FIRC recommendations that don’t suck

I've been a flight instructor since 1991, but only taught for about ten years before moving on to Part 135 and airline jobs. It would be correct to say that I'm very, very rusty with respect to general aviation operations, especially that "VFR" stuff. I have managed to keep my CFI current by doing a FIRC every two years.

A few years ago, there were a couple of in-person FIRCs being taught by designated examiners. I've attended two of these, and they were really useful. It was extremely educational to hear about common checkride errors - what students tended to be weak on, and how instructors could do a better job preparing applicants for practical tests. In my opinion, these were the best training courses that I've attended, and you could also network with experienced instructors and DPE's.

Regarding online FIRCs: I've generally used the Gleim CFI renewal, but decided to try the King Schools version this time. I started around March 1, and have just finished up the last unit. Here's my comparison of Gleim versus the Kings:

Both FIRCs cost about the same ($129).

Both FIRCs are heavily "outline oriented". I thought the King course did a better job of emphasizing important concepts.

The Gleim course tends to be the easiest to use if you have a poor Internet connection, and it's easy to download the study units for later review. The King course has links to a number of articles and videos. There were a couple of times (in hotels) where I had to reduce the resolution of the videos to get them to play properly. I was on an iPad, so the lower resolution wasn't a big deal. Most of the time it's just John or Martha talking anyway.

As noted above, a FIRC must be at least 16 hours long and cover certain required topics. I get that. So some of the material was repetitive, and some was very good. I especially enjoyed the first two units in the King course ("Identifying and Changing At-Risk Behaviors" and "Using Scenario-Based Training"). This is just as applicable to airline training programs as it is to general aviation operations.

Both Gleim and King have excellent customer service. I got my temporary certificate almost immediately.

Finally, completing the King course gave me a whole new respect for John and Martha as educators (I did not use any of their material during my long journey from student pilot to ATP). Some of their early aviation misadventures are cringe-inducing, but they survived and told the rest of us "what not to do". Pilots tend to be intelligent, goal-oriented individuals. Sometimes this can lead to bad decisions when reality gets in the way of our goals. Starting to think about flying as a risk management exercise becomes a satisfying challenge and improves our own safety and the safety of our passengers.

I like your comments about early on you had an opportunity to do in person reviews with local DPE's. Nothing better than having intel on your local DPE's and having a relationship with them. I've been doing Gleim for many years and find it an effective way for a CFI who isn't active to retain currency.
Unfortunately, most of the DPEs have gotten out of the FIRC business, due to the overly burdensome FAA requirements for CFI renewal clinics. This is ironic in that some of these guys (and gals) put on amazingly good presentations. I always learned a lot. More importantly, these FIRCs often provided much-needed encouragement and motivation. This is often just as important in the learning process as any other element.
I just did the King Schools course. Spread out over a few days it was pretty painless. It's mostly outline and some videos, but I did learn a thing or two. Browse the King website then watch your banner ads for a couple days. If I had waited a day to buy the course I could have used a discount code.
I'm halfway through the Sporty's course now and, so far, it's no better than Gleim or Ace CFI. Disappointing.

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What's wrong with Gleim. You're just checking a square. You've been at 121 long enough to see how square checking works. Go into it with expectation that it's a silly thing you got to do every two years just because. If you want to learn something then get your feet wet with actually doing some CFI stuff.
Also for 121 PIC's, reference this post I made a few years ago:

FIRC'n painful

My local FSDO is on board with renewing based solely on being a 121 Captain. I know some others are not.
About that time again (sigh). Trying to figure out which FIRC to do. So far I’ve used Sportys and ACE CFI. Didn’t like either of them.
Is there a FIRC whose content is actually interesting (i.e. doesn't feel like watching paint dry or death by PowerPoint?) Would like something engaging that requires user interaction, or good videos or something as opposed to just reading text on a screen and then taking a test when the time runs out. Maybe a podcast I can listen to in the car?

I've used the American Flyers one, because free for life is kind of hard to argue with. While I'm waiting for the timer to count down, I watch some of the FAA Wings content (most of it is better/more useful than the FIRC anyway).

Also, while you have to finish the FIRC 3 months before expiration -- you can start it well before that. If you spread it out a bit, it isn't quite as bad.
About that time again (sigh). Trying to figure out which FIRC to do. So far I’ve used Sportys and ACE CFI. Didn’t like either of them.

I'm also doing the American Flyers FIRC.

It sucks less than most. It's just a lot of reading. Let me know if you decide on it and I'll DM you a couple tips for it.
I do Gleim. I have a system to make it faster by downloading the PDF study guide and doing a word search for the test. It's not painless but once you get the hang of it it's not so bad. I've never done anything else so can't compare to AF.
About that time again (sigh). Trying to figure out which FIRC to do. So far I’ve used Sportys and ACE CFI. Didn’t like either of them.

Didn't you upgrade recently? Contact your training department, POI, or FSDO. Quite a few will renew based on 61.197(a)(2)(ii) since you're mentoring and evaluating FOs, even though you are not a check airman.
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Yeah a friend of mine at the DFW FSDO renewed me when I was a RJ captain. Getting an appointment there is tricky though. The back home FSDO in Iowa did this for me also.