Become a flight instructor? What a waste of time and money, I thought. I was wrong… I had a Private Multi with about 1,000 hours of flight time but I was only rolling backward.
So I was 19, working at the local community college and a human resources company as a temp and of course, I thought I was the shit. I had one of those girlfriends who said, spend your money, you deserve it, you work so hard. Deep down I knew she was a clown, but I continued to think “I made it”.
I had Blackberry that ( I thought )made me look like a baller, and a phone bill that was probably 20% of my monthly crap income, but I was cool.
Late in 2009, I screwed up big time. I was working at the HR company and somehow I terminated THREE employees health insurance/benefits. No one knew until one of the three went to an appointment and was told her insurance wasn’t active. That would become the most positive delete keystroke in my life. I was fired the same day, I came home to where I lived, my parent’s house, I was cool remember?
I came home and my parents told me it was time for a change. I was so off course from my dreams, I wasn’t even close. They said I should become a Flight Instructor. I laughed but there was no other option, and I didn’t want to go to school. The older I get the more I realize how much they supported my dreams. My parents are the kind that does whatever it takes for their kids to get ahead. Thanks, Mom & Dad.
Off to ATP flight school in Atlanta, I went. I quickly earned my Commercial Multi & Single ratings and I began studying for all of the CFI ratings. ( I think if I used THIS my ground and flight training would have been a breeze ) I was using Gleim for the written test prep, let’s just say it took a while for me to pass the multiple written tests. When I went to ATP in Jacksonville for CFI school I wasn’t ready. I needed more time to study and luckily they let me come back when I was ready. I had no clue how much time & effort people put into becoming a flight instructor.
Being a CFI is a privilege not a handout, it’s serious SHIT, you’re dealing with peoples Lives
When I went back to Jacksonville I was ready. I was the first person that year to pass the MEI, MEII and CFI checkride on the first attempt. The failure rate for the first time applicant was above 90%. When I finally made it home I had a nasty fever and slept for almost a day straight.
See, before I wasn’t hungry enough, I didn’t respect what it was to be a CFI, being a CFI is a privilege not a handout, it’s serious SHIT, you’re dealing with peoples Lives. I just had to figure out how to stay hungry enough for the next step, I wanted to get to ATP minimums even though I was still only 20 years old. Oh, and I had $20,000 I owed for all the flight training on an American Express to pay off too…
Where I was mainly flying in Sarasota (SRQ) there were three flight schools. I helped out at the Sport Pilot school for about 30 hours and another flight school but I didn’t want to give any of those schools my money. They would bill out a CFI for $50 and pay us around $20. I wanted the whole pie, the $50, all for me. My friend figured out how I could pop up first on a google search when people searched for the other flight schools by name. It worked.
Before I get to the full story, have you heard of Theodore Robert Wright III? If not google him.
“TR” (Theodore Robert) was my first EVER student. He posted on jetcareers.com and wanted a “deal” for delivering and teaching him how to fly his Bellanca Super Viking for $100 a day. I airlined up to Richmond where he found it at an auction, we flew it back to Sarasota. We had a disagreement when he didn’t want to fix a broken part of the plane and that was our last flight. In the end, poor N8124R had a gear up landing in Galveston, TX!
Marc was a student I had at the Sport Pilot School and he started it all for me. He had a dry lease agreement with the owner of a Cessna 172 with a G1000 panel. We flew EVERYWHERE in that airplane. He would stay a month or so in Sarasota and we would fly 50-100 hours.
At the same time, a guy I played tennis with years before was buying a Cessna 310r that he couldn’t fly. His instructor was Luis Savigne of Florida Flight Center. Luis was helping me with time building already in a Cessna 421 he managed and other airplanes. He gave me the opportunity of training someone for their Multi-Engine to add on. Knowing Luis gave me tons of opportunities after I proved I wasn’t an idiot as an MEI. He was huge for my career and taught me a lot. If you need initial or recurrent training check out Luis at Florida Flight Center.
I saw a job listing for a skydiving company about an hour and a half away. It took over a dozen calls but they finally needed me to fly. I never flew a Sky Diving plane before but I figured it wasn’t too hard to do and the money sounded ok. I showed up to an old hangar with an even older Cessna 182 from 1956 and managed to drop the jumpers only a few miles of course (Not Joking)! A typical day would start at 7 am and end at sunset, we would only shut down the airplane twice. The skydive company also had a contract to fly for the military SOCOM jump team which had some incredible flying opportunities into TFR’s, legally.
One of my first flight instructors had an opportunity for me to make some money by cleaning airplanes and hangars. This led to me meeting the Chief Pilot of an operation with a King Air 350, Phenom 100 and Learjet 60. That pilot needed a fixed-wing flight instructor add-on. So I gave him the instructor add-ons and he offered me contract flying opportunities in the King Air 350 and the Phenom. He gave me a SIC type ratings and I flew those planes all over the East coast and to the Superbowl once too. The King Air taught me basic international procedures which would be a huge help for the future.
The Cessna 310r student from a few paragraphs ago had another friend I previously knew at the tennis club. He had a brand new Columbia 350 and needed a flight review. The same day of the review the King Air Chief Pilot called and asked if anyone was willing to sell a portion of a fast single like a Cirrus. What do you think happened? Three days later one of the King Air owners with a real estate company bought into the Columbia 350. A week after that a passenger only client bought into the Columbia. Even funnier though was another week later, an existing passenger client in the Columbia heard about my performance and hired me to fly his family in that airplane too.
It was incredible, most days I maxed out my 8 hours of flight instruction allowed. I wanted MORE, I realized there was no limit on how much I could fly as a corporate pilot, so I hopped between planes. I would instruct a few hours, hop in the King Air, fly another client in the Columbia then fly somewhere in the Phenom around dinner. It was normal to fly 10-12 hours a day, my busiest month had me flying 155 hours.
It was normal to fly 10-12 hours a day, my busiest month had me flying 155 hours!
Schemer, the Cheater, taking dinner from families table, I heard it all from the those who thought I was their competition. I never saw them washing planes or sweeping hangars. I only saw them complain that there weren’t any opportunities for them. The truth is, they weren’t hungry enough and they didn’t provide ANY value for their clients. Guess what? They are still enjoying average.
It’s been seven years since then. You’ll still find me hustling. You’ll see me airlining across the country to deliver a plane, or driving several hours each way just to fly. Or I might be sweeping a hangar, washing and detailing a plane or maybe shining the boots on a King Air 350. Somehow the hustle hasn’t left me, in fact, I think it’s just beginning.