I often hear from pilots asking how to prepare for, and what to expect in training for the flight instructor “practical test” (Ie; oral and flight tests.) The subject is little-discussed among the general pilot population so I decided to answer it in this post.
In training for the CFI practical test you will:
- master flying the private and commercial maneuvers from the right seat (if you haven’t already)
- write lesson plans and use them to teach every maneuver and key aeronautical knowledge subjects to your instructor (and perhaps other CFI students) on the ground, and
- teach those maneuvers in the air.
Assuming you have a good instructor, which is critical for CFI training, you will get the opportunity to review the knowledge for each subject area in the course of teaching it. So other than keeping sharp on your flying and aeronautical knowledge, and becoming familiar with the FAA’s Aviation Instructor Handbook, there is little preparation required to start your training.
That being said, I can recommend a few excellent reference books for teaching given maneuvers or subjects. The Flight Instructor’s Manual, by the legendary Bill Kershner, is a must-have reference that answers most any flight-training question that will ever come up. Another great reference is Instructional Methods for Flight Instructors, by Gordon Henrie. And if you can find a copy, Edwin Quinlan’s The Flight Instructor’s Lesson Plan Handbook (currently out of print) offers pre-developed lesson plans for every maneuver. (9/10 update: I see that Sportys is now offering their own CFI Lesson Plan Guides.) For specific tips on passing your CFI practical test, and subsequent guidance on building your upcoming flight training business, consider my own book, The Savvy Flight Instructor Second Edition.
I do have one important “outside the box” suggestion regarding preparing for your flight instructor checkride. Shortly before taking the test, I encourage first-time CFI applicants to teach at least one “real lesson.” Find a friend or relative interested in becoming a pilot, schedule an airplane, and teach him or her an entire first lesson including ground briefing, preflight, flight lesson, and debrief. Of course you can’t charge for the lesson or log it as dual, nor can your “student” log it, but your learning experience in teaching this practice lesson will be invaluable in sensitizing you to the teaching level required by your students, and thereby will prepare you to satisfy your own CFI examiner or FAA inspector.
BTW, at points during your CFI checkride it may not be clear whether the examiner is asking you a question in the role of your student, or in the role of your CFI examiner. Be sure to ask, if you’re not sure!
You will love being a flight instructor, and delivering the dream of flight!
©2009, 2020, 2022 Gregory N. Brown
For more guidance on this topic, see Greg’s book, The Savvy Flight Instructor 2nd Edition.