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Guidelines For Mentor Articles

In keeping with our mission, we’re looking for articles by active instructors that help other “teachers of flight” master the art and science of flight instruction. We value all of your contributions that improve the industry, inspire your peers, and encourage the dream of learning to fly for students, including photographs and illustration that complement our stories.

We’re happy to work with new writers to develop their publication skills; in fact, we value your fresh expertise and insight. Our role as editors is to ensure a quality product that lives up to our members’ expectations.

Part of those expectations includes well-crafted “how-to” articles, photos, and illustrations—the other reason for these guidelines. These aren’t meant to be intimidating or “limiting.” They’re meant to make the best use of your efforts by giving you a standard we strive to achieve. Think of this as the Practical Test Standards (PTS) for working with Mentor.

Publication of stories, photos, and some illustrations can count towards the CEUs you need to apply for or renew your NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. However—and unfortunately—NAFI presently does not pay authors, photographers, or illustrators for their work. Extra copies of the issue with your work are available, though, in addition to the flight-training industry’s enduring gratitude.


NAFI Mentor and eMentor are, respectively, NAFI’s monthly publication and our twice-monthly electronic publication.

NAFI sets the standard for professional aviation instruction, and Mentor provides the resources to help instructors achieve that level of expertise. It’s a how-to magazine dedicated to improving the teaching skills of aviation instructors of all disciplines. Conversely, eMentor is the industry source for instructor-related news, though it also includes thought-provoking insight and commentary from other members.

Many of NAFI members work in flight schools or university programs, although we’ve got “advanced” members as well, including tenured university faculty, military instructors, and airline training center instructors. As an author, you’re writing for a reasonably experienced audience. YOU ARE NOT WRITING FOR STUDENT PILOTS; YOU ARE WRITING FOR THEIR INSTRUCTORS. Student pilots seldom—if ever—read Mentor or eMentor. This is the most unique feature of our publications. Our audience is solely the instructor community. All NAFI members share one trait—they’re active in the field of aviation education.


Members may either submit completed articles for consideration or submit detailed article ideas to the editor. Because of the unique nature of Mentor articles, first-time authors may find it useful to discuss specific ideas with the editor before writing their stories, to save them both time and effort. When you submit completed articles, please mention if the article has been printed elsewhere (in another publication) before, or if it is scheduled to be printed elsewhere in the near future. Also, please discuss your article idea with Mentor editor David Hipschman ([email protected]) if a similar idea has appeared in the publication within the past two years.

Article Ideas

We're always on the lookout for well-written and well-conceived feature articles that make NAFI members better at what they do. There are three general “categories” of feature articles for Mentor:

AIRWORK: Educational features that teach instructors how to teach particular skills and areas on the practical test. Articles should use true anecdotes of your instructional flights and should reference FAA flight manuals and regulations. The PTS are good source of ideas for this section; any task would make an excellent story (examples include how to teach go-arounds, how to use scenario-based training, how to teach short-field landings, and how to teach emergency landings).

GROUNDWORK: Educational features that teach instructors how to teach particular skills and areas on the oral or written airman knowledge exam. The oral exam guides or knowledge test question banks are good sources of story ideas for this section; any question would make an excellent story.

PROFESSIONALISM: Educational features that teach instructors how to be better instructors, including business skills, innovations in teaching psychology, human factors, aeromedical concerns, or other topics beyond the scope of “airwork” and “groundwork.” As sole publication that speaks exclusively to professional flight instructors, NAFI recognizes the need for a venue to share information that enhances instructor professionalism, and this is it.

Topic Suggestions

Beyond those general areas, we’re looking for stories that address one of several topics:

ADVANCED TRAINING (Multiengine, flight reviews, high-performance)
BUSINESS OF FLIGHT TRAINING (sales, marketing, customer service)
SPECIALITY TRAINING (seaplane, agro, glider, helicopter)

Writing The Article

We tell new authors that writing one of our articles is very similar to teaching the subject to a CFI candidate. It may help to outline what you're going to say (just like the FOI says), complete with describing the steps, the reason behind the action, and the grading criteria. Assume the role of an experienced instructor mentoring a new CFI when writing the article. Think, “What have I learned about this topic that I could teach another instructor to make him or her a better aviation educator?”

As a how-to, service publication, Mentor places emphasis on articles that teach something, so each article should have a specific educational slant. If you have an idea for a different type of article, please contact us before beginning the story.

Likewise, base all articles on factual, verifiable established instructional doctrine. That means if you’re going outside mainstream instructional thought, provide a bibliography of cited articles supporting your premise. Submission of articles based on incorrect information will limit your opportunities for further publication in Mentor. This should go without saying.

Article Lengths

Mentor articles “slots” come in three sizes. You may write a relevant sidebar to accompany your two- or four-page story, but keep the total word count in the ballpark of the listed length.

ONE PAGE: Approximately 700 words, or three full double-spaces pages
TWO PAGES: Approximately 1,400 words. Our preferred length.
THREE PAGES: Approximately 2,600 words.

Submitting Tables and Figures

Your story may inspire you to include diagrams, figures, and tables in the story package. We gladly accept these, but we ask that they each be sent as a separate file and not imbedded in the body of the story. Also, please provide caption information in a separate document file that explains the illustration within the context of the story. Please don’t imbed this caption information in the actual illustration.

Sample Outline For A How-to article

“How to…”
1. Anecdote, or other “contact” (two or three paragraphs)
2. Paragraph describing why the idea is important
3. Paragraph describing what you’ll talk about (overview)
4. Discuss Point One
5. Discuss Point Two
6. Discuss Point Three
7. Paragraph describing what you’ve talked about (review)
8. Relate back to contact.

If you have any questions, we’re happy to help you at any point along this process.

Writing For eMENTOR

eMentor is NAFI’s twice-monthly electronic newsletter that’s delivered via e-mail to members. There are four general “categories” of articles in eMentor:

TEACHING TIPS: A 250- to 350-word description of a technique you’ve found to teach a particular aviation task, either in the cockpit or the classroom. To write this kind of article, explain what the tip does, why you use it, each step in the process, and how well it’s worked for you. Good starting points here are your favorite tasks to teach.

RIGHT SEAT: A 500- to 650-word essay describing a marketing technique, customer-service practice, sales-closing process, or other business principle. This is your chance to explain your best practices to build the industry so that more prospective pilots complete their training and continue to be active pilots.

PIREP: A 500- to 650-word essay describing your position about an aviation-related issue, including possible solutions to those that need one. This is a chance to have your voice heard by the rest of the flight instructor community. Remember, we’re looking for solution-based thinking here, not just rants.

FLIGHT REVIEW: A 500- to 650-word story describing an experience you’ve had with a student. It can be frightening or funny, but it must be enlightening. This is a “There I was,” or “I learned about instructing from that” article with a lesson you’ve learned as an instructor.

Submitting Articles

Assignments written on speculation (without a formal assignment from NAFI editorial staff) are due whenever you believe the story is in publishable form. Assigned stories are due the date agreed upon; please avoid missing this date. Your article may have been scheduled for an upcoming issue, and late stories could interfere with the issue’s production and actually cause the organization to incur higher publishing costs.

Because of the nature of magazine publishing, we’re working on the issue dated three months ahead—for example, for you it’s January, but for us, it’s April. We schedule stories approximately six months ahead. It is virtually impossible to get an article into any magazine within two months of submitting it, and it’s unlikely to run within four months of submission. Please be patient. Furthermore, it may take several weeks to review your manuscript. We make every effort to confirm we’ve received your submitted story, and we do our best to reject stories that don’t meet our needs in a timely fashion. If we accept your story, we’ll inform you of when it will run as soon as it’s been scheduled.

We require electronic submissions, and we prefer stories be either emailed to the editor as a message or as an attachment in Microsoft Word format. At the top left corner of the first page of the story, write a suggested headline, YOUR NAME, and YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.

Submission of stories indicates that you accept our terms and conditions: your story may be edited for style, form, and length. We will make every effort to review major edits with you.

Submitting Photos

If you can provide photos to support your article, we appreciate the effort. Otherwise, Mentor illustrates article with stock photography, and we are always looking for images to build our stock library. Each article requires images that show interaction between an instructor and his or her student (for example, in the airplane, outside the airplane, in the classroom, at the dispatch counter, and in the hangar).

Because members provide a wide spectrum of instruction, we have an on-going need for images that depict a wide variety of training aircraft: single-engine, high-performance singles, technically advanced aircraft, commonly used twins, light sport aircraft, and helicopters, as well as flight-training devices and simulators.

Obviously, we do not need images in which students or instructors are violating regulations, laws, or universally accepted safety practices that would constitute a hazard to the pilot, the instructor, or aircraft.

Quality Issues

For best reproduction, use a professional-quality digital camera (6 megapixels or better). Digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras create better images than point-and-shoots. PowerPoint photos and images from camera phones or mini-DV camcorders don’t have the resolution necessary for good reproduction. Submit 300-dpi TIF or JPEG files (saved at the highest quality level) with a minimum image size of 5-by-7 inches. We prefer 8.5-by-11.5-inch image sizes.


A caption should accompany each image. Keyed to the filename, it should include who, what, when, and where, aircraft make and model, and the photographer’s name and contact information. Save the caption information as a separate file on the CD you’ll use to submit digital images.

We recommend photographers get signed model releases from identifiable subjects—we will provide the appropriate forms by request. Likewise, if you’re borrowing photos from another source, to avoid copyright infringement, you must obtain written permission from the source for their use. This includes images acquired from the web. Mentor cannot publish images if we’re unsure of the source.

Email individual images smaller than 5 megabytes and caption document to David Hipschman at [email protected]. Burn larger files and/or multiple images to CD and mail to David Hipschman, Editor, NAFI Mentor, 620 SE 4th Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601. We appreciate an email letting us know it’s coming.

How to Shoot

Your success in capturing acceptable images increases when you shoot more photos than you think necessary. Don’t stand in one place. Move left and right, get above your subject and crawl on the ground. Don’t forget your extra memory cards.

That said, there are four pillars of good photography: Proximity, Focus, Exposure, and Composition.

PROXIMITY: We all know what a Cessna 172 looks like; we need to know what the subjects look like. Get close enough to your subject so all you see in the viewfinder are the image’s most important elements. Fill the camera frame with the subject, and take a mix of vertical and horizontal shots for more choices.

FOCUS: Hold your camera steady by bracing it against your body—use a tripod for exposures longer than 1/60th of a second. Focus carefully; fuzzy photos are not used.

EXPOSURE: Images with good contrast and vivid, saturated colors reproduce best. In direct sunlight, arrange your subjects so the light comes from either side. Don’t have them squint into the sun or have the sun behind them, which cloaks faces in dark shadows. If necessary, fill dark shadows with flash, or find diffused light and softer shadows in a shady area. Or shoot on a cloudy day.

COMPOSITION: Don’t center your subject in the viewfinder. Offset it slightly opposite of the direction it’s looking/going. (If the person is facing left, offset to the right.)

Subjects should be engaged in an actual teaching situation, not stiffly posed and looking at the camera. Make sure it’s clear which subject is the instructor, and which is the student, and frame the image so it tells a clear story, so readers won’t wonder what the subjects are doing.

Here are some other hints:

No backs to the camera.
No bare legs.
No torn clothing.
No vulgar T-shirts.
No logos, except NAFI and unavoidable school/FBO logos on walls or airplanes.
Select photos that evoke a positive image of flight instruction and project pride, authority, and
Submit only your best.

Cover Images

Mentor uses vertical images for its covers. Color and contrast should be rich and well-defined. Faces are good. Readers like being able to “connect” with a cover subject.

Submitting Illustrations

For members with artistic abilities, we would consider professional-looking, publication-quality artistic illustrations, especially those that depict hard-to-photograph topics like aeronautical decision-making, judgment, professionalism, and so forth. Before starting work, contact the editor at [email protected] for more information and to discuss your ideas. Samples of your work with your query are appreciated.

We prefer digital illustrations (TIFF, GIF, or EPS files). In vector drawings (EPS files), embed the font or save the text as “graphics.” In bitmapped art (TIF files), use a minimum resolution of 1,000 dpi. For art that combines bitmap/halftone images, submit a TIF file at 500 dpi. Scan line art at 1,000 dpi.