“When Radek Wyrzykowski asked me if I might be interested in reviewing his book Becoming a CFI: A Story about the Right Seat, my first instinct was caution: who am I to review a book about flying? I am not a pilot, and my flying experience is limited to being a passenger on commercial flights. My curiosity was raised because I am a Coast Guard sailing captain with 50 years of experience, and the physics of flying and sailing are similar. I am glad I read the book. It is riveting for both fliers and nonfliers. It reads so well that I went through it in three hours and could not put it down. The second part of the title, A Story about the Right Seat, provides the real sense of the book. Clearly, the author is a highly experienced and accomplished GA pilot and CFI. But there is much more than that. His own experiences are told with a poetic flare, mixing CFI professionalism with deep romanticism of flying and with humanism of a caring instructor. Radek’s eagerness to share his experience and advice with the reader jumps out from every page. The book blends humble stories of Radek’s own flying lessons with his advanced methods of teaching others. The small book packs a lot of hard CFI knowledge combined with psychology, and yet it reads like an adventure book. As a sailor, I could appreciate his lessons on radio comms, weather, the methodical preparations needed for a safe flight, and dealing with inexperienced crew.
The book is understandable by everyone but valuable even to experienced CFIs. Its thoughtful and robust insights are the perfect prescription for anyone with a serious ambition to be a great CFI. Masterful.”
Bohdan W. Oppenheim, PhD
Professor and Director, Healthcare Systems Engineering Program, LMU
US Coast Guard Captain’s License
“( … ) we can make rules to require certain professional behavior, but professionalism is a lot more than rule-driven behaviors. It’s a mindset. It’s an attitude that drives you to do the right thing—every time, all the time.”
Former FAA Administrator
A great American motivational writer William Arthur Ward (December 17, 1921–March 30, 1994) once said that the mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates but the great teacher inspires.
This gem of a book is about inspiring people to achieve a unique dream—becoming a pilot. Combining great allure and great responsibility, learning to fly an airplane is for the select few.
Much has been written about teaching the technical aspect of aviation but very little about inspiring students through the challenges of learning a skill that few possess.
Radek Wyrzykowski has inspired hundreds of students to become private pilots, instrument-rated pilots, commercial pilots, and CFIs over a twenty-year teaching career. His book contains dozens of useful, practical tips that will help you help your students to keep their heads and hearts in the game.
Cofounder and Chairman of IMC Club
CFII and student of Radek
I FELL IN LOVE WHEN I WAS SIX
I fell in love when I was six—the type of love that lasted me a lifetime. As a little boy, I witnessed my father getting on an airplane to travel from Rzeszow, our hometown, to Poland’s capital, Warsaw, for work. It was then when I saw this beauty for the first time—a silver twin tail wheel DC-2 with square windows and a black registration number on the side of the fuselage. It was parked on the ramp, getting ready to taxi. There were no fences, no guards, and no security forces. I was able to touch it, feel it, smell the distinct odor of aviation fuel, and walk inside to see pilots going over their checklists. From that point on, I knew I had to be a pilot. Two pieces of wood nailed together in the form of an airplane accompanied my dreams for years in my childhood—dreams that I was able to realize in my late thirties.
Coming from the country with a tradition of aviation going back to 1920, the country about which Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud in their book A Question of Honor wrote that it produced the best pilots in the world, I always had great respect for flying. General aviation was always for me a “sacred society,” a brotherhood of people joined in one passion and one love—the ultimate freedom of human beings, flight. My favorite book by Janusz Meissner, Memoirs of a Pilot, which I had read at least ten times up to this point in my life, also supported my beliefs.
In a strange twist of faith, during the most critical crisis in my life, I was left alone by so-called friends and people who should be there for me. I was left alone when I needed them most, left alone with my thoughts and feelings, and yet every time, my only faithful friend and my childhood love was there for me to bring me back to life. In those critical moments, I was freeing myself from life by flying alone. Just me and the ultimate freedom of mankind would bring a different perspective in my life and let me know that dreams do come true.
Now I have achieved what I always wanted. I am a flight instructor. I believe that the flight instructor certificate is the highest privilege among the brotherhood of pilots. We have to prove that we are trustworthy and skilled to provide others with our experience and talent. With the benefit of a flight instructor’s license comes an obligation and responsibility to be the best among the best, to train ourselves continuously and fine-tune our skills, to educate ourselves about new techniques and technologies, and to keep our flying to a higher measure. Maybe we don’t realize it, but general aviation and the dream of so many of us are in great danger. One of the reasons is an inflow of flight instructors who do not care.
I want this book to be my declaration of “war,” war against flight instructors with no ambition, motivation, and personality. Those who wait in line to be hired by a major airline. Those who do not care about students. Those who turn the highest privilege of our “sacred society” and my childhood dream into a “Burger King” of aviation. This is my war against mediocre, against trainers who do their jobs to a minimum, against those who do not challenge their students and themselves.
This book is not intended as a manual or a textbook. I will blend in my personal flying experience based on real-life events with my flight instructor’s experience and my beliefs and philosophy on how I think it should be done.
I dedicate this book to the people who made a difference in my life. To my parents, Barbara and Roman, who raised me and believed in my dreams and taught me to stand up and go forward smiling no matter what. They passed away at age ninety-six and seventy-seven respectively.
I dedicate this book to my wife, who allowed me to dream and free feelings I had not dreamed about before. Thank you!
I dedicate this book to all the others who helped me be who I am. You know who you are! Thank you!
I also dedicate this book to my dear friend, my mentor, my flight instructor, Doug Stewart, whose wisdom and passion for flying made me a better and dedicated pilot. He once said, “Flying gives us a perspective of the world. We realize our insignificance from a cosmic viewpoint, yet at the same time, flying empowers us with the ability to have control over our destiny. What a wonderful paradox! As above so below.”
I AM A LICENSED STUDENT PILOT
Columbia County Airport (1B1) is a county-owned, public-use airport located 4 miles northeast of Hudson, New York. It is a small not-towered general aviation airport in the Hudson Valley. If you look to the west, you will see the Catskill Mountains magnificently standing in the distance, rich in wildlife, hiking trails, and ski resorts.
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About the Book
This book identifies the key psychological elements of flight instruction and the importance of their use in practice. It is written with all aviation enthusiasts in mind. It is for those pilots who already provide flight instruction and would like to take it to the next level or for those in training to be flight instructors. It is also for student pilots who want to see what they should expect from their flight instructor and everybody who wants to see what flight instruction is about.
Based on the scientific study of student behavior and the author’s 20 years of experience as a CFI. The “Becoming a CFI” offers practical advice to identify the critical elements in effective aviation education. It also analyzes Fundamentals of Instructing by focusing on those elements which are crucial to understand and use. Author and aviation educator Radek Wyrzykowski provides rare insights into the process of flight instruction by using his real-life experiences and actions over the years, from his student pilot certificate through becoming a Chief Flight Instructor for one of the large flight schools in the northeast.
About the Author
Born in Poland in 1960, Radek Wyrzykowski came to the US as a political refugee. As he attended the higher school of education in Rzeszow (Poland), he became involved in the student independence movement. When the Polish government declared martial law in December 1981, Wyrzykowski was imprisoned in January 1982. He came to the US in 1983. In January 2020, he was awarded by the Polish president the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity (Krzyż Wolności i Solidarności) for his activities to benefit a free and democratic Poland.
Radek obtained his professional pilot degree from Mohawk Valley, under the SUNY Albany program, and has more than six thousand hours dual given. He was a chief flight instructor for Horizon Aviation Inc. from 2007 to 2009 and a chief flight instructor for Northampton Aeronautics from 2005 to 2007. He was a correspondent and contributor to a Polish general aviation magazine, PILOT Club, where he published many of his articles. He is a certified flight instructor and instrument and multiengine instructor. He is the founder of IMC Club International and served as the president of that organization until 2015 when the program was acquired by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). He serves now as a manager of Flight Proficiency at the EAA.
Radek may be reached through: