, stressed the need for flight schools to differentiate themselves by clearly defining their mission and explaining what makes them unique. Parks cautioned against using 1099 contractors versus employees on a W-2, as the minimal savings do not outweigh the regulatory risks associated with misclassification.
The Magenta Guy and GA Type Ratings
A notable highlight of the summit was a presentation by Les Abend, a contributor to FLYING magazine, and Gary Reeves on the GA Type Rating course they have developed. They discussed their unique approach to training airline pilots transitioning to general aviation, as well as those flying light aircraft for the first time after military service. This type of program may also be an effective way to encourage retired captains to become flight instructors.
Networking at a High Level
The summit provided ample opportunities for networking with industry professionals and experts. Attendees had the chance to converse with individuals such as Greg Feith, host of the Flight Safety Detectives podcast and former senior NTSB accident investigator, as well as representatives from Sporty’s, Redbird Flight Simulations, the FAA, and Avemco. The keynote speakers for the summit’s dinner were John and Martha King, founders of King Schools, who shared valuable insights from their books. It was also a great occasion to connect with fellow aviation instructors and foster new relationships.
Overall, the NAFI Summit proved to be an enriching experience, providing instructors with valuable insights and knowledge. The true impact of the summit will soon be evident when attendees put into practice what they learned during their upcoming flight reviews.
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