Applicants for CFI certificates make some predictable errors; if you implement the following recommendations, you should be able to avoid making these mistakes.
As of March 2021, the CFI PTS (FAA-S-8081-6D with changes 1 thru 6) and CFII PTS (FAA-S-8081-9D with changes 1 and 2) are still in force. For each of these, start with the additional rating task table and determine what tasks you may be tested on. You must be ready to teach any and all the tasks for which you are responsible. This means you should have a presentation ready for every single one of these tasks. DO NOT SKIP this step.
I am explicitly prohibited from telling you ahead of time which tasks I will evaluate, so the instructions I send to you before your checkride will not relieve you of the requirement to be ready to give instruction for every task listed in the PTS.
How do you prepare to teach a task? Here are some suggestions.
- Have a plan.
- Practice your presentation, ensuring that you use the many reference and demonstration materials available to you in FAA pubs, technology, etc... Do not use your hands to demonstrate maneuvers if a model airplane will do. Do not hand-draw something if a professional illustration exists (it does).
- You are going to have to discuss checklists. Make sure you hand me a copy of that checklist before talking about it.
- Don't just launch on a long, drawn out lecture. Many other teaching methods are available (see the flight instructor handbook).
- Use your smartphone and video yourself making each presentation. The mistakes you make will jump out at you; make corrections and do it again.
- It's all about time. You should be able to cover every element of each task (you are required to) and wrap up the presentation with "Do you have any questions?" in an absolute maximum of 10 minutes.
PTS and ACS. Generally, the PTS tells you how to teach a maneuver and the ACS tells you how to perform this maneuver. Let's take PTS task VII A (Normal and Crosswind Takeoff and Climb)/ACS task IV A (Normal Takeoff and Climb) as an example. Referring to the PTS, I'll check that you “Exhibit instructional knowledge of the elements listed”, and additionally that you “Exhibit instructional knowledge of common errors”. Covering every sub-element in the PTS should take care of at least one knowledge and one risk element of the ACS (check that it does), which satisfies that requirement.
For the flying portion, you'll need to satisfy the PTS requirement "Demonstrates and simultaneously explains a normal or a crosswind takeoff and climb from an instructional standpoint" and "Analyzes and corrects simulated common errors related to a normal or a crosswind takeoff and climb". Your demonstration of the maneuver must cover every skill element listed in the ACS. I will act as a student for selected maneuvers after you have demonstrated them, commit an error, and it will be your job to catch and correct it. For the maneuvers I don't perform, it's your job to comply with the aforementioned "Analyzes and corrects simulated common errors related to a normal or a crosswind takeoff and climb"; have a plan.
If you miss an element from either the PTS or ACS during your presentation, the task will be incomplete and thus unsatisfactory. Also, the PTS and ACS will often require you refer to the airplane’s checklists and/or “manufacturer’s recommended speed”, or other maneuver guidance in the AFM. Make sure you integrate that information into your presentation.
I therefore very strongly encourage you to continually compare the class you are preparing to the relevant task in the PTS/ACS to ensure you don’t miss anything. You should not have to “reinvent the wheel” in preparing your lessons; someone has done the work before you.
The notes that follow address some of the mistakes I see on specific maneuvers in the CFI checkrides and are intended as a guide for preparation on your part.
Presentation of information. The Aviation Instructor handbook discusses many of the ways information can be conveyed to a student. Yet, CFI candidates seem to always present maneuver lessons and other information using the lecture method. Consider the guided discussion method, for example, to quickly confirm the student’s understanding of the elements listed in the PTS and ACS for that maneuver. Also, when discussing a checklist, have the checklist out and ensure your give me the same checklist so I can follow what you are saying. The same goes for maneuver diagrams and descriptions.
Takeoffs. The ACS consistently mandates Vx or Vy as the airspeed for climbs. Company policy, personal habit, or your instructor’s preference are not relevant here. Also, note that some maneuvers preference the manufacturer’s recommendations over those procedures and speeds, so if the AFM for your airplane contains such recommendation, you are required to follow them when you teach and demonstrate the maneuver.
Landings. Approach airspeed is addressed in the ACSes. Again, personal or company technique is not the guide. What is specified in the ACS is. Every landing requires designating a touchdown point; the numbers or threshold is not appropriate because landing short could mean disaster. If you select the “1000 foot markers” of a precision runway, you have the lengtho of the markers, plus whatever tolerance is allowed for that landing.
Crosswinds. By definition, the best day for a checkride is one with calm winds. However, the requirement to address crosswind instructional elements shows up all over the PTS and ACS. You cannot neglect this aspect of instruction just because your checkride happens on a calm day or a day when winds are aligned with the runway.
Eights on pylons (PTS task X D and ACS task V E). This maneuver is arguably the hardest one of the initial CFI checkride, and is mandatory. I strongly recommend you have a few select pylons already picked out where you have repeatedly practiced the maneuver under a variety of wind conditions. Save these as GPS user waypoints if you need to. Suitable pylons should be prominent objects located away from populated areas, such as grain silos, barns, country road intersections, water towers, and other easily monitored objects. Pylons located in populated areas such as housing developments are not suitable. It is common to struggle to explain to the student (me, during the checkride) which pylon you are referring to – “that house…you mean that one?...no, I mean that one…” It is imperative you select pylons that are unmistakeable and easy to reference during the maneuver.
Maintaining pylon position. The wing tip reference must be precise, and it must be on the pylon – not way above or below it – in order to credibly demonstrate you are maintaining pylon position during the maneuver.
Finally, I the examiner, play no role in pylon selection and I don’t approve or disapprove pylons prior to the maneuver. I also play no role during any phase of the maneuver. You get one chance to get it right, according to the skill elements of the commercial ACS and CFI PTS.
Simulated common errors. CFI applicants sometimes are so focused on demonstrating the maneuver within the parameters of the ACS that they forget that the objective 4 of flight maneuvers in the CFI PTS requires them to analyze and correct simulated common errors.