The regulations only talk about a flight instructor certificate, yet no one says they are an “FI.” They state they are a “CFI.” Where did this “C” come from? What does it stand for?
The FAA often writes of instructors and flight instructors, dropping the C for good reason. Instruction in aviation covers many disciplines, from flying airplanes to maintaining them, and even packing parachutes. Generally knowledge about instruction, like that contained in the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, is not flying-specific.
Many people besides CFIs can provide flight instruction. For example, ATPs can provide flight instruction and even endorse a student’s logbook without being a CFI as long as the training is for air transportation. Check airman for commercial operators can also provide instruction without a CFI.
The “C” indicates an instructor has a flight instructor certificate, but what does it stand for? A majority of pilots would correctly answer, “certified.” This is only true within the last decade when the C changed from certificated to certified. Certificated better describes a CFI, yet the FAA acquiesced to linguistic trends expanding the definition of certified to include a certificate holder. —JM