Membership Involvement

Your Greater St. Louis Flight Instructor Association has big plans and we’d like all of you to be a part of them. We put on a number of pilot education programs every year, provide scholarships for young CFI’s so that they can advance their qualifications and provide better instruction for their students, visit schools to try to instill in those young people the aviation passion that all of you feel, provide awards to our members who stand out in the St. Louis GA community, we’ve put on a Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic for almost 40 years and have plans for many other projects. As we sat in our Board meeting the other night we realized that we have more ideas than volunteers to help carry them out. That’s where you come in!

We sent out a plea for help a few months ago and did get a number of members who volunteered to step up to the plate and are now in the process of trying to fit them into projects of their choosing. If you’d like to work with presentations, visit the next generation of aviation enthusiasts (read’ students for YOU!), or just work from home on newsletters or recruiting, etc., we have something for you!

I know that you could add value to YOUR organization, so may I please ask you to contact me so that I can find out what you’d like to do and we’ll get you involved and make our group the best CFI group in the US! Thank you for listening and I hope to hear from all of you.


Controlling Mic Fright-The Fear of the Radio

mic frightAs a flight instructor we all know that training our students to become proficient on the radio can be one of the major challenges when instructing students. Microphone fright is one of the most common items that we have to train our students to overcome.

The fear of the unknown to the student is real, “will the controller get upset with me” is a primary driver.   “What should I say” is another frequent student statement that we hear over the frequency when he /she prematurely keys the microphone prior to executing a radio call.

Helping to reduce “mic fright” and making our students more comfortable “on the air” can be addressed using several methods.

Beginning with the very first flight, take the pressure off your students by making them more familiar with the radio. Explain that the radio is just a party line of communication between pilots and controllers designed to keep everyone safe and the operation flowing smoothly. Everyone makes mistakes and statements that they wish they could take back. Starting the call with the term “Student Pilot” takes the pressure off everyone.

A hand held transceiver tuned to the local frequencies can help a student become familiar with the terminology and educate the student on airport operations. There are several products like Comm I where the student can practice communications with an interactive computer program and have the ability to hear themselves on the playback.

One method I have used is to spend some quality time with a student acting the part of the controller at the airport viewing area where traffic in the pattern can be observed. Try providing him or her with a microphone and having him / her execute keyed responses to your instructions as the controller communicating with aircraft in the traffic pattern. It’s amazing how much some individuals freeze up when they push the button even to an unplugged mic.

With the continued demand for flight crew members, those seeking a career in commercial aviation today has probably never been better. Consequently, our instructor force doesn’t consists of the vast numbers of seasoned professionals that it once did.

Just as many new instructors are becoming experienced, their logbook totals 1,500 hours and their last day of instruction is in sight. While in the profession don’t hesitate to contact one of the old pro’s at the airport about student instructional concerns, chances are they have a way to help make a student sound like a professional on the radio.



Preparing for Your Airline Pilot Job Interview

Dan Reed, GSLFIA Director

cockpit2This is one of the best times in aviation history to be a pilot.  There is a pilot shortage, and airlines are hiring as many qualified candidates they can find.  But even with a pilot shortage, airlines still require candidates to meet their high standards.  Interviewing for a First Officer position at a regional airline can be a very involved process that requires a significant amount of prep work.  As the applicant, you must put the appropriate effort into preparing for your interview.   Be sure to do your homework!

Pre-Interview Research:

Research is very important.  Before applying anywhere, research and compare a number of airlines.  While important, pay and bonuses aren’t everything.  Take a hard look at work rules, too.  Work rules will determine your quality of life and will affect your bank account, so develop a comparison chart.

Comparison Chart Data Points:

  • Pay Scale
  • Per diem
  • Bonuses and Bonus terms
  • Regularly scheduled raises
  • Pay Guarantee
  • Pay Protection Policy
  • Commuter Policy
  • Bidding Policies for domicile (how often and locks)
  • Benefits cost and activation timeframe
  • Reserve rules
  • Average Time on Reserve
  • Upgrade requirements
  • Current and Average Time to Upgrade
  • Premium Pay
  • Junior Manning Policies and Frequency
  • Staffing Levels vs. Fleet Size
  • Training Success Rate
  • Safety Record
  • Company Financial Stability

Be knowledgeable about the airline you plan to interview with.  Doing your research will help you ask thoughtful and intelligent questions during the interview.  You want the recruiter see that you are a well-prepared, thorough and diligent candidate.  You should know the following information about an airline before you interview:

  • Aircraft Type(s)
  • Fleet Size
  • Mainline Partners
  • Destinations Served
  • Crew Base Locations
  • History (when was the airline formed, etc.)
  • Recent company news (e.g. opening a new route or ordering a new aircraft)
  • The airline’s biggest competitors

Make a Good Impression:

Make sure every contact with the airline is positive and professional, whether it be via phone, email, or in person.  Remember, every interaction is noted in your candidate file.

  • Check your spelling before your hit send or submit.
  • Don’t use slang.
  • Don’t call and ask questions that you can easily find on the airline’s website.
  • Never “no show” an interview.  If you cannot attend, call to cancel or reschedule.  Rescheduling interviews multiple times should be avoided, if at all possible.  It brings your reliability into question.
  • Dress professionally for the interview.  Wear a suit, and be well-groomed and polished.

Paperwork and credentials:

Inspect your paperwork and credentials early so you have time to replace lost and worn documents or obtain renewals, if needed.  Make sure all licenses and IDs, as well as your social security card, are signed.  Get specific documents notarized before your interview if required.

FAA Incidents and Check Ride Failures:

Take responsibility for any check ride failures.  Don’t blame the instructor, the examiner, the school, etc.  Own up to what happened, and tell the recruiter what you learned from the incident and how it made you a better pilot.

Preparing your Logbook:

Review and clean up all logbooks.  You will be judged by the way you keep your logbook.  An up-to-date and orderly logbook will help make your case as a candidate.  A disorganized, messy and uncomplete logbook will not impress a recruiter.

Attributes Airlines look for in a Pilot Applicant:

During an interview, be able to demonstrate that you have the attributes the airlines are looking for by sharing concrete examples of times and situations when you displayed the below-listed attributes.  Don’t just tell them you have these attributes, provide examples from your past.

  • Problem Solving
  • Situational Awareness
  • Team Work
  • Leadership
  • Prioritization
  • Diligence
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Empathy
  • Customer Minded
  • Risk Adverse
  • Motivated / Passionate

Interview Process:

Typically, most pilot interviews include a presentation about the airline, a Question and Answer Section, a Written Technical Test, an Oral Technical Section, and a Logbook Review.

Airline Presentation:

Following the presentation, the recruiter will typically take questions about the presentation.  This is a good time to ask a few intelligent questions based on your research.  Write them down and bring them with you to the interview.

Question and Answer Section:

You should be ready to talk about yourself, your future career goals and your past experiences.  There will also be behavioral questions during this section.  The recruiter will probe your motivation and try to glean an accurate picture of your character, problem solving skills, leadership style, team orientation and reliability.

Written Technical Test:

Most written technical tests are made up of questions from the ATP Written test question bank.  To prepare for the written test, review your ATP Written test prep manual or look up ATP written practice test questions online.  Most airlines require you to achieve a specific score on their written test in order to be hired. 

Oral Technical Evaluation Section:

The oral section measures your systems knowledge.  The recruiter will ask you to talk through typical instrument flying situations and scenarios.  They will also probe your approach to uncommon flying situations and emergencies.  In additional to getting a clear picture of your technical knowledge, the recruiter learns a lot about your commitment to protocol, diligence, problem solving skills, ability to prioritize, communication skills, and your leadership style.

Day of Interview:

Practice and research will prepare you to communicate clearly and concisely during the interview.  Stop and think before you speak so you can respond directly to questions asked without shifting topics.  Clearly demonstrate your ability to get along with others and work as a team member.  Always be pleasant, polite and positive.  Never bad month your former employer.

You’ve read a lot of advice, and this process might sound daunting.  But rest assured, your flight training has prepared you for this opportunity.  Prepping for your interview in advance and practicing your response to questions will calm your nerves and allow you to simply be yourself during the interview.

Navigating My Way to A Career Change

Tim Braun-GSLFIA Director

braunMany pilots refer to when they got “bit” by the airplane bug, or how they knew from a very early age that their whole goal was to become a pilot. Despite growing up in an airplane-oriented family, I had absolutely no intentions of becoming a pilot. However, life had a keen way of knowing what is right for me. I believe I am one of many fortunate people who are welcomed into the aviation community with open arms, and support that continues to this day. It was not until I encountered severe economic impact in my 30’s that I decided I needed a career change.

Aviation as a whole provides many different challenges, and rewards. This is why in 2005 I began flying. I needed an avenue to relieve stress; flying became a new role in my life. Though this does contradict the IMSAFE checklist, flying in its beauty and complexity prescribed the outlet I needed. It was not until 2008 that I completed my Private Pilot certificate, due to family, work and, of course money. Two years later I earned my instrument certificate with the help of Ken Kellogg. Everything was going great, family, work, then the economy took a downfall. This clipped my wings, all had come to a screeching halt. It was clear a career change was in order, but what to choose?

It was clear whatever I decided to do I would need to further my education, which led me to Keith Mueller at Southwestern Illinois College. When I first met Keith, and his closet sized office, I knew I was in the right place. He spoke in terms that were excepting, compelling, and he had a plan that matched mine. He was onboard!

Based on prior experience there are a few things that must be in place. Money, Time, Resources, Support Group, and Plan B. After meeting with Keith, and having Ken assigned as my instructor my support group had a solid foundation, so no more work was needed on that topic.

Money: this is what actually makes airplanes go, and we all know it. Fuel simply keeps them aloft. Once again Keith helped with the answer. Through Southwestern Illinois College, I was able to resource funding for my education, and flight training. Loans through the college paid every semester paved the way for my flight training. The only setback was they are paid every semester. This meant that I would have to save a couple semester loan payments at times prior to beginning to ensure a lapse in flight training would not occur.

Time: working no less than 55 hours a week and raising 2 kids by myself, time would prove a big challenge. Fortunately for me my work in excavation contracting allowed for weekends off. I can’t say enough about the support I received from Surmeier & Surmeier and their tolerance for the many days I was a walking zombie. As far as the kids go, I had much help from immediate family taking turns watching them on the late school nights and periods of flight training.

Resources / Training; closely ties in closely with plan “B”, but more on that later. I’m not certain that the manner in which I came to flight train is right for everyone. The compelling force for me was control. For my instrument training I acquired a privately owned airplane (not flight school owned or part of a 141 program) that was exceptionally maintained, had a modern flight deck and was only flown by a total of 5 people. I was very lucky in this regard, I had a keys to a brand new hanger, nearly new airplane, and best of all nearly unlimited access. This granted direct control of the pace, equipment, cost and availability of what I flew. After completing my instrument I remained as an active flying member of the instrument aircraft, later flying many memorable flights with my daughter, all in order to obtain the required flight time for the commercial certificate. For my commercial certificate I wanted the best bang for the buck. I wanted a high performance / complex aircraft. Saint Charles Flying Service was a perfect fit! They did a wonderful job of seeing me through to my goal of the commercial certificate. Later they proved a profound impact on my flying. For my CFII now had some wisdom on how to choose a flight school and aircraft. This time I chose not for a fancy airport, equipment, or facilities. I chose the instructor. Choosing the instructor is an essential point in any aviator’s career. Sad part is the lesson is only learned though experience. Obtaining my CFII would prove an equal challenge to my CFI. Not because any of the information was new, but because by this time the career change had had h appened. My CFII in large part was a self-study, with assistance from fellow instructors at Saint Louis University, and Bob Prenger. Bob was good at getting me to pay attention to what I was doing, or not doing.

Plan “B”: aviation has a fickle flame. Schools open and close. Airplanes come and go. Because of this, I was cautiously apprehensive about pre paying for any training. Albeit a little more costly due to not taking advantage of discounted programs, I remained in control and ensured my funds would not vaporize with the closure of the flight school. Even with the private aircraft I could see cost structure changes on the horizon that would lead to my departure from that airplane, to which it unfortunately did. Because of these changes I always kept a plan for an alternate airplane, to continue training.

Support group: enough cannot be said about an intelligent, invested, and connected support group. This group is the one that will keep you on track, and not let your head swell too big. Without further ado I would like to take the time to thank my support group.

Saint Charles Flying Service: Nick Loftus, Bob Prenger, Mark C. Clint Grant, and Dennis Bampton.

SWIC: Keith Mueller, Jim Stamm, and Ken Kellogg

Saint Louis University: Saul Robinson, Ting Chau

And to all others that helped along the way: Bruce Ballew (the most fun flying ever)

At the Present time I am currently employed by Saint Louis University as a flight instructor, and they are fully invested in my improvement by contributing to additional endorsements at little to no cost to me. My career change is complete—I am on the aviation ladder!