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…