Recently, a student pilot with more than 40 hours of flight time and 150 landings over the course of several months posted a question on the Ask a Flight Instructor site about why he has not soloed yet. He also noted that he does not feel confident to do so and further added:
This is mainly because I am just not getting the hang of landings; the rest of my maneuvers rate ‘good’ even after a break.
There have been breaks in my training, but that’s mainly because it’s taking so long and I have to fit my life around the lessons.
I believe I am well motivated to fly, and I am usually a fast learner. How can I tell if I’m just not cut out for aviation as a hobby, or if there’s a problem with my instructor/school?
Or am I just too impatient?
Gary Moore responded by writing that its probably a combination of all of the above things the student pilot mentioned and that there is no real rule on when its time for someone to solo. However, both the student pilot and their instructor must both feel confident about being ready.
Wesley Beard then wrote about a couple of techniques that work well for some student pilots. These techniques included making sure the seat is positioned in the exact same place as during the previous flight so as to develop one’s visual perception to make consistent landing. He also noted that where a pilot is looking during flaring is important as:
You must transition your eyes from the touchdown point to the end of the runway and at that point it becomes a game try not to climb but don’t really want to descend. Read Chapter 8 (Approaches and Landings) in the Airplane Flying Handbook and ask any questions to your CFI or here.
Meanwhile, Kent Shook noted that if a student pilot is having problems with the flare and the touchdown itself, he found out that:
…the way everyone else was telling me to do it (“Hold it level, wait until you feel the sink in your butt, then pull back”) just wasn’t working. I wasn’t sensing the sink right away, and by the time I did it was sinking fairly quickly so I had to pull back fairly hard to arrest the descent and I was overcontrolling and eventually smacking the plane down onto the runway pretty hard.
After I had some time to think about it outside the airplane, I realized that I didn’t have to sense the sink – With the power off and holding the airplane level just above the runway, it is GOING to sink, I don’t have to wait until I feel it – So I decided I was just going to level it off above the runway, count to two, and start pulling back slowly on the yoke.
Kent then added that the above technique worked beautifully and that he soloed shortly thereafter. He also added that by the time he had his private pilot license, that “sense” had kicked in and he no longer had to count to two as he could feel it.
Finally, the last two responders suggested that the student pilot try a different instructor in order to get a second opinion and a fresh perspective on flying.
All of the above responses were great reasons for why the student pilot has not soloed yet. However, we would like to ask you our readers for your thoughts and opinions about soloing. In other words, would you have any additional tips for a student pilot who is having trouble soloing?
Interesting blog you have here. I've been looking for a couple of hours now for a decent aviation blog. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Hard to say without flying with the person, but I'd definitely try to chance things up. Try a different airport, different CFI, maybe even a different airplane.
If you can fly a good approach, the flare and landing should be easily learned. If a student is not comfortable with the landing after 40 hours, it could be that the approach is not stabilized.