Independent CFI vs Flight School, suggestion in New York Area

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Your collective wisdom on the question(s) above. I would appreciate
your thoughts on the pro/con. My ideal would be to have a CFI who
can train me while I fly to business meetings as well as
traditional �around the airfield� stuff. I would ideally want a
career CFI, as opposed to younger guy racking up hours. Do I want
a "Master CFI". Do I require "Gold Seal"? Cost (per hour) is more
flexible for me. If I was in Boston area I could think of a really
good CFII...

The AOPA web page comes up with the following: �Unless you already
know someone who flies or who is a flight instructor, your search
will begin in the yellow pages. Call nearby airports and ask to speak
to a flight instructor.� I think AOPA is a FANTASTIC organization,
but that may not do it.

The list of instructors they have does not break out independents,
hence my second question: anyone know any good independent CFI�s at
Essex, Caldwell or other NYC area airport?

My thanks as always,


-- fabio savoldelli, March 10, 2008


You've discovered that AOPA is mainly a political lobby and not a very good resource for learning how to fly, meeting other pilots, etc.

If you're too rich to deal with a standard flight school and you don't yet own your own plane, look into AirShares Elite, a fractional Cirrus program. They have a Caldwell branch. They employ first-rate CFIs (at least here at Bedford, MA). The Cirrus is great for point-to-point business transportation. It is, unfortunately, not a great trainer, but you will learn eventually. An alternative would be to buy a Diamond Star DA40 or Cessna 172/182 and use the AirShares guys to introduce you to some other local career CFIs. The AirShares instructors are often freelancers in any case.

If AirShares doesn't suit you for some reason, walk around the hangars and find guys who own airplanes and recently got an IFR or other rating. Cirrus and Diamond owners are good folks to talk to. A Bonanza owner will generally have taken his last lesson during the Reagan Administration and the CFIs that he knows will often have become Boeing 757 captains by now...

-- Philip Greenspun, March 10, 2008

Fabio: To your followup question below... I never said that AirShares was cheap, only that they provided a high level of service, convenience, and quality! It is an alternative to ownership of a new airplane ("if you have to ask what it costs, you can't afford it!"), not to renting from a flight school.

I don't think Master CFI, Gold Seal, or hours are all that relevant. One of my best instructors was a former high school English teacher (quit his high-paying union job as a teacher because he couldn't stand the ineffectiveness of the way American high schools were organized). He had only about 500 hours and only lasted a couple of years as a CFI before moving to a Pilatus charter service. There are some other great instructors (not me!) at our flight school who do have thousands of hours of dual given because they love to teach and have wives with decent jobs. I don't think either of the guys whom I'm thinking of have Master CFIs or Gold Seals. They are just great at their jobs and can probably get you through a rating 10 hours faster than an average CFI.

High hours and a lot of experience aren't that relevant to getting a VFR rating. You're learning to land a Cessna 172, not trying to fly approaches in IMC in a twin-turbojet. My primary instructor was an ATP with 9000 hours. He was also bad at explaining how to fly, hated MIT egghead engineers (he had worked with some at his day job), and yelled at me constantly for being an idiot. Due to his high level of skill we were able to go out in the Katana in 30-knot gusty winds, but I could have learned to do that after I got my rating.

If you're taking someone on business trips, I think you should try to find someone with a compatible personality and above-average (but not necessarily superstar) teaching skills.

Independent CFI or flight school? At Bedford I can't think of too many truly independent CFIs. Everyone seems to affiliate with one of the two big flights schools or AirShares. There really is not enough business for a true independent.

It sounds like you don't have your own plane right now. In that case, you need a plane AND an instructor. I think a flight school or AirShares would be your only option.

If you do buy your own plane, the sales guy will usually know some good local pilots/CFIs. You'll also get to be good friends with a mechanic or two. The great mechanics are usually very well connected to the local flying community and can recommend good instructors (if a mechanic says something good about a pilot, you know that the pilot must be exceptional!).

-- Philip Greenspun, March 11, 2008

One more idea: Young airline first officers on their days off. A lot of these guys recently moved up from a flight school and are quite sharp on instruction. They get paid $19,000/year by their airline so a bit of extra income is appreciated. They usually know their schedule one month in advance. They are very sharp on instrument flying and rules/regulations/procedures. These guys make ideal instrument instructors. You can find them by asking around at the flight school for the names of guys who have recently disappeared to the airlines.

-- Philip Greenspun, March 11, 2008

A few thoughts: Does my math on AirShares seem right? The numbers get pretty wild: The plans run 24 months Let's consider the 60 hour plan: Management fee is $737/month, or $17,688 for 24 months Remarketing fee at the end is 11.1% of aircraft, or $33,330 eg ($300,000*11.1%) over 24 months. In other words, you pay $50,988 (17K+33K) over two years in fees for 120 hours, or $425/hr, before the $105hr to actually fly the plane, and before your share of depreciation of the aircraft. This is a set cost of $529/hr. If depreciation is 10% (conservative...) this comes out to $571/hr, before instructor etcナ I am flexible on payment to the CFI, e.g. would happily pay the going rate (plus!) for the Master of Bedford, but $570-$600 adds up, vs $330 from a flight school. On CFI choice: In general, though, would you go independent CFI or flight school? Do I care about モMaster CFIヤ or モGold Sealヤ if the guy has hours? Any thoughts on pros and cons of either school or independent? I expect to have my ground school done before I start flying at all. My thanks as always, Fabio

-- fabio savoldelli, March 11, 2008

Greetings - My only suggestion would be to check out flying clubs. I joined the Westchester Flying Club (at HPN) and have been pleased to discover that they have several high-time instructors in the club who offer instruction to members in club aircraft at very reasonable rates (both aircraft and instruction). Since you're paying the instructor directly and the club is run as a non-profit, everything you pay goes directly to pay the costs involved. The other nice thing about this situation is that we can easily do lessons that are much longer than the big flight school standard 2-hour block. I like the ability to do a long cross-country flight in the IFR system, get lunch, fly back and debrief without worrying about the next student in line.


-- John Merryman, April 7, 2008