Whenever I hear about people who log 30 or more hours just to get to solo, it hurts my heart a little. Flying isn’t cheap, and the more time that Hobbs meter racks up, the more a student must be looking at his or her bank balance and starting to wonder, Why am I doing this again?
Rod Machado has noted a trend in which student solos seem to be taking longer, and it’s not always attributable to the usual reasons. In his February 2013 “Since You Asked” (“Forever to Solo”), a student pilot whose frustration practically leaks out onto the page asked for advice.
He had 55 hours (the previous 30 to 40 had been spent in the traffic pattern). He said his landings were “pretty much always the same.” He said he tended to flare a bit low, but had never had any landings that were dangerous. “Whenever I mention the fact that I have an excessive amount of presolo hours and I am running out of money to any of the CFIs, my concerns are immediately dismissed. I’ve been told that counting hours is bad and that everyone learns at their own pace. If I press the issue, the CFIs usually get mad.” He walked away from the flight school and wondered if he’d done the right thing.
We asked digital subscribers to put themselves in this student’s shoes. What would you have done?
- 51 percent would talk to the chief flight instructor.
- 31 percent would ask another CFI to fly with them and get his or her opinion on their landings.
- 13 percent would do as the student eventually did—walk away and find another flight school.
- 4 percent would have done something else entirely.
Of course, we’re only hearing the student’s side, and Rod knows that. In his response, he proposed several possible explanations for why this student has spent such a long time in the pattern, and number one was “[Y]ou might be the problem.”
Assuming there was nothing wrong with the student’s ability to learn at a normal pace, Rod also threw out some other possiblities: The CFI didn’t know how to teach him how to land; or the CFI didn’t know it’s possible to solo someone with normal landing skills in a simple airplane in under 20 hours of flight time; or the CFI doesn’t understand the purpose of the solo.
What would you have done? If this was your experience in private pilot or sport pilot training, what did you do?—Jill W. Tallman
“Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.