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5 Answers

When after first solo should a student pilot venture to the practice area?

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Student Pilot

So first solo includes CFI on the ground watching student do full stop landings at the primary airpiort. First solo complete. What do people recommend for allowing/encouraging the student to fly from primary airport to the practice area (not including other airports)? Is there any rule of thumb to communicate with the student that people use like "have fun soloing all week staying here and then when you have done 2 hours go head out and back...". I know a little off question but my instructor years ago allowed me to solo with a gentlemens agreement of, dont leave the airport until I am back from vacation.... something like that.

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5 Answers



  1. Casey Hansen on Oct 05, 2011

    I think it varies with each student’s comfort level and skill level, but typically I give them a couple solo sessions in the pattern (at least) to get their confidence level up, then I start having them venture out into the practice area with specific instructions for what to practice. I make sure they are comfortable with pattern entry, working with other traffic in the area, etc. before setting them free as well.
    As for maneuvers while they’re in the practice area – I’m careful to make sure they are up-to-par with whatever they’ll be practicing.

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  2. Jim Foley on Oct 06, 2011

    As Casey said, it will vary with each student and how comfortable the instructor is with the students ability.  For myself, I soloed at around 5pm, and was wheels-up doing manouvers in the practice area by 8am the next day.  Just depends on what your abilities and knowledge is.

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  3. Matthew Beyer on Oct 06, 2011

    Thanks, this helps. Sorta related, any usual rule of thumb for when student pilot can switch from full stop landings to touch and goes? I know its subjective, but if anyone has any typical markers or rule of thumb… Thanks again

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  4. Matthew Waugh on Oct 06, 2011

    So with respect to the practice area – it depends. I operated out of a Class C airport, by the time they’d solo’ed at a satellite airport they were MORE than ready to venture into the practice area on their own. However if it’s a “quickie” solo, where you dotted the i’s and t’s and then spent all the time in the pattern getting to solo, probably need some more airwork before you let them do ANYTHING except bang around the pattern.
     
    I NEVER let solo students do touch and goes. We do them when I’m with them as a speed up mechanism (although we do a full stop every 2-4 landings) but on their own no touch and goes – it’s just one more complexity a student pilot doesn’t need.

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  5. Brian on Oct 06, 2011

    I was required, and subsequently require, 2 pattern solo’s (though I’m alright with one) and the ability to take me home twice in a row without instruction. This stems from my training where we had our solo, then a stage check with optional second solo, followed by two lessons to tidy up our navigation to and from the practice area, and finally a solo to the practice area. Me personally, I did 3 takeoffs and landings on my solo flight, did not solo on my stage exam, and 3 days and 2 flight hours later I solo’ed to the practice area. 
     
    As for what maneuvers to allow, also very VERY student dependent. I did power off stalls during my first solo to the practice area. Power on stalls my second. So I’d done both power on and power off stalls with under 2.5 hours solo time. However, I requested my instructor allow me to practice these and was not afraid to let go of the airplane and let it fly, knowing darn well that my inputs could cause more harm than good.
     
    A little background on me: I had hundreds of hours flying and building RC’s before stepping foot in a real plane. The flight concepts are all the same, in particular, stall recovery — let go of the controls, chop the throttle, and the plane will always recover from any stall, even an uncoordinated one. So long as your reaction is pre developed spin and you don’t panic, but wait for the aircraft to settle. My instructor had seen my inate action to remove the throttle and relax controls the instant a wing would drop from my very first power on stall.
     
    All that said, I’ve yet to have a student react intuitively to this and as such have not recommended any stall practice so early. So the end answer is..it depends. I’d say you’re far better to set minimums and let your students meet them: such as requiring 2 successful navigations back to home base without your input before allowing the first practice area solo. Some students will do that immediately, others will take a half a dozen pattern solo’s before it happens. At the very least, this approach gives you standards and sets an achievable goal for your students! 

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