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5 Answers

50 hours no solo – can this be salvaged?

Asked by: 1722 views Student Pilot

I'm a 58 year old guy who's wanted to fly since he was a kid. I finally have the time and money, and have been taking sport-pilot lessons since last July. At first, the whole experience was unbelievably joyful and exciting. Though I could only fly once a week - I'm not so old as to be retired - I believe I made good albeit slow progress. By December, at 30 hours of instruction, I believed I was ready to solo, though my landings were less than perfect. That month, I passed my FAA Written exam with a 90%. Since then, however, I have plateaued badly, and may even have fallen back. I am now at 51 hours, still no solo or even close by my estimation, and my piloting skills - which at one time were acceptable and steadily improving - have degraded to the point that I am losing confidence. It's not fun or exciting any more, but a nerve-racking burden. I have to wonder - is it possible that there are some people who are simply not cut out to fly?

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5 Answers

  1. Mark Kolber on May 10, 2015

    Sure there are people who are not meant to fly, but a very common learning plateaus is definitely not a sign of it.

    Have you and your CFI talked about setting you up with a second instructor? Many times, a second pair of eyes and a slightly different approach can make an enormous difference.

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  2. Mike Fasano on May 11, 2015


    I agree with Mark. I also started flying later on in life and also had some difficulty with landings. In the end, I sought the help of several other flight instructors who were able to assess my issues and provide different teaching styles and methods that overcame my plateaus.

    Hang in there. You can and will achieve your dream.

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  3. Joanne on May 11, 2015


    Don’t give up! As long as you still have the interest and the money, I would advise you to continue. I started flight training at age 56, did very well on my written exam, but it took me simply forever to gain any competence or confidence at flying the plane. I had a huge and embarrassing number of hours before finally soloing, and I had so far beyond the ‘normal’ number of hours before taking my practical test that I don’t even admit it. When those ridiculous questions come up, I simply answer that my hours were embarrassingly large, and I’m not going to tell you. I considered giving up many, many times. And, although this may not be relevant to you, I will also tell you that there were tears over the lack of progress. And I don’t usually cry easily! But this process really got to me. I don’t know why I continued, but I was simply too stubborn to quit, and I did finally reach a point where I felt ready for the practical test. In the words of my examiner, I ‘killed it’. He and my instructor were both very pleased. At that point, I wasn’t even excited, I was just relieved. It took a couple of days to sink in that the ordeal was finally over.

    Thus, as I said at the beginning, I would tell you that if you want it and you have the money, keep going. I am now flying around my area and a little beyond, to try to gain experience gradually without getting into some situation that is past my ability to handle. It’s finally fun! I’m also taking lessons in another plane, to give myself more options in renting and to experience something different. I have no interest at this point in training for an instrument rating, but I do want to keep learning and experiencing new things.

    Good luck!

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  4. B Beckwin on May 15, 2015

    One of my closest friends that I am going through training with now had 38 hours before his solo and he’s only 32! Everyone learns at a different pace and PPL seems to be the most difficult so I agree, stick with it. He did and he’s cruising through his IR no problem. Flight is a difficult skill to master with so many things going on and if you have difficulty multi-tasking it takes more time to additionally learn that on top of the actual flight training.

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  5. Scott Trotter on May 30, 2015

    It has been a couple of weeks since the original post, and I’d like to follow up to the group.

    First, I would like to thank everyone above who responded to my post. It was a low point in my training, but your responses were both helpful and encouraging. There is no more powerful way to take control of a problem – even a personal one – than to share your concerns with people who have been there and pushed through. Thank you all.

    I spoke to my CFI, and though he took me seriously, he frankly thought it was a bit funny. Among the group (of old farts) present, solo hours varied from sub-20 to over 75, and everyone had to think real hard to remember the number. It just wasn’t a metric that was kept track of. That was a worthwhile moment.

    As of this morning, though, it’s no longer a problem. I solo’d, with little fear or trepidation, and it was frankly a non-event. My CFI said “You ready?”, I said “Yep”, he grabbed the radio and his ‘phone (“In case you forget to pick me up”), and walked away. I closed the canopy, rolled to the threshold, waited for some traffic, and was off. I did four circuits just like every other time. I wouldn’t even say I was “excited” – just very focused, very clear, and having a *hell* of a good time!

    So once again, thank you all for your help. I needed it, and it worked.

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