It’s that time of the year when a data point is shared relating to how many instructors sign off applicants for certificates and ratings in the FAA system. Looking back at 2022, the flight training industry has felt great pressure to deliver more pilots faster to a hungry airline hiring beast. As the industry attempts to feed CFIs who have met the requisite experience (total time) requirements into the hiring process for airline service, most flight training providers have seen heavy turnover in their CFI staff. In most major flight training operations, CFIs are turning over in their position between 10-16 months of time in the job (as a CFI).
Anecdotally, we have heard from students in training that they have had less stability in their training when it comes to having just one or even two instructors throughout their training. The heavy turnover of CFIs has resulted in it becoming normalized for a student to have 3, 4, 5, or even more CFIs that work with them during any particular certification training. And this isn’t through ALL of their training, it is per particular certificate or rating. We get it, CFIs want to move on to other jobs many times.
But there are effects in the system to this condition. It means that fewer CFIs are actively engaged with training students over longer periods of time. It generally tracks that as CFIs provide more training, they get better at it. They figure out how to do the job better. They learn to be able to tell when a student is really ready for a practical test, and when they are not if they do the job longer. Experience as a teacher typically makes teachers better. Having CFIs who never gain that experience in the majority of our training sector cannot be a good thing.
We are seeing in our numbers that there are more CFIs giving “signoffs” for a certificate and/or rating in a given year over the past few years than did so historically. While we do know that training numbers overall are up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that more CFIs are training more people. It may mean that more CFIs are signing off fewer numbers of applicants personally. It’s a mix of things we are seeing here. More CFIs doing signoffs, and more people completing training, but that isn’t necessarily a one-to-one comparison.
If a CFI signed off 10 students, that would mean that 10 people got signed off. But it is also possible that 2 CFIs could sign off 6 people each and end up with 12 people signed off. Two CFIs signing people off doesn’t necessarily mean that we got 20 people signed off.
Follow? Hopefully, I haven’t confused you too much yet.
The point is here we are tracking a number, being the endorsement activity here, that gives us a data point, but it should be considered in conjunction with other data. Specifically, some data that we will see in the next couple of months, the total certification events that took place in 2022 also. If you are reading this, check back here in the upcoming months and I will highlight what we see in that data when it comes out.
Ok, ok, so I said I would share some numbers. So here they are:
This is what we saw in the 2022 endorsement activity and compared with recent years.
We can see that the numbers of overall CFIs that are signing off even one student for a practical test still represent a small percentage of the overall CFI holder population (which we won’t have official numbers on for a month or so yet, but we expect to still be above 120,000 CFI individuals). It remains a small percentage of our CFIs who are doing the job of signing students off for certificates and ratings each year. A great number of these CFIs are working as professional pilots who keep a CFI certificate active but have other work duties and many, more each year, are at and above retirement age.
Always kind of fun, if you are reading these numbers and are a CFI who falls into the categories of larger numbers of signoffs in the past year, you are certainly in a small community of highly active CFIs!