I have 78.2 hrs of flight training, have spent $$$, still not ready to solo. Below is my story and struggles. Inputs and suggestions are welcomed.
I had a dream to become a pilot when I was a teenager which was immediately suppressed by the environment I grew up in. Here I am a 45 years old female revisited my dream and started PP training in July 2020. Initially, I was exploring my potential and preparedness to take the lessons. I took one lesson every two or three weeks and logged 18 hours until Dec 2020 (pandemic was also a factor in taking lessons infrequently). I liked my instructor and the flight school, but due to time limitation and distance decided to switch the flight school to a school closer to my place. Then was short in $$ and did not fly until June 2021. From June 2021 to August 2022, I tried to fly as much as I could (not more than once a week, though). During this 14 months in the new flight school, I was introduced to different planes, enjoyed flying, improved communication with the tower,… but struggled landing more than anything else. Switching planes from low wing to high, then another high wing, … that seemed to be interesting and helping me to be more comfortable in the cockpit, made me more frustrated. My last 19 hrs in the second school was on the traffic pattern. I could not understand what I am doing wrong, … watching YouTube videos, I could tell that my side view is not quite right. But, as a 5ft woman, had struggles to see outside well.
I decided to return to my first school. I have taken a few lessons with my new instructor and just learned where I should look for the aiming point. I am hopeful that this will help me to progress better, I have passed my knowledge test (90), and am keeping myself updated by listening to podcasts and reading. However, I can see that many more hours of training will be needed to learn flying properly and be ready to solo, and then the checkride.
Looking at my logbook and knowing that I am many hours beyond the “40 hours” and not ready to solo, discourages and scares me. I have a full time job in a totally different area and am seeking a pretty expensive dream (not aiming to learn this as my primary job, maybe CFI at some point if/when I can pass this stage). I have been searching for scholarship opportunities, those I found are for younger students. Many times I have asked myself maybe I should give up, but don't want to quit, unless I have to. I am struggling and need some advice to improve my flight skills and also manage my flight lesson expenses.
78 hours is far too many hours before solo. The old saying is “there are no bad students, just bad teachers” fits this situation. I've had poor instructors in the past. I've found if I told them up front how I learn, then it's up to them to accept the challenge. The pessimist side of me thinks you have encountered instructors that are soaking you. I recently had a seaplane instructor that actually upset me so much in 2 hours, I landed and cut him loose, sometimes you just have to make the hard decisions.
Normally I'd agree with David about 78 hours being too many before solo, but there are some other factors here. First, training rate is critical to success. Typically, 2-3 flights a week is about optimal for pre-solo training, but you can get there reasonably quickly with as little as one flight a week. However, going 2-3 weeks between flights or taking long breaks between training blocks is going to result in the loss of too much progress between flights. You've been at this for 2-1/2 years, and if you do the math, that works out to about half an hour a week – nowhere near enough to expect success.
My suggestion would be to stop flying and save your money until you have enough to complete your training (probably 30-40 hours), and then restart your training, flying a couple of times a week until you finish. When you do restart, do it at one school with a stable instructor corps in one aircraft type. And bring a thick enough cushion to sit on so you can see out. Yes, it's really legal to do that, and there are a lot of purpose-designed cushions to fit aircraft seats, some of which are only boosters and some of which move you forward as well as up. See the link below.
@Ronald Levy Thank you for the comment. I agree with what you mentioned. I have started using a booster. It has been helpful seeing outside and reaching the rudder more comfortably.
@Azam Noori I can relate on the landing performance. I was doing really well until a certain point, my landing technique turned to crap. Probably added 5-6 hours to my total training time to nail down. For me, it took watching more youtube videos of people landing, more how-to videos, and chair flying. Seriously, it helped my performance and my cfii said "what happened? All of the sudden you're nailing the landings." I think he said something like ‘ok, who are you and what did you do with my student?'
Chair flying was the biggie though.
If you love flying, then you shouldn't give up. It sounds like there have been too many changes during your training. It's hard enough for a student pilot to get used to one aircraft and instructor. You've had several of each. I recommend that you find an instructor that you like and then stick with the instructor and one make/model aircraft until you pass your check ride. It took me a little over a year to get my Private because I worked full time and could only fly on weekends. Add in the availability of the instructor, aircraft and decent weather and it becomes obvious why it takes so long. If you fly less than once a week on average, you will probably forget things that you learn and have to re-learn them. I'm 5'6" tall and I fly a Maule taildragger with 31" bush wheels so a seat cushion is absolutely necessary to get a good enough view of the runway ahead. A 3" wedge shaped cushion works best for me since the Maule's seat is tilted backward and too much cushion under the knees gets in the way of the yoke's movement. You probably need a 4" cushion to get your head high enough to see clearly over the nose, assuming that you are flying a nose wheel airplane. A good landing requires a stable approach, correct final approach speed and a good sight picture of when to flare. I use the end of the runway's position above the glare shield and gradually ease the yoke back to maintain that sight picture until touchdown. Glancing out the side window also helps to judge your height above the runway. Use the manufacturer's recommended final approach speed and flap configuration from the POH. If you come in too fast, you will float down the runway and have trouble touching down gently. Ideally, your final approach speed should result in touchdown just as the stall warning alarm goes off with no floating. It takes practice to get to that point.