Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of local ads in my area for “cheap” flight time and low-cost CFI time. I realize that there are a lot of aircraft owners who want their planes to fly as well as a lot of flight instructors who are desperate for flight time. The one thing that keeps popping in my head when I see low-cost rentals is this: How do you afford to keep good maintenance on that thing if you are renting it so cheap?
I’m not saying that the plane is going to quit on you or fall apart because it’s $20hr less than the flight schools down the runway but I do know, and pay attention to this next line because maybe you weren’t aware of this as a pilot, that if something goes wrong in an airplane you can’t pull over on the side of the road. So for my money and the people I love, I think I’ll rent a well maintained aircraft. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a maintenance log.
Now comes in the CFI that is offering deeply discounted hourly rates. In my area, the going rate is $45-$55hr for a CFI. One thing that’s clear is that flight instructors are specialists, a CFII or MEI specializes even more! So let’s compare this to doctors, do general practitioners make less or more than, let’s say, a heart surgeon? No, of course not! So therefore I could see a CFI billing $45hr vs. a CFII/MEI billing $55hr. But not $20hr!
If you are a CFI reading this, do yourself a favor and don’t undervalue yourself! Charge the going rate but not half. For one thing you have a skill like not other and people should pay for it. On the other hand, are you really going to give that student 100% of your effort if you just took a “charity” job because you need to hurry and build hours for your resume? Don’t rip off your student’s with lack of your effort when they deserve more. If you are so desperate for time, then just give it away for free. You’ll get your hours faster, on to the airlines faster, making more money faster and you won’t make yourself a disgruntled employee because your only covering your gas to the airport and back.
If you are a student looking for “cheap” CFI time, good luck! You will, in most cases get what you pay for which is not what you deserve. Interview a few CFI’s and compare rates. Remember, would you rather pay for a “discounted” surgeon or buck up and get a good one! “But why would I pay you $45hr when I can get 2.25hrs CFI time for the same price from this guy who only charges $20?” Dude! Because I don’t sell garbage! I have no problem telling a prospective student that we don’t discount our rates because we don’t discount the quality of our instruction. Yes I’ve lost a few prospects that way, but I’ve also got some very happy students as well.
You can find some good deals out there, you just have to look. For instance, we run a buy two hours of CFI time get one free at time of service. This is something we target towards BFR or PIC students as we know that we are encouraging safety and pilot activity by keeping them flying safe and proficient. This is not a buy 20hrs and get 10 free as I’ve had several calls on that one as well. As a CFI, charge a reasonable rate and provide quality instruction to your students. As a renter, if the deal looks to good, do your homework and find out why that aircraft is so cheap to rent, it could be that it’s been used as a bird’s nest for far too long under those shade hangers! No one said aviation was inexpensive and everyone should know better.