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Thread: How Long To Solo?

  1. #1

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    How Long To Solo?

    In trying to declutter my house, I was looking at some past issues of aviation magazines and came across a chart of average times to solo, as in the Sept. 2005 AOPA mag.

    As you'd expect, about 10 to 15 hours was the norm, (most students were in 152 or 172s) with that being 29% of total.
    23% took 5 to 10 hours,
    21% took 15 to 20 hours
    25% took more than 20 hours.
    A few, 2% took less than 5!

    I recall when I learned in a Piper Cherokee 140 ,it took me 12 hours to solo. I was at a fairly small airport, Montgomery Field in San Diego, but did have a few delays since it had a control tower. A real busy airport, with a tower and lot's of other traffic . especially IFR or airline traffic can make for more delays.

    Some years ago, a couple of experienced CFIs wanted to see how quickly they could teach a student from ground zero just to safely fly a solo. The found a lady who new nothing about flying, and taught her in a 152, just for a solo, one takeoff, once around the pattern and one landing; not all the other stuff about navingating, etc.
    She was a Las Vegas showgirl, knew nothing about planes.

    She did the solo flight after 5 hours.

    AOPA used to have a great "PINCH HITTER" program , with actual flying and the students learnig to land their planes. Sadly, the program now is all talk, all classroom, no flying. Interesting, but not nearly as valuable.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    Some years ago, a couple of experienced CFIs wanted to see how quickly they could teach a student from ground zero just to safely fly a solo. The found a lady who new nothing about flying, and taught her in a 152, just for a solo, one takeoff, once around the pattern and one landing; not all the other stuff about navingating, etc.
    She was a Las Vegas showgirl, knew nothing about planes.

    She did the solo flight after 5 hours.
    Re: Piper Blue Sky Solo Program, circa 1977 - "We'll teach you how to fly for $299." (That is, we'll teach you how to solo and not all the other stuff). Program was ~5 hr. long. Now, as it was then there are regulatory requirements to teach "other stuff" so there's a paradox with soloing in absolute minimum time and being in compliance with the regs.

  3. #3

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    Marty, the two GFIs who did the quick solo trial were very senior experienced and expert. I doubt if they ignored any regs. They just concentrated on the basics of the 1st solo and didn't divert any time to matters extraneous to that. They might have had some waiver just for this one trial , it was not their normal job.
    What regs do you think they did not comply with, and how do you think it is different now?

    As for back as I know of, first solo has been and still is the same, 3 circuits and landings. And in many cases the plane is even the same, a 152 or 172. I took a look last year and the same Warrior that I did my night flights in back about "79 , 9454 C? is there on the line a National Air at Montgomery Field. Now if you are going into Class B airspace or on a long cross country , there are other things to know. But that is not what a first solo is.

    I learned in a Piper in '79, don't recall any program that was just to solo or any $299 price, but then I wasn't looking for that, I knew I was going all the way to private pilot and then eventually beyond. Back then there were plenty of students, seemed to be no problem getting young guys out flying then, and plenty of flight schools with CFIs working.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 05-27-2012 at 09:49 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    Marty, the two GFIs who did the quick solo trial were very senior experienced and expert. I doubt if they ignored any regs. They just concentrated on the basics of the 1st solo and didn't divert any time to matters extraneous to that. They might have had some waiver just for this one trial , it was not their normal job.
    What regs do you think they did not comply with, and how do you think it is different now?
    61.87 specifies ~15 tasks in an itemized list which students must receive instruction and demonstrate satisfactory proficiency and safety. Not saying it's impossible but highly unusual for someone to accomplish all that and learn to make consistent landings in 5 hrs of block time. Doesn't matter how good the instructor is, each person assimilates knowledge and skills at their own pace. If you have a slow learner, you have a slow learner. Data from a single student does not produce reliable results, so someone takes 1 student and solos them in 5 hrs.? There was a gimmick involved - it would be anything but routine flight training. Throw in some structured ground time and simulator experience, certainly can facilitate the learning process but I don't think that's what we are talking about here. I'm thinking Joe Average showing up at the airport to fly 2-3 times a week, learning at his own pace.


    As for back as I know of, first solo has been and still is the same, 3 circuits and landings.
    There is no defined schedule for first solo. 3 takeoff's and landings is common practice but I never really adhered to that practice. Each student I soloed followed a schedule that matched their skills set.



    I learned in a Piper in '79, don't recall any program that was just to solo or any $299 price, but then I wasn't looking for that, I knew I was going all the way to private pilot and then eventually beyond.
    Piper's Blue Sky Program still had a heartbeat in '79. At least it did at the Piper dealer in Baton Rouge, La., a region not noted for cutting edge aviation training technology. The program was designed for Piper dealers that had a flight school and the then new Piper Tomahawk on line. Ocassionally I run across someone that will say: "Back in the '70's I got 5 hrs with Piper's Blue Sky Program" not many people remember what it was but apparently a lot of people participated.

    The problem back then was the same, FAR requirements, though structured slightly different, had to be completed before a student soloed. I soloed some kids with <8 hrs. but none in 5 hrs. Simply not enough time to cover the requirements but maybe I'm a crappy instructor. The ones that soloed in low time usually had some kind of prior experience with aviation, flying, RC airplanes or something. Participated in a program once with ROTC students who got ~8-10 hrs before going to basic training and none failed to solo in that time but a couple barely made it. It was pushing the comfort zone for sure and these kids were highly motivated.

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    I looked up ypur 61.57 and is seems to be about ifr and sim currency , don't see the part about basic solo.

    If not 3 takeoffs and landings like almost every other student solo I have ever seen, how many do your students do? And where or what else do they do?Go they fly soemwhere other than the pattern?

    I would not call the lady in Vegas solo a
    "gimmick".but is was not just the norm either, was an experiment.

    As for as Blue Sky, National was/is a flight school, not a dealer.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 05-28-2012 at 02:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    I looked up ypur 61.57 and is seems to be about ifr and sim currency , don't see the part about basic solo.
    That's because the reg I referenced is 61.87, not 61.57.


    As for as Blue Sky, National was/is a flight school, not a dealer.
    I googled and found an old newspaper ad. In Baton Rouge, they had similar ads in the local newspaper. Was also advertised in various aviation publications of the day.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?ni...g=1640,2547428


    I would not call the lady in Vegas solo a
    "gimmick".but is was not just the norm either, was an experiment.
    Then we should be able to achieve the same results for any student? I don't think so, one example does not provide meaningful data.
    Last edited by martymayes; 05-28-2012 at 08:51 AM.

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    Marty, that is an interesting advertisment, and shows you aren't totally senile. I began my flight training in the summer of '78 when we moved to San Diego, and finished a little ways into '79, and don't recall any ads like that or a Blue Sky program. I know Grumman had come out with their little trainers and was actively promoting training in them, which I never got to try.
    It sounds reasonable for then, doesn't say 5 hours, but says a flat fee of $329 and up to a month training. Most serious students ought to be able to solo in a month. If you flew two times a week for 1 1/2 hours it would be the 12 hours which was what I had at solo.
    Such an ad might be a good idea today to bring new students in; perhaps a flat fee of $1500 or whatever it needs to be now, and that is good for through solo. Of course, a major problem is students dropping out from flight training, but this might just get some new students in the door. I think it is pretty intimidating for many people to be told that it is going to take them $9000 to maybe be a pilot and then realize they don't own a plane.

    As for as you or any other CFI getting a student to solo in 5 hours time, that must have come from your mind or somewhere else, because I never wrote that. I gave quite a bit of data from the AOPA 2005 study which was on hundreds of students, and the norms for most.
    For some reason you seem to focus just on the one experiment of the lady in Las Vegas, which as I said was an out of the norm one time event, just to see what could be done.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 05-29-2012 at 02:19 PM.

  8. #8

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    When I first started instructing in 1965, the Piper dealer for which I worked had a GUARANTEED Private pilot course for $490.00 including check ride in Piper Colts! I just ran that on the inflation calculator and that would be $3550.00 in today's dollars.
    BTW, if we didn't have our student soloed in 8 or 9 hours, the boss would fly with them to see what we (the CFI ) were doing wrong. IIRC, we gave the money back to only one student in the 3 1/2 years I worked there... BTW, the cost went up to $690.00 by 1969 in brand-new Cherokees.

  9. #9
    It shouldn't/doesn't really matter as (though emotional and memorable) first solo is just a doormat to a flying career. Almost any CFI's students can achieve consistent, completely safe five hour solos in 2012 under the right three conditions:
    1. motivated/compliant/capable young-youngish students (always ask if they can dribble a basketball, then have them demonstrate it - only kid who ever took over one hundred hours with me to private could not)
    2. rural uncontrolled airports
    3. simple VFR-only steam gauge aircraft
    All my students head for their sport pilot or private checkride trained to the same high standards (big margins over PTS) but total times vary per their request. At the outset I ask if they want to move at a leisurely pace with breaks and fun flights or if they want to do whatever it takes to keep total flight hours down and save money. If the latter, we meet to introduce and prefly every lesson plan in the airplane (without the engine running or master on) going through procedures, sequences, scenarios with them taking notes or recording. Then the student must do the same (sometimes for hours) until s/he has the elements memorized and can practically teach the lesson calling out movements, scan, performance focus moment to moment, etc... and only when they know the lesson plan, elements, objectives, and contingencies perfectly do we fly.
    I usually insist they get a GoPro or equivalent to take and review video of each flight. This has dramatically reduced the "You're wrong - I never did that" or "I think it was good enough" debrief disagreements. And for the morale boost of an ASAP solo, we do our first five hours at the most remote rural uncontrolled field in the simplest aircraft available. YES, subsequent significant tower exposure is essential to checkride and post-private success but even there the "min dual goal" student MUST FIRST spend hours with scanner or handheld under trees or in car watching the runway action and mouthing the words. All part of my "How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice some more approach. And free.
    While the increases in regulations and performance standards are necessary for the post 9/11 flying environment and increasingly sophisticated, capable airplanes, I think the steady increase in average presolo dual is primarily due to financial greed and/or desire/necessity for younger CFIs to build time. And finally, I am recommending - as I have since 2005 - that all students pursue and complete the Sport Pilot certificate first, beginning to graduation. THEN decide whether to make the professional pilot financial and study commitment that the Private now requires.

  10. #10
    rosiejerryrosie's Avatar
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    Ian - I really like your method of instruction. The engine off practice is a great idea of instilling muscle memory before the heart stopping experience of doing it for real.
    Cheers,
    Jerry

    NC22375
    65LA out of 07N Pennsylvania

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