Is my private pilot training taking too long?


I am a student pilot and a member here for about a year now.  I wanted to get some advice from others that know well more than I on my situation to see if this is normal or not.  My background:  55 year old male.  I want to get my PPL and then move on with instrument and commercial and some other ratings.  I am not doing this for an aviation career but rather to own my plane for pleasure, work and some volunteer stuff and also be the safest I can be with as much knowledge as I can.

I started my PPL on 11-7-21 with a local flight school at our airport.  I took my ground school thru them and also supplemented with online course.  Took my written in April of 2022 (93%).   I started in November of 2021 in a Cessna 172 and the school used that plane for about my first 25 hours.  Then the only flight instructor for this school wanted to branch out on his own and started a different flight school at the airport which I then switched to him there.  They then hired a couple of instructors and I have been with another CFI since (who is very young, but a very good pilot and instructor).  They purchased an Archer TX and I did 4 hours in that thru March of 2022.  Then they purchased another Archer II with a full Garmin 1000 cockpit and I have had the remainder of my hours in that plane to date.  Lately, they have hired 5 other instructors and now have about 70-80 students in the school with 3 aircraft.  Most of them are younger students pursuing an aviation career.  

Currently, I have 89.5 hours total and have all of my requirements met to do my check ride.  I last soloed in October and since then my instructor and I have been working on the oral exam part, and for flights, working on the maneuvers I will need to be proficient on for the check ride.  We keep working on procedures, maneuvers such as steep turns, power on and off stalls, slow flight, etc and short field landings.  I usually am able to do 3 out of 5 steep turns within the guidelines and the same with short field landings with hitting my marks.  So I am assuming my instructor feels I need more work, which is completely understandable because I want to nail the check ride.  

However, I am $25,000 into this and I somewhat am starting to feel that it is getting excessive when every month that goes by, I use up another $3-5k and I am just still working on this with no check ride date set, no real plan on:  here is what you are weak at and let's get as much flight time as possible so you can practice this so you are confident on the check ride.  I am feeling like they are “milking” me for money.  Now the problem seems to be the weather now in my area (Des Moines, IA) and we are going into winter and we have a lot of bad weather no VFR flying days. I have not flown for the last 2 weeks due to these, which I know are out of everyone's control.  So I am only getting minimal practice and by the time I go up again, I am rusty enough to not be able to really perform a few maneuvers within the guidelines and I have wait 2-3 weeks to go again.  

For full disclosure, part of the $25,000 I have invested, is the flight time in the Cessna from November thru March which I basically started over with the Archer II in April.  Also, $2,500 of it is for the instrument ground school they have my enrolled in that started in November of 2022.  

Right now I am reading and keeping up with the instrument ground and watch online videos with a course to supplement ( I am a visual learner), working on practicing for the oral PPL check ride nightly and occasionally flying.  

At the end of this rant, I am looking for advice on how to proceed.  Do I talk with the head CFI and owner of the school?  Should I continue with their instrument class now?  Or should I just be patient and let the process take over?  If I speak to them,  how should I go about it as I do believe they are great pilots and don't want to offend since he was my first instructor, but I do think the business end since they are newer is maybe not as together as it should be.  It seems like they are just getting these new instructors that I know want to go to the airlines and will be leaving along with a rush of younger aspiring airline pilots who want to progress as fast as possible.  While, I am in no real hurry and I want to really be ready, a part of me is getting impatient.   I wish they would give me a plan on what to work on next or a guideline or something.  Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Sorry for the long message and any advice would be greatly appreciated.


13 Replies

@Tony Mauro 89 hours seems like a lot to get your PPL. Also hitting 3 out of 5 steep turns to the standards is not all the great. At this point in your training they should be natural. I would ask to fly with an experienced instructor to review your progress. Newer instructors may be demanding to much from you. Make sure you are not being used to pad someone's log book.


As far as the instrument rating goes I feel that a pilot should fly for a while, get used to flying to the point where stick and rudder skills are natural. Not sure what you paid $2,500 for either for the Instrument ground school. That is totally out of line in my opinion. King home study is $280.00.  In person seminars are $500. 

1590 Posts

@Tony Mauro
I'm not sure why you're doing the instrument ground school now, before you've even done your PP checkride. First, you need to focus on completing the PP and do not need to distract yourself from that task.  Also yYou're still going to need 50 hours of XC PIC time (less any solo XC time you have now) after you get your Private before you can do the IR checkride, and that could be a long way off.  That triggers my spidey-sense about what's going on there.

At the same time, the fact that you've got 90 hours and can't do consistent steep turns or spot landings suggests maybe you've got some fundamental stick-and-rudder skill problems that these young, inexperienced instructors aren't able to fix.  I'd suggest you need an evaluation ride with the Chief Instructor to figure that out.


@Ronald Levy

Guys, thank you both for the honest no BS advice.  I agree with your points.  I enrolled in their instrument class because that is what they told me to do to get a “start” as I was interested in pursuing anyway.  I felt it was rushed because in June they started me in the first instrument class, but they cancelled the class as there were only 3 in the class after about 3 ground lessons.  I also feel like my first 25 flight hours were wasted somewhat because when we switched planes, they basically had me starting over.  The other reason I have been scratching my head lately is that as I have looked back thru my logbook, I have not been practicing these maneuvers needed for the check ride until October and I was the one that brought this up by saying, "hey, I have been looking thru the ACS and I have not done or practiced any of the maneuvers needed since May and those were only introductions to them.  I agree with you both and I am going to speak to the chief CFI and get something figured out soon.  Thanks.


@Tony Mauro
I agree with all of the comments that have been made here.  That is way too much time and money for you to still be where you are.  There should definitely be a well-defined plan to get you to the practical.  A conversation with the owner and/or Chief Instructor is needed.  Remember, it is your money and if you're not satisfied you have the option to go elsewhere.  Hopefully it won't come to that. 


@Tony Mauro My recommendation would be to talk with the Chief pilot, set up a mock checkride and run it like a real checkride. This will give everyone concerned, including you, a clear picture of where you are with your knowledge and practical skills. Once you've established a baseline then build out a plan to get you to your goal of passing the checkride and earning the certificate. 

I would also recommend doing the mock checkride with the chief pilot or another experienced CFI at the school that you don't normally fly with so that there is an objective view of your performance. 


@Tony Mauro just to chip in here… I went back to my alma mater last spring to take their Commercial & Instrument ground lectures. I had a tuition break, but discounting that, I would have paid < $2500, books and all, total. Each class met twice a week for an hour and a half x15 weeks. It did include an instructor’s sign-off for the writtens (if one needed that). Fwiw, Sporty’s, Gleim also have courses too (similar to what John M said).

Tag-teamming on Island Boy’s comment… wow, yes, way too much time / money. Do your part by being prepared for each lesson / studying as much as you can - you should be briefed what the upcoming lesson will cover. They should be doing their part by having a syllabus, and clear objectives / completion goals for each and every lesson, not just “let’s go bore holes today,” or “hmmm… let’s see what we could do today…” Should be a good pre-brief on what will be covered; post-flight brief incl. goals met, what needs work etc. 

Hopefully you try to do 2 or 3 flights a week when able, to keep from as you say, from getting rusty. I also don’t like the idea of switching planes / panels midstream. There’s enough to focus on w/o complicating matters.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with younger guys pursing airline jobs (not that you said you did) but they better be giving their all to you as a (paying) student. There's some good resources on what to expect during flight training, I'm sure googling you could find something written by AOPA, AWweb etc. Like Island Boy said, don't be afraid to switch schools if you're still not satisfied. They should be earning your business.