How necessary is a CFI to break into commercial aviation?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Positively_Weird, Feb 11, 2021.

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  1. Positively_Weird

    Positively_Weird Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm just getting started out with my PPL. Commercial licensing is a long way off but I think this path is for me...at least I really want it to be. Anyway I am curious about the likelihood of getting hired with low hours and no interest in being a CFI because:

    1) I hate teaching and am not good at it

    2) I really don't have the funds to carry me very far past the 250 hour requirement for a CPL.

    The goal is to be the best student I can be, get my CPL at or near 250 hours, and then start making money. Pay doesn't have to be great as I am the resourceful type, but I do gotta eat. Do any jobs typically hire CPL's with an ass greener than emeralds? And/or is it possible to skirt around 300-400 hour requirements through networking? I can't work at a desk much longer.
     
  2. KeepWatch

    KeepWatch Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Move to a coastal area and tow banners for a summer?
     
  3. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    Had a buddy flying for the airlines now doesn't have CFI he flew aerial survey planes (mowing the lawn) for two summers. First summer was in 172s the second was in twins.
     
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  4. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    Not 100% necessary. Just need to find a path to gain hours and experience required for the job you desire. CFI is the most common because it's the most in demand job for low hour pilots. Only so many banners and jumpers to fly.
     
  5. Positively_Weird

    Positively_Weird Filing Flight Plan

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    Airlines don't really interest me but it is good to know that there's no ceiling without a CFI. I'm curious about the summer thing though, seeing as you and KeepWatch mentioned it. Is that the only time that low hour pilot jobs are typically in season? Especially with surveying and photography, I thought the best time to fly those jobs was in the winter, when trees are bare.
     
  6. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    Best times are spring and fall, no leaves on the trees but no snow covering the ground. You'll notice you don't see snow on Google Maps.
     
  7. Positively_Weird

    Positively_Weird Filing Flight Plan

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    Gotcha. I currently do mapping work in the South, so snow never really crossed my mind. So is year-round employment a realistic prospect for a budding commercial pilot? Or is it common to take up a temporary job in the off-season?
     
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  8. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    That's the pinch from what I've seen. CFI is fairly steady. A lot of the other work is either seasonal and/or requires moving around following the work. If that's your cup of tea great!
     
  9. Positively_Weird

    Positively_Weird Filing Flight Plan

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    Don't really mind moving around, hell it's half the reason I'm interested in the profession! That is, assuming I can get a CPL by the age of 25 and put in my dues while I'm still young and amenable to that sort of life.
     
  10. Groundpounder

    Groundpounder Pattern Altitude

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    Don't say "I want to do X" or "I don't want to do Y" at this point in your career. Wait till you actually get your commercial, et al, then see where things lead. Lots of things can change between now and then.
     
  11. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    24 months ago if you had the hours without a CFI no one cared,
     
  12. Martin Pauly

    Martin Pauly Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    This is the key. If you don't enjoy teaching, then do not become a CFI.
    Anything else is secondary.

    - Martin
     
  13. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    Right. We have enough CFI's that don't treat students like a customer. ;)
     
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  14. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Cleared for Takeoff

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    I would suggest making this analysis after you do some flying and earn a certificate/rating or two. It's too early to worry about it, really.

    In my opinion it's not absolutely necessary to have a CFI to be successful in aviation, but the transition from spending money to making money can be quite a bit more challenging with fewer options available to make it happen.
     
  15. Juliet Hotel

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    Is it possible to get work with 250 hours TT and not be a CFI? Yes its possible. Is it likely? Depends.

    Banners is the route I took and would be the easiest avenue for you IMO. Being able to eat will be challenging. The pay was abysmal when I did it 20 years ago and I don't think its gone up very much since.

    If banners are the route you plan on going, do everything you can to get as much tail wheel time as possible while you're training. If you've got 25 or 50 hours of tailwheel, you'll go to the front of the line for most entry level banner positions.
     
  16. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Understand that there are specialty jobs out there, like banner towing and skydive flying, but they're getting harder to find. More and more small plane flying is going away or getting replaced by UAS. Airborne traffic reporting used to be a thing, but stations have cut back and use cameras. Aerial photography it getting replaced by drones. Pipeline and fish spotting are still jobs, but generally require more experience and will eventually be replaced by UAS. Flying checks used to be a big thing but went away years ago with electronic processing.

    Your first paid (non CFI) flying gig will likely require at least 500 hours, so factor that into your budgeting.
     
  17. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    A lot of time if you are wanting to Ferry airplanes for new owners, they would like to go along on the adventure and log dual time to satisfy insurance requirements.
     
  18. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    As others have pointed out, having a CFI rating is absolutely not necessary. It’s just one method of building hours.

    But your first point is the reason you should avoid going the CFI route. The training market is full of pilots who have no aptitude to teach but are trying to get hours to move on. We really don’t need more garbage instructors. Better to avoid being forced to teach than to do it out of a sense of duty. No one will think less of you as a pilot for not having been a CFI.
     
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  19. mondtster

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    Is it possible to gain employment without having a flight instructor certificate? Yes.

    That said, I have found that having a flight instructor certificate opens doors that wouldn’t be opened otherwise, even without ever giving an hour of instruction. For that reason (and others) I’d suggest pursuing it even if you never use it.
     
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  20. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I hear fixed wing AG flying is healthy right now. Might want to look into that.
     
  21. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Line Up and Wait

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    1. Generalities don't apply to you. You can write your own story.
    2. Yes, it is possible.
    3. Get your CPL.
    4. Never stop studying and learning about everything aviation.
    5. Get ANY job at an airport - ramp rat, FBO desk, whatever. Once there, let people know about your goals. People in aviation like to help others who have the passion. Be patient, stay focused, Sooner or later a small opportunity will open up, then another one and then one day you will be where you wanted to be. You can make this happen. Just keep taking the little steps forward.
     
  22. Groundpounder

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    I managed to get a flying job without my CFI, but I got lucky, being in the right place at the right time. Took 10 years of working in line service to get me into that place and time.

    The problem with that is it isn't an entry level job. Most operators want you to have a fair amount of low level experience. Yes, I understand its a catch-22 kind of situation, but it is what it is.
     
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  23. Juliet Hotel

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    I will add to more items to this list.
    • Be bulletproof reliable - If you say you're going to show up, show up, early never late.
    • Be good at the job - Even if the job isn't flying, show up and do the job whatever it is and do it well. Never phone it in just because its not what you really want to do.
    • Be likeable - People want to help pilots who are just getting started. They want to help people whom they like who are just getting started more.
     
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  24. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

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    It’s one of the best ways to build time. I’d get it. It’s well worth it.
     
  25. Travis Atchley

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    Depends on how much money you have, I went looking for anything but CFI at 250. I didn't want an unnecessary checkride, or training, or studying, etc. I had two places tell me 300 hrs and they'll take me. I worked up to 310 hrs, they said oh sorry we have more qualified pilots but if you get up to 500 hrs, you're in! I wasn't ready to spend another 20k in time building for just a maybe and then make $18/hr with a 30 hr guarantee. So I put the time back into studying and got my CFI.
     
  26. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    One examiner/flight school owner I used to know said the best way to minimize the amount of time you have to instruct is to be really good at it.
     
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  27. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    I love being a CFI. My customers are highly motivated individuals that share a love of flying and all things airplanes. Soloing them for the first time is priceless. Seeing them come back from their solo XC flights “better PIC” than when I last flew with them is cool.

    I look forward to my first twin job, but realize my customers will probably only care about getting somewhere fast. Not appreciating the joy of flight. I hope I still am able to teach in my next job.
     
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  28. Tarheelpilot

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    It is possible to get the ag seat at relatively low time glider/banner tow are good ways to build the Tail wheel time. I would not recommend ag as a stepping stone. If that’s where you want to be then go for it. Treat it the same way as you are instructing.
     
  29. ahw01

    ahw01 Pre-Flight

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    how else are you going to deal with the unexpected from the left seat?
     
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  30. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    It’s “unexpected” when you’re instructing. When you’re an SIC, it’s “incompetence”.
     
  31. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    What have you taught before that you aren't good at? The same things you hate to do instead of fly? I would suggest, based on experience flying with many different professional pilots over the years, the best pilots were students of the game. The teaching environment is where you can lay down an extra strong footer for your basic flying skills, not by spending lots of boring hours in level flight between paychecks. Get the most thorough knowledge and skill for your time invested for the first one or two thousand hours, I say. It'll prep you best for all that comes later.
     
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  32. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    You don't want to go airline and you don't want to teach. So what's your dream flying gig then?
     
  33. Grum.Man

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    Good luck finding a pilot job at 250TT in this market. I’m sure there are jobs posted with that minimum but are likely hiring at way over it. Unless you know someone you will have to get very lucky. As for CFI, if airlines or charter is your goal it doesn’t much matter. If you desire is to fly smaller planes like a demo pilot or aerial tours more and more of them prefer cfi’s. Don’t get it though if you only want it for a resume. You aren’t doing your self or anyone else any favors if you don’t desire to teach.
     
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  34. Positively_Weird

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    Well I once spent an entire summer at a teaching gig trying to get a....behaviorally challenged kid to count to 10. That felt like beating my head against a wall for weeks. I did not succeed. In general I find that I am better at the doing than explaining what I'm doing.

    Aerial photography interests me as an early gig since I make maps currently and work with aerial photographs a lot. Long term, cargo, corporate, tours, AK bush flying, all sounds interesting if I can get enough payed hours in. I wouldn't completely rule out airlines as an end-game, but currently I hope to fly while I'm young and settle back into mapping from a desk later on in life.
     
  35. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    Get as much tailwheel time as you can. If you've got 300 hours and 200 of them are tailwheel, you will get jobs that guys with 1000 hours but no tailwheel won't be able to get.
     
  36. Geosync

    Geosync Pre-takeoff checklist

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    In theory networking can get you damn far. I knew a guy who learned to fly in his 40s for fun. One of his best friends was a corporate Gulfstream pilot, and he hooked him up in the right seat of a GIV with 500 hours. He would tell the story how he was at Flightsafety with 500 hours getting typed and everyone was shocked/appalled at him. So, yes, you can bypass CFIing with networking. But it’s a grind for most everyone unless you roll in powerful circles. Remember, you gotta bring something to the table that puts you ahead of all other pilots. Are you a mechanic? Will you do all the menial hangar tasks at 5 in the morning while everyone is still sleeping? A lot of tailwheel experience? I know guys that have made it without a CFI but they were all either A&P mechanics that paid dues or unbelievably motivated and would empty blue juice and tow and fuel planes at 2 in the morning without complaint.
     
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  37. Grum.Man

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    Networking is more important than just about anything. I have a friend that got a right seat job in a Falcon with 500 hours because his dad knew the chief pilot. Almost everyone I know that found a way in other than slogging it out for 1500 hours did so because they knew a guy. Survey companies like CFI’s so they can train pilots on the varying aircraft types without paying for an extra person.
     
  38. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    please share some examples.
     
  39. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    Banners is obvious. Tons of them still use tailwheel stuff. When I in the biz, my tailwheel time was a factor in getting hired to the drop zone I flew for. They had lots of airplanes including a Porter and a Stearman. Airline guys were still laid off post 9/11 at the time so there were lots of guys with way more time than me looking for work. So they had a long line of guys that were qualified to fly their turboprop twins and Caravans. But most of them had zero tailwheel so those planes weren't earning their keep because the guys with no tailwheel time couldn't fly them.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying having lots of tailwheel will open tons of doors for you because it won't. But it could open a few doors that would not otherwise be open for you. And those particular doors will tend to have a lot less competition for the positions IMO.
     
  40. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    JH, thanks for the reply.