Al Marsh

How to discourage a potential student

November 8, 2009 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Eric Brown of the Tampa area has always wanted to fly, so he accumulated the money and went to the nearest airport. He told the school he could afford to fly one time a week and the school told him he had to fly at least two times, preferably three. He found such a schedule would exceed the budget he had, and interfere with his job of traveling to represent an Idaho company called Scentsy . Also, that seemed like a grueling schedule and he wanted flying to be fun. So he left, thinking that was the last word. I told him that when I learned to fly, I could afford one lesson per week. I also told him about the sport pilot option that can be done in a third of the time and half the cost, but he has a baby on the way now and that will occupy the bank account. I also suggested he ask the school for names of competitors, and maybe the school will get the message. I won’t name the school, but pilots there glide above clear water and are very close to St. Petersburg when they do.

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36 Responses to “How to discourage a potential student”

  1. Clint White Says:

    This is the classic scenario where a school that needs the business dosent really want it. Sure, as a flight instructor I would preferr that my students fly more than once a week, but if thats his budget so be it. In this day and age where good domestic students are few and far between and business goes BEGGING. To let this guy go is a tragedy. Hes not doing this as a career, hes doing it for the enjoyment. Any good school or instructor worth its salt should encourage the FUN part of flying. We need to do EVERYTHING to bring more people in, not drive them away.

    If hes interested, I would be happy to teach him once a week and drive to Tampa. I assure you that I would be happy to make his teaching enjoyable.

  2. Brandon Freeman Says:

    It’s really too bad that the school felt that the student should be REQUIRED to fly so many hours a week. In a time when student starts are down, one would think that any potential student who comes in saying “I want to learn how to fly”, flight schools would be falling over themselves to get to. I’m 27, and my income is almost always a consideration when I decide to go flying. My flight school didn’t mind how often I flew. Provided I showed a commitment to finishing what I started, then my (very fantastic) instructor had one more student, and the FBO had one more source of revenue.

    It does seem that there just isn’t enough emphasis placed on flying being fun. I tend to agree with ICON’s Kirk Hawkins when he says that GA’s predisposition to light aircraft as personal transports and business tools does hurt the industry somewhat. There are people who want to learn to fly, just so they can bore holes in the sky on a nice day, go visit their favorite airport diner, and show their friends and family the magic of flight. These folks have no desire to get an instrument rating, and no reason to deduct taxes off a shiny new cross-country machine. I know the Light Sport industry was created with this in mind, but not many FBOs yet have an LSA or Sport Pilot instructor. Until flight schools realize that not everyone they’re training wants to be an airline pilot by this time next year, then we won’t see much change in the number of student starts.

    Also, forgive me as I go on a tangent here, but Bruce, I was at your What Went Wrong seminar on Friday, and I have to say that it was an amazing and informative session. I know we all pontificate when another pilot goes down, thinking such a thing could never happen to us, but it’s really easy to see how quickly the accident chain can be set in motion by the smallest decisions. Thank you once again!

  3. Maria Says:

    At the risk of drawing fire from other readers for playing devil’s advocate, I’d like to point out that visiting one flight school to gather information cannot qualify as “doing one’s homework.” There are too many flight schools out there that want to get students “in a program” with the main goal of separating them from their money — rather than properly training them to be safe pilots. If a person is serious about flying, he should be visiting multiple flight schools to see which one is the best match for him.

    I think the school made a big mistake. As someone who learned to fly part time, with 1 to 2 flight hours a week over a period of a year and a half (with summer off because of AZ heat), I can confirm that the fewer hours you fly, the longer it will take you to get that certificate — and the more money the flight school will be able to collect from you. I didn’t get my private helicopter rating in 40 hours; I got it in 70. I don’t blame the school; I blame myself. But, at the same time, when I had my rating in hand, I didn’t have any debt to go with it.

    My point: someone who is SERIOUS about learning to fly should do ALL of his homework. Read up in AOPA Pilot and Flight Training to know a little more about what to expect. Then visit multiple flight schools to find the right match and MAKE IT HAPPEN.

  4. John Says:

    This same scenario is what pushed me into my current flight training choice. I can afford to fly only twice a month. Yes, it’s difficult to master many of the skills when you fly that infrequently. And, yes, it will end up costing more in the long run. But I’m learning to fly because I enjoy it. It’s my hobby, not my career. I’m fortunate enough to have an instructor who understands that, and is willing to accommodate my schedule and budgetary limitations. In fact, I joined a flying club instead of a traditional, more rigorous flying school to make my life-long goal possible. The club still has currency requirements, but they aren’t as stringent as the flying schools in the area. In the end, it’s up to me to make the most of my time in the airplane. I’ll get there; it’ll just take me a little longer than others. Good luck to non-traditional students!

  5. Ken Says:

    The school missed out because alot of students, myself included started this way and then realized that to reach their goals they needed more committment. I am now a 800 hour multi-engine insturment rated pilot working on my commercial rating. I am glad my school and instructer did not discourage me.

  6. Viktor Says:

    My experience tells me that the more time goes by between the lessons the more time you spend to repeat the session of last time. Flying once a week or less is expensive and discouraging due to very slow progress. In this respect the flight school is right to tell the customer not to waste his money.
    The cheapest way is:
    #1 Save your money for a while and start flying not before you have enough cash to pay 40 hours of flight instruction.
    #2 Before you start flying, get your books and learn for the written exam. You do not need an instructor, spoonfeeding you with all that stuff you can read yourself.
    #3 Select the right flight instructor, preferably an old guy who does not need to collect hours for his ATP license.
    #4 Fly twice a day. Make sure that your instructor is available for you every time.
    I am instructor myself and do it this way. Quite a few of my students started well prepared, took their written exam and finished their training in less than 2 weeks and spent just the money for the required 40 hours.

  7. Larry Says:

    If I owned a flight school…. I would suggest the student have enough financial resources to solo and I would explain why they need to fly often to get to this stage. I would also be very clear that most students do not get their license in 40 hours and the longer they wait between lessons the more it will cost them. As long as I explained the scenario to them and answered their questions I would be happy to have them as a student no matter how often they could afford to fly.

  8. Kelly R Witsberger Says:

    Viktor is spot on. I don’t understand the emphasis on “flight schools”. I found an instructor with his own planes (a trainer and two personal aircraft) with so many hours he said he doesn’t even keep a logbook anymore except what he needs for his currency requirements. He’s not interested in training future ATPs, he trains people that want to fly for fun. 7 days a week, on the student’s schedule. I did the groundschool on my own ($119 for the Gleim books), took my checkride at 40.3 hours and now I call him whenever I want an hour or two of dual refresher. Cheap and fun. He sends a lot of students to the DPE with 40-50 hours, and he has some students that have been going for a year+, depending on their budget. If ou want to fly, especially in this economy, I have to believe there are CFIs that will work with anyone.

  9. Bob Says:

    Maria suggests visiting more than one flight school….that’s great IF you have more than one flight school in the area. Many places don’t.
    When I started flying, I tried to fly once a week but wasn’t always able because the lawn mowing money wasn’t always there. I soloed on my 16th birthday and got my license on my 17th. Now 7,000 hours later, I think once a week worked out pretty well for me. Above all else, flying should be fun or students will find other things to do with their money!

  10. Ken Sharp Says:

    The emphasis on obtaining a license in the minimum time is mistaken thinking. No matter if it takes 40 hours or 80 hours to obtain the Private Certificate, after the checkride, the pilot is a “low time Private Pilot,” and the number of hours that it took to get to that point is beside the point. A “low time Private Pilot” should continue the learning process started with the first lesson, and should continue the process until the Medical Examiner tells them to hang it up.

    And the learning process can be a lot of fun, what with the AOPA Safety meetings, EAA Chapter activities, all the various fly-in’s held around the country, and the hundres of museums that can be used as destinations for cross-country flights. And then, there are places to see in the United States that can be enjoyed with flight. Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, the Georgia coast, the Florida Keys, the Mississippi River (and others) – the list is endless. And none of those attractions give a rip about how many hours it takes to get a pilot certificate!

  11. S Ramsey Says:

    The school and its policy is in itself not pertinent. Neither is how long a student takes to certification.
    It is the instructors that the schools hire that is important.
    I took up flying to get over my “fearful flyer” syndrome … and it took me some 70 hours to my private license and over a year of intermittent training to get it … not only because of my own “fears” but because of all too frequent changes of instructor who had no patience with those “fears”, teaching per own agenda with no regard for the foibles of their student.
    This led me to almost give up – until one day a new Instructor appeared at the school who persuaded me to “give it one more try”. This instructor showed great Pedagogic skills shephearding me through with infinite patience, courtesy and tolerance instilling understanding, courage, analytical ability and a keen sense of observation all of which led to my private certification, a night rating … and an instrument rating – and replaced my esterwhile “fears” with a healthy respect for the flying environment.
    The end result ? Some 2000 + hours, my own aircraft and 27 years of irreplacable flying experiences throughout North America, Australia and New Zealand …
    A positive result for everyone’s flying business, No ?

  12. Pat Delaney Says:

    As the owner of a flight school, I can tell you that it is very unlikely that anyone who only schedules once per week, at least during the pre-solo phase of training, will ever end up with a pilot certificate in their pocket. Yes indeed there are many schools that simply want to rent you the airplane and instructor not caring if the student ever finishes or not but I’ll bet this school really wanted him to finish and was being honest. Many people cannot advance with only one training session per week and of course that one scheduled day has a fair chance also of being cancelled due to weather. It happens over and over that when someone realizes that they are not advancing because they havn’t flown recently, they usually get discouraged or lose interest and become a drop-out statistic.

    Its important to make the first few flights fun and interesting but I believe instructors and schools also have a duty to make the student aware that earning a pilot’s certificate goes far beyond the first few “fun” flights and requires some hard work and dedication and above all – getting their butt to the airport often!! Like most other good things that you work hard for, it pay off for the rest of your life! Fortunately though, well-motivated individuals usually realize this and schedule 3 or more times per week.

    We need to work towards not only promoting the fun of flying but attracting and mentoring people that will finish the training. There are millions of “aviation nuts” out there, many of whom may take a discovery flight, but actually very few who will go on to fill the ranks of the licensed, active pilots that we need.

  13. Jeff Says:

    I think Viktor’s advice is OK for people that not only have all the money up front, but have the money (or right job) to not be making the money for those two weeks. I’d think this was a very small % of the students, and for most of the real world, it just doesn’t work that way.

    Sure, it’s a well-accepted fact that the less often you fly, the longer it takes you & the more you spend in the long run. But no one here has even thought about the *rate* of spend, and that it just might exceed the *rate* of income (except Lawnmower Boy Bob).

    If this is a hobby move not a career move, just lighten up & teach the guy (gal) to fly as he/she can afford it. I’m one of those that can much more easily afford $10K over the whole next year than $8K in the next two weeks, not to mention the fact that when I’m not working, I’m not making money (making that $8K in the next two weeks way more than that!)

    When I learned to fly, I was fortunate enough to have a month off between jobs & the money saved up to just go get it done. But with weather (Hurricanes Ike & Gustav) and those days where 2 or 3 hours of new-skill-flying cleaned my clock, I didn’t finish in that month. With the new job starting, it took several more months to get the required time & skills to get my checkride.

    And unless I wanted to drive over an hour, there was but one choice of airport & just one flight school there. Once I started traveling for the new job, I’d find any flight school I could & just get a few hours. It helped a LOT to see the wide differences in instructor styles, terrain, locations, etc. And I kept in the books on my travels. It all worked out.

    Now that I’m working on my instrument ticket, I’m on the other side of the fence – working to fund the money & time for my hobby. Sure, my CFI made the recommendation to fly 2-3 times per week, but I can’t. So he wisely recognized the correct answer when told & we’re working out a schedule that works for both of us.

    There are a lot of good CFI’s that get this. There are some who thinks the sun rises & sets around aviation, and anyone not in that league just don’t get it. Frankly, I think the reverse true.

    In the scenario above, it mentions not only the funds, but the job & the travels included with that job. If you’ve ever traveled for work, you know that it’s really tough to get time at home, and if you then tell the wife you want to spend that little home time at the airport, you might as well plan on sleeping at the airport.

    Most jobs have two weeks vacation – 3 or 4 if you’re lucky, have been there a while, etc. Don’t think for a second I’m spending the only two weeks I have off a year learning to fly. For me, learning to fly is hard work -and I need a vacation once in a while. Again, include the spouse factor in this & you’ll arrive at the same answer.

    So just lighten up, accept the real-life limitations of this student’s life & let’s just go flying (and learn something).

  14. Randy Says:

    Every post above makes valid points. As responsible flight school operators, we are beholden to our students and potential students to help them save as much money as possible.
    We recommend to potential students that the more often they fly, the less money it will cost in the long run. If all a school wants to do is separate pilots from their money, students who fly once per week or less are your best customers.
    I hope Eric didn’t take someone’s money-saving recommendation as a REQUIREMENT.

  15. Bruce Liddel Says:

    Remind me to never ever send a prospective student pilot to Pat Delaney’s flight school.

    I flew once a week, usually for less than 1.2 hours at a time, sometimes less often when weather or illness interfered, and in less than 41 hours I was ready for the check-ride.

    Maybe I was highly motivated. Maybe it was a factor that I had an “older guy” who was also a DPE, and actually cared about his students passing check-rides. The fact remains that flight instruction is a business and has to be run as a business. In a successful business, the customer is always right. Obviously not “right” when closing the throttle and dumping the flaps during a go around, but “right” about when to spend his or her money learning to fly.

    The key to better days ahead is more pilots and fewer anti-aviation fruitcakes. Nobody knows in advance who is the most motivated, versus who will drop out after the discovery flight, or after solo. Friendly flight instruction can and should help reduce the anti-aviation bigotry even when students do not make it all the way to licensed pilots. Flight schools with arbitrary rules (like requiring 2-3 hours per week) are a disservice to the community.

  16. Chris Wright Says:

    Is there anyone or any organization that maintains a voluntary register of CFIs willing to take on non-traditional students? And maybe also willing to self-identify as “non time-builders”? I got discouraged when my large flight school kept losing young instructors to entry-level airline jobs. I wandered away from flight training to live the rest of life, but I’m about ready to come back. Just not back to the same old treadmill I was on before. If there’s no such list maybe AOPA can build & host one.

  17. Sam Sharp Says:

    Will somebody please explain to me the “inverse of commitment and funding?”

    I have several primary students. Two who are ‘settled’ financially due to their endeavors and have become ‘empty nesters’, one young man whose mother and father are paying the way, and one student like myself; washing airplanes, mowing grass, asking if he can help me do ranch chores, etc.

    The older students were turned off from flying due to CFI indifference at the larger ‘schools’, and just about quit flying. The young man, whose parents are paying for his training, can’t seem to find the drive to learn to fly. My last student, will scrape paint off of hangars with his teeth if need be, to earn the almighty flying hour.

    When I was a student pilot, all of the ‘rich kids’ that were trying to learn to fly would make fun of me since I was a poor school teacher’s son, and they couldn’t understand why I would belittle myself to earn the almighty flying hour by washing airplanes. None of them finished their lessons.

    Why is it that truly talented students usually have no funds (myself excluded-I’m not talented), and the rich kids whose mommies and daddies send them to the high powered flight schools reach such disparity?

    I’ll place my bet on my financially challenged student. It might take him longer to finish his ratings, but I’ll also bet that he’ll pass up many priviledged students along the way. And, I’ll be there to help him.

    As for Chris Wright’s question: I’m still building time, and learning something new each and every time that I fly with a student. These students keep me ‘in the books’ and honest about all of the daily revisions that come out in the hundreds of publications and blogs from others.

    I hope to hit 25,000 hours of flight time before I die. I’m at 21,730 to date. I’d like to reach a ‘cardinal number’ before I check out…So I better get to work!

  18. Scot Says:

    As much as I would love to, consistently flying even once a week is not an option for me. Family and work commitments and financial constraints simply won’t allow it. For 30 years I thought that I would never be able to fly because it was too expensive and I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it.

    I am anxious to get my certificate, but that is not the reason I am a student pilot. It is about the journey. Every time I am in the air, it is wonderful, relaxing, exhilarating. Just as physical exercise is important, mental exercise is important, and the exercise of the extreme learning curve has been a great bonus.

    If I had waited until I had the money, time, and agreement from my wife to fly multiple times a week, I would have never taken my first lesson. By moving at the fastest pace that my life and commitments will allow, I will continue to move forward. What is the worst thing that could happen? Even if I’m not able to complete my training, at least I have flown an airplane and had a riot doing it. I’ve learned a lot about aviation that I would have never understood. It is an experience I will never forget. The worst thing that could have happened would have been for me to have never tried.

  19. Kevin Collins Says:

    I agree with Bruce and Jeff, as well as many of the other posts. Other significant limiting factors that haven’t gotten much discussion in this thread are availability of the student, instructor, and airplane. My primary instructor was building flight time towards an aviation career, but he was also an interested and enthusiastic teacher. As a result, he was very busy. My flight school had only one 172, so finding a timeslot where I, the instructor, and the airplane were all available was challenging. My work commitments usually limited me to one flight a week. Even with all that, I was just about ready in 50 hours before maintenance, weather, and the DPE’s schedule conspired to delay me.

    As frustrating as it was at the time, though, the delay doesn’t bother me today. I could still fly, the only difference was that I couldn’t carry passengers yet. I think some people put too much stock in equating the number of hours required to get the PPL with the pilot’s skill/aptitude. There are just too many variables in the training process to use that as a yardstick.

    BTW, I got my instrument rating in just over 40 hours on the gauges and flew an ILS to 100′ above minimums in actual IMC (with the instructor, of course) two months before my checkride. :-)

  20. David Heberling Says:

    It is clear from reading the above replies that there are some who refuse to understand customer limitations. These are not limitations in the potential customer themselves, but the situation in which they live. There are financial, job, time, and family limitations that any smart flight school will learn to live with. You can brow beat that potential customer all you want, but it won’t change their situation.

    Yes, flying is an expensive hobby. Is it really the flight school’s job to act as financial adviser? I do think it is the flight school’s job to keep the customer motivated in any way that they can. I think the holy grail of 40 hours is misguided. Most students cannot meet that goal, and all it does is set them up for disappointment. We need as many student starts as possible. If we want this industry to succeed, we will do everything in our power to make that happen.

  21. lee arnold Says:

    At age 15, wanting to learn to fly had nothing to do with getting ratings. It was to get off the ground,,, to fly,,sometime, only for 30 minutes a week. My 8 hours minimum & 16th birthday came in late December, so I had to have a 30 minute refresher/check ride to solo in late January.. In the next few hours, over months,I was permitted to fly about all models of then available planes from 36 to 80 hp, not because of any plan, but because they were cheap & available.
    After a little Navy training, flying whenever on the student ticket, & rebuilding a couple of planes, passing a written, I took a private check ride. Now, at 82, I own planes to fly, & to work on & airport bums for friends..

  22. John Eakin Says:

    Many years ago, I ran a flight school and I have trained a lot of students. We found that the single biggest predictor of a student’s success was how often they planned to train. And beyond that, we found that those who flew regularly developed in to much better pilots.
    The first question prospective students ask is how many hours does it take, and we tried to lay it on the line for them. Fly once a week and they would probably get discouraged and drop out before completing the course – that didn’t do them any good and it wasn’t good for aviation.
    We stayed busy because we tried to put students first. If they wanted to go bore a hole in the sky or “combine training with business trips”, we would oblige if we could. But we made it plain to them that it was false economy.
    We tried to treat them the way we would like to be treated. Sometimes they didn’t like what we told them, but we knew from experience that they would like it even less when they were a thousand dollars lighter.
    With all that said, we realized that we were in business to share our love of aviation and the last thing we wanted to do was destroy dreams. So we worked to find ways to maximize their training dollars. Simple little things like getting the ground instruction out of the way so they could concentrate on flight training – breaking the flight training in to stages so they could better budget for it – and offering financing options were just some.
    So before you criticize the flight school without hearing their side of it, consider that they may have been trying to help and the prospective student didn’t like what he was being told. The other side of the coin is this same person may have been complaining six months later that his instructor was ineffective and they just wanted his money.

  23. Philippe Chantreau Says:

    As a CFI with over 1500hrs of dual given, I’m entirely with John Eakin. I have instructed in the 2 extreme of the spectrum: flight school with students in “0-time-to-commercial programs” and flight club.
    One problem I had with the flight school business was the tendency to separate people from their money in ways that I sometimes found dishonest. It would be nice to know exactly what they told the student in that particular occurrence.
    However I do agree with John that any school has an obligation to be honest with a prospecticve student and let him/her know that progress will likely be slow (at times non existent) with a once a week flying schedule. Anyone with that kind of limited availability should know that a solo may still be an elusive goal after 6 months. Only after they’re aware of that and willing to accept it should an instructor proceed to the next step, and that next step should be to master the theoretical knowledge for the stage to come.

    Of course some people make it OK with that kind of rythm but, as anyone with extensive flight instruction experience knows, the vast majority of them don’t. They get discouraged, or the lack of progress stumps the enjoyment and they come less and less often, to eventually store aviation in the “failed dream” category.
    There is more to helping our industry than just grabbing every flight hour and every buck we can.

  24. Neil Davis Says:

    Fly for fun and don’t let anyone pressure you into taking more lessons than you can afford.

    I averaged a couple lessons a month during my private and still finished in under a year. However, I did ramp up and take a couple lessons a week in the weeks leading up to my check ride.

    One thing that really helped me was that I played FSX for a couple hours in between each lesson. The simulator is especially helpful now that I’m working on my instrument rating. I’m only taking one lesson a month now, but I show up confident at each lesson because I practice on FSX every week (side note: get a yoke and pedals and spend hours tweaking the null zone and sensitivity settings, eventually they will feel pretty realistic).

    I would have been very discouraged if I didn’t find an instructor willing to work with my schedule. If you don’t find an instructor who is willing to work on your schedule, just keep looking, they are out there.

  25. Mickey Lessley Says:

    I have a different situation, but relavant to the topic. I earned my privot pilot license 28 yrs ago. While in the military at a flying club when the rates were very attractive I got my schooling. Then I got out of the military and was shocked at what it would cost me to fly. And flying for me was for fun. Long story short. I soon quite flying.
    Now these many years later, I took up flying again. I soon realized just how much commitment it was going to take to get current.
    All the talk of how frequent to fly!? It never seriously occurred to me. I had a budget. I had only so much time each week. My instructors, two as it turned out, never mentioned the subject. Maybe they should have. I won’t judge that. I also had a medical issue that in the end took a long time to recitify.
    The bottom line! It took me over a year flying generally once a week, roughly an hour at a time. Approx. 15-20 hours total. I’m certain the time frame could have been less except for two things. The medical issue and my complete confidence.
    Really only the landings took the time it did to be proficient. And my overall confidence.
    I feel at least in my situation, the extra time helped me become a better pilot overall. Very solid and still learning. I occassionally still fly with an instructor to get more proficient, like night flying, instrument skills and any other little thing that comes up.
    Everyones comments may have validity, but it makes me wonder if I should fly at all unless I fly at least weekly to to be able to survive!

  26. Tom Inglima Says:

    Too bad for the school in sunny Pinellas County. I started on Thanksgiving day 1956 and finally got the Private on August 31st 1958 with just over 58 hours. A little longer than many people in those days. I soloed before I was 17, made the money to fly delivering the Miami News (Miami’s long gone afternoon newspaper)

    As a CFI over the years I saw that a students progress depends more on thier enthusiasim and desire than frequency of flight.

    I instructed in Army A Phase (Primary) and C Phase (Multiengine-Instrument) and no doubt flying and going to ground school five days a week will result in less total hours, but quality of instuction also plays a major role.

    If a person can fly once a month and is motivated why not do it? It may take a few extra hours flying but as long as they make progress and are happy with it, that seems great to me.

  27. David Boggs Says:

    I was in a similar situation learning to fly by going once a week. Fortunately I learned to fly in a small town that didn’t have a suggested flight time per week. If you decide it is right for you to start flying, I have two suggestions. Suggestion 1: When your instructor says you are close to solo, save up enough to spend a week at your school, spending at least 2 hours learning on the ground and one hour flying per day. Do the same when you are ready to take your FAA flight test. Suggestion 2: Spend at least 15-30 minutes per day flying an airplane in your mind with your eyes shut, remembering everything that you did that went right and wrong during your last lesson. This worked very well for me, instead of taking the typical 80 hours for this typical situation, it only took me 50. You will learn slower, and it will take more time but it is definitly worth while and most excitingly fun!

  28. Phil Costello Says:

    I am one of the fortunate students to come across a great instructor right out of the shoot. I was a flight sim junkie for many years and had told my lovely wife that I would love to try flying a real plane someday to see how realistic the flight simulator was. She surprised me with an introductory flight for my birthday nd the hook was set. I was in a bit of a predicament in the fact that I had the funds to fly however much I wanted but I did not have the time. My private license took me just over 50 hours to complete in just under one year mainly flying once a week. When I went for my instrument rating i had started, took about six months off, and then finished in one big push at the end. I had found a new instructor who was very willing to be there early in the morning and finsih up my last 15 or so hours in about six days. By far this was the better learning enviroment to stay proficient and I finished my instrument ticket in 42 hours. I just feel it is important for all of us who enjoy this hobby to keep ANYONE who is interested involved in flying. If that means once a week then so be it. I continually take friends and family flying now and have always been accesible to anyone I know to sit down and talk about this great adventure.

  29. ToddSullivan Says:

    Once I graduated from college and had a job I started my training. I was lucky to find an instructor whose interest was in teaching (which is not necessarily limited to those not building time). My time and budget allowed flying once every week or two. I started in September, earned my ticket in March, with 43 hours of flight time. I think that individual motivation plays more role in finishing the training than most anything else. I (and my instructor) took every aspect of flight very seriously while still allowing it to be fun, without pressure to fly more. More frequency was certainly encouraged, and I understood that I could finish “faster” in calender time, but I did get to enjoy instruction across a decent range of weather conditions/seasons. Anyway, beyond the rambling everyone learns differently. Everyone should be encouraged and a good teacher will discover an individual’s best learning style. CFI’s should be honest and up front about frequency’s effect on overall progress but should never discourage someone who has clear limitations in time or funding for an endeavor that costs so much of both. I am disappointed by some of the comments that suggest that my pattern might not have been acceptable at their school. I beleive myself to be a good, safe pilot, despite or because of my training history.

  30. Nate Says:

    I appreciate the sincerity of all who posted here. I’m certain I could have finished faster had I gone through an accelerated training program, but on my salary, it was never gonna happen.

    I have been an airport tire kicker since I was old enough to ride a bicycle, back then peering through airplane windows on the line was not prohibited, but encouraged! There was a big green and white Aero Commander on the ramp and I wondered how anyone could fly that big honkin’ thing.

    Now, over 30 years later, I just got my multi-ticket, and I’m working on my instrument rating. In the interim I got my glider and ASEL ratings. All of them flying once a week, because that is the time and treasure I can invest. One thing that helped me was to read, read, read everything I could on the subject. I still remember the Flying mag my mom bought me in 1978. It had a Piper Aztec on the cover.

    One thing that has not been mentioned is the quality of PATIENCE. Yeah, its going to take you a little longer, but that’s really ok, because honestly, you shouldn’t go to the airport with the expectation that you are going to fly every time. I took my first glider lesson in September 2006, and got my last rating last August. Its a novel way of avoiding BFR’s!

    Oh yeah, last month I logged 4.0 hours PIC in an AC50 :)

  31. David Says:

    I learned to fly in Pinellas county and know most of the schools, it dosen’t surprise me that this happened, it is a normal response of flight schools locally. I have had the same problems with many flight schools all over Florida, apparently when you become a professional pilot you don’t have to care anymore. I normally suggest that these flight school employees and owners look at how other businesses conduct themselves.

  32. Bob H. Says:

    It’s not clear to me that anything has really been lost here, especially given only one side of the discussion. I think a few moments of introspection and reflection should be taken. Do we really need more pilots that don’t actually fly once they earn their license? We all know that having a baby and flying are not economically compatible, so I fail to see the benefits of encouraging a course of action in these circumstances. Our prospective pilot should be encouraged to keep his/her priorities in their current order.

    So, I think expectations were set correctly, if not perfectly, and if there is one thing that this industry could use more of is integrity in setting expectations. The flying business is replete with stories of the consequences of “the bare minimum”. Contrast USA1549 v. CJC3407 for a painful example of well-prepared versus bare minimum.

    Frankly, I see this all the time – individuals that have decided to follow their interest in aviation while investing the least amount of resources possible, constantly espousing the joy of flying in one breath and whining about the cost (or the pay) in the next. These pilots show up at the airport as if it were Wally World, looking for the sunny face and the price roll-back sign.

    And yet, on these very blogs we also wonder why CFI pay is so low? The safety records associated to this point speak for themselves, too.

    So, with the costs of liability being what they are, I am seeing a trend in the industry to work with those pilots that have the resources to go the distance, and beyond. These are lucrative customers, and the resource shortage in CFIs will only serve to reward those businesses that are selective in maximizing the return on the opportunity cost of time.

    Instead of encouraging this student to approach this in the typical got-to-have-immediate-self-gratification way – will we ever learn? – the student should be encouraged to invest his flying nest-egg in TIPS, and add to it until s/he can make the commitment in time and expense to become a safe, and flying pilot.

    Finally, I am not saying that flying needs to be unnecessarily expensive, and I am not saying that we shouldn’t encourage prospective pilots.

    I am opposed to setting expectations at the expense of proper training.

    I think some collective self-reflection on that point is in order.

  33. Andy Crane Says:

    I’m sure this whole thing is an case of “failure to communicate!” I’m sure that the school pointed out and everyone will agree, as a general rule you need to fly at least two to three hours a week to hit that magic 40hr target. I doubt tho, they would have refused to accept a paying customer regardless of the hours intended to fly. I’m sure they would have taken his one hour per week rental and flight instructor fees. Sounds like the student may have lacked a little motivation, he was not the first to be told that and didn’t give up. I was told the same thing and I got my private ticket flying once a week, sometimes missing weeks or sometimes a couple times a week whatever time and money allowed.
    I’ve always recommended that if you are not planning on flying for a career, stay away from the schools and find an independent instructor, they are everywhere.

  34. Nate Says:

    One further oar I’d like to toss in. During my primary training there were several occasions where I didn’t fly for two weeks or better- due to aircraft or instructor unavailability, or bad weather. Is this notion of flying more than weekly realistic? All the desire and money won’t help when your CFI breaks his ankles in a non-flying accident, or you get two weeks worth of high winds and low ceilings at the critical pre-solo juncture.

  35. Greg Says:

    Anyone else see a pattern going on here? All the CFIs are saying in order to really get the most out of it you need to try to fly twice a week. All the non-CFIs are telling stories of how they were able to get the training done in a year or so flying once a well while walking up hill t both ways to the airport in the snow.

    I think it may be closer to the truth that the flight school explained that he could fly once a week but he (the customer) would see little progress and flying twice a week or more will provide better results. But the customer only heard “flying once a week won’t do you any good”.

    As a CFI I see this all the time not only with current students but with potential students as well.

    The first two things a potential student asks are (in this order) :
    1) How much does it cost?
    2) how long does it take?

    And I follow with – it takes a minimum of 40 hours, most people are closer to 55 hours before finishing and the cost is between $8000 and $10,000 depending on a number of factors and how often you choose to fly.

    What the potential customer hears is “$10,000 and can’t tell you how long it will take”.

    I’m not a time builder, I do this mostly part time for the fun of it.. I will take any student wanting to learn.. Be it a once a week student or a twice a day for 3 day student.. But I always tell them the same thing… How much and how long will largely depend on you. I’m just here to insure you learn what is needed.

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