Regular readers know that my wife and I bought a new house recently. Not new, exactly. It’s almost 70 years old. But new to us. And it’s fantastic. Although the repairs and upgrades are costing a bit more than I’d anticipated.
The idea of getting a part-time job has occurred to me, frankly. Sure, I’ve got my regular gig with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which keeps me busy. I love it too. This is some of the most satisfying work I’ve done in my life.
I’m also lucky enough to get to write for General Aviation News, a couple of local lifestyle publications based on central Florida, and a handful of novels, novellas, and short stories that sell enough units on Amazon and Audible that I’m glad I wrote them.
Still, like most Americans I can always use a few extra bucks. So I began thinking about that.
What might I do? What skills do I have that I can parlay into enough cash to replace a couple windows in the new house or put in a new floor at the old house or pay off my car?
It’s a good question. One you might consider as well. Not that you have any pressing need to pay off my car, of course.
I could go work in food service. There always seem to be openings there. But the hours and the pay aren’t that alluring, to be honest with you.
There’s always the option of standing in a doorway saying “Welcome to WalMart” for a couple shifts a week. I’m not sure that’s in my wheelhouse, though.
Or I could go work construction. I’ve done that before and have a certain amount of skill with a hammer and a saw. The aches and pains I come home with after working in the yard each weekend suggest that might not be my best choice either, although the money certainly exceeds the other activities I’ve considered.
Then again, why not go back to being a CFI? I’ve got the tickets. I’ve got some time. And there is a shortage of CFIs from coast to coast. I could probably write my own ticket in terms of when I work. And the pay is a whole lot better than it was when I first started in this business.
Just to check to see that my imagination wasn’t getting the better of me, I called my buddy to verify a few things. Jim has been a CFI for several years. He’s active, which is to say, he earns his living teaching primary students, doing flight reviews, checking out prospective renters, and generally enjoying the heck out of his work day.
The school Jim typically works with charges $65 per hour for instruction. A CFI with average experience and no special skills can easily take home $30 of that. Those who specialize can make even more.
That means a regular old plain vanilla CFI can do a couple flights a week, and a couple on the weekend, and take home something on the order of an extra $1,000 a month. Heck, that’s a nice second income that’s just sitting out there waiting for me, and I don’t even have to work hard. With two students I could probably cover the mortgage without having to touch my primary income.
Now, should I decide to employ my tailwheel skills, or do some independent seaplane instruction, or climb into a warbird for a familiarization flight with tourists or prospective owners of the type, I can ratchet up that hourly rate to as much as $100 without anyone blinking an eye.
Is that typical? No. Is it possible? Yes. Are others doing this exact thing right now? You bet they are.
I’ve talked to a wide variety of CFIs who are getting back into the business on a part-time basis for two very good reasons.
- They get to fly as often as they wish, and they don’t have to pay for the flight time.
- They go home from each flight with additional income and a real sense of accomplishment.
There’s no doubt the pilot shortage is real. In fact the sparsity of CFIs in your neighborhood and mine is a pretty good indicator of just how quickly the market is snapping up pilots and putting them to work.
Students become instructors. Instructors become regional pilots. Regional pilots move on to the majors. The paychecks grow and the perks improve every step along that path.
Those of us who are committed to staying near home, flying piston-powered fun machines, and dressing like we’re on vacation can benefit from this market too.
If you hold a CFI certificate — or if you ever held a CFI certificate and let it lapse somewhere along the line – you might want to take this particular time and these very attractive opportunities to consider getting active again.
I know of at least one flight school that will help finance a lapsed CFI getting back into the swing of things. And I suspect it isn’t the only school willing to make that offer.
Imagine that. Your skills, your experience, and your willingness to climb into the cockpit with a fledgling pilot, or to provide instrument instruction to a pilot with dreams of wearing four bars on his or her sleeve, just might improve your financial status while giving you a real sense of pride.
To be honest, I don’t have time to handle two students right now. My real job keeps me pretty busy. But I’ll bet I could fit one student into my schedule for two or three sessions a week. And I really would like to pay off the car early.
I think I’m available, capable, and willing to take home a few extra bucks each week. How about you? Wanna fly and draw a paycheck at the same time?
That CFI ticket can literally be money in your pocket.