Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Training Page 1 of 7

Comments and ramblings about flying training.

Trying to Renew my CFI Online


I first was awarded my CFI certificate in 1973 and got my CFII shortly after that. In 1988 I added Multi-engine instructor. Since then I have renewed my certificates using one of the in-person seminars or online courses. I have never been active enough as an instructor  to qualify for renewal on the basis of my student success rate. While I was in the military I could usually attend a refresher clinic in person since I had a little control over my schedule.

When I retired from the military and got on with the airlines, however, I came under the control of the pilot scheduler or the whims of the computer bidding process and its seniority-based decisions. At that time I switched to first the paper version of Jeppesen’s CFI renewal course then, when it became available, I used their online version.

I have always signed up for the course about 12 months after I renew my certificate. The CFI certificate, if you aren’t aware, requires a renewal each 24 months.  I have used the course as a continuing education process, spreading it out over  a year and  finishing up the course some time within 90 days of the certificate expiration date.

This time I signed up for the course just before I retired from the airlines, intending to use the same process, just spread out a little longer. Life got in the way, though, and I hadn’t gotten back to the course for a while. The other day I tried to log into my account to complete the course and found I was denied access.  So, I called Jeppesen to reset my password. I have had a similar problem in the past.

The sales and service representative looked at my account and said he’d transfer me to tech support. Tech support took my account number, looked at the account and said – oh, your course expired in March of 2011. You only had 120 days to complete the course – it said that when you got the course registration.

Well, I was looking at the registration confirmation email while I was talking to him and it had no such notice. In addition to the order confirmation email, I also received an email at the time I registered that was titled “Information about Completing CFI Renewal Online.” No mention of a course access expiration in that message either. I politely explained that I was a long-time customer of theirs, had never heard of their course having a time limit and had never received any notification of any kind that their policy was changing or had changed. The tech support guy didn’t really care what I thought and offered no help at all.

So, I advised them that they had lost a long-time customer – I will never, ever buy another Jeppesen product. Yes, that’s extreme, but I don’t like getting screwed with. There are always other options, I will find them and I will take my business elsewhere.

I see now that their course description web page lists a 120-day course access period. If you take longer than that they require you to purchase the course again to complete it. Wonder when they changed that? There is no way to know for sure.  I know for a fact that I have repeatedly purchased the course at the 1-year point prior to certificate renewal and completed the course over the 12-month period. [If you try to find that course description page – it’s buried under Aviation-Training & Education-General Aviation Training-Pilot Training-CFI Renewal…none of the ‘quick links’ to CFI renewal  or Online Training will get you there]. So much for a method of Continuing Education – now you wait until the last 4 months before your certificate expires, run through the course in a month and turn in the paperwork (You can renew up to 90-days early).

Today I signed up for the American Flyers online course. It’s a little more expensive for a single course, but American Flyers has a one-time fee if you continue to use them.  I have had  pilots that I flew with at the airline say that they had been using them for years on the same fee they paid initially. I’m not sure how they can afford to operate that way, but I’ll be sure to test the system in another two years.

There is nothing on the American Flyers CFI Renewal course page that specifies a course expiration, but if you go through all of the FAQ section you will find a question that is answered with a statement saying that you have access to the course for 90 days after you register. I’m not really sure how that plays out with the one time registration fee – it seems to me that if you exceed the 90 days you could just re-register without having to repay. Yep, another instance of “Get the unpleasant process over with as late as possible”  – no need to keep training any longer than necessary…

I have started the American Flyers course – four chapters in their first Stage of the course and then a Stage Quiz. There are 8 stages and you  have to score 70% or better on each quiz. You can do the course completely online, or print out each stage and then come back and do the quiz.


Any way that you look at it…..  I’d Rather Be Flying…

Getting Back Into Flying

Is the old dog ready for new tricks?

I have been exchanging emails and post comments with one of my readers (I’m going to call him Tom to keep things simple) who is just getting back into flying again. He  had not flown for a considerable period – measured in decades rather than years – but wanted to try it again. Tom remembered the feelings of accomplishment  and the enjoyment that he had experienced when he first took up flying and wanted to feel that again. There was a hurdle to overcome, though – all the changes to airspace, regulations and technology that have taken place since he stopped flying. It seemed like an insurmountable mountain of new information to learn and he wasn’t so sure that the time and money that would need to be invested would provide a sufficient return on the investment.

Tom decided that he’d first try auditing a groundschool class at the local airport with no intention of actually flying. It would simply be an attempt to catch up with the current flying environment. That started out well, but soon turned south…

After two interesting sessions of ground school, both modules dealing with FARs and such, the G.S. session is a bust.  Two of the four students had serious occupational conflicts.  Number three could continue, but we became subject to the minimum population rule.  I, as a mostly non-rev participant, had no vote.  We are trying to reform the group, with one or two more students, for late fall. I’m disappointed of course, but as a non-rev guest, I have no voice.  I’ve got some books and study guides and I’ll read them…   After only the two (long) sessions, it was perfectly clear to me than any returning pilot in 2011 and more than 2-3 years stale, ought to take a nearly full refresher course before flying.  Yup!  Those rules and regulations DO change quickly!

As you know, my purpose was not to fly again, but simply to understand the current methods and procedures of IFR flight a bit better.  There is a delay, but I’ll get there.  The modern toys and tools are simply amazing and I’d like to understand them a bit better.  As a funny aside, although 30 years stale, I easily out navigated my student peers (on paper) during the initial assessment evaluations.  While great fun… no one uses those old tools anymore – save an old pilot who might get lost. I still think it is fun to know how it is done.

Now Tom has changed his approach to the problem. He has found a retired professional pilot who now flies for fun. The two of them are making regular flights to ‘exotic’ breakfast locations and Tom is regaining his ‘air sense’ through actual application.

As the re-learning process progresses I’ll include the experiences that Tom passes along to me.  Perhaps some more ‘old dogs’ will realize that they can learn the new tricks in today’s flying environment.

The Key: Get out there and do it – don’t just sit there and try to remember what it was like…

What’s the Weather?

Thunderstorm at Denver Airport.

I received an email from a reader recently that asked a question about the weather services that I use when flying my Swift – both during my preflight planning and enroute.

There are books written on aviation weather services. I have one on my desk by Gleim that incorporates both FAA AC 00-6A and AC 00-45G. I bought it to get ready to take an FAA test for the Ground Instructor ratings. I’m still working on that project.

I don’t fly the Swift any great distances any more – at least I haven’t lately. The other Swift I had made trips back and forth across the country several times during the 35 years I owned it. Most of those trips were made back before handheld electronic devices were everywhere you looked.  I remember reading the weather off of teletype machines in the Flight Service Stations at airport along the way. For several years I didn’t have a navigation radio of any kind in the plane. I used those old paper things called Sectionals and looked out the window. What a concept.

Most of my early preflight weather research is done using  TV weather for a broad outlook of where the weather systems are and where the meteorologists are guessing that they’ll go. The day before and the day of the trip I use AOPA’s Flight Planner to plot the route, print out a flight log and to get the weather, NOTAMS and weather charts through their integrated DUATS system.

My enroute weather sources are usually listening to ATIS/AWOS broadcasts of airports I am flying over and occasional calls to Flight Watch for conditions farther away. For more detailed weather in my area I look out the window.

I still don’t have a navigation radio in my ‘new’ Swift. I’m back to navigating by looking out the window again and using a sectional chart. Most of my flying has been around and to the west of Reno. I’m very familiar with the area so the chart is a backup to my local area knowledge and for details on the airports enroute. I also carry the newest version of Flight Guide.

I used to have an older handheld GPS with a small moving map but that seems to spend most of it’s time on a kayak on Lake Tahoe now. I have been looking into a new GPS solution for flying. I received an email recently that had a nice sale price on the Garmin 696 so I looked into that possibility. I like it’s capabilities and can afford the initial large cash outlay, but the yearly costs have turned me off to the unit. Between the database updates and the XM weather subscription I would be looking at another $100/month in flight costs. I just don’t fly enough to justify the fixed costs. Now I’m leaning toward an iPad solution with a ForeFlight subscription.  Smaller initial outlay, much lower annual costs and it’s a multi-use item rather than a dedicated GPS unit. (So when is the new iPad coming out?)

I have an instrument rating and lots of actual weather time, but I have no need to fly in less than VFR conditions any more. I land if I don’t like what I see by looking out the window. Whoever may be waiting for my arrival can wait a bit longer and there is no event I need to get to so badly that I need to fly in weather to get there. I have it on good authority that the earth will continue to rotate if I have to cancel or delay my plans.

So, the bottom line on the weather services I use is –


TV Weather (local & weather channel) and

AOPA Flight Planner access to DUATS.

Occasionally, National Weather Service (www.nws.noaa.gov) and

Aviation Weather Center – part of NOAA (www.aviationweather.gov)


Airport ATIS and AWOS broadcasts

Flight Watch (122.0)

The window.

If money was no object I’d have a nice flat panel cockpit and XM weather displaying on a big moving map.  That’s not going to happen.

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