Sorry for the French, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. If Top Gun Maverick was a love letter to aviation, this is the opposite. My son is trying to learn to fly and it is a COMPLETE fail from one end to the other. You wonder why there aren’t enough pilots? I would say that the training system is DESIGNED not to work. I’d put flying into a similar career as being a surgeon, training, lifestyle, paying your dues- but the Flight system is totally at odds in success and completion, whereas once you get in Med School, they DRAG you through.
Getting his PPL has been on dissapointment after another. Yes, COVID didn’t make things easier, bit we started this as a way for him to have activities for HS. The Flying club should be called a Sitting club. Plane availability sucks, instructors won’t fly- but are more than willing to teach a ‘ground lesson’, they leave for jobs and we take a step backwards. Trying to get coherent flying times is hard as planes go down for maintenance- or what I love, we get switched to another plane that goes down for MX.
The ultimate irony is my son was set for his solo check ride today, but there ends up being a scheduling conflict because of a - Discovery Flight… How about getting people up and out before you push more grist into the sausage factory. Three of my son’s schoolmates just plain gave up because progress was so slow and expensive.
That’s why you guys don’t have professional pilots or have more GA pilots. Your training system sucks.
We are not ‘rich’ especially in this context, but we have the ability to literally throw money at this problem to solve this problem, but that doesn’t even seem to be a viable strategy. He’s off to College for flight in the fall, hopefully that will move things along- but I read horror stories of ProFlight majors not flying their first year. And we want him to have a degree as a back-up. At least medicine seems to figure out ways to take care of their own if they have Med or other issues..
Sorry for the rant, and it probably isn’t anything that you guys don’t know or have contemplated, but this is the screwiest hobby/career that I’ve ever seen. It is designed to force failure.
Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This “flying club” is clearly a mess. So why are you still throwing good money after bad with it? If an auto repair shop treated you like this you'd find another shop. Why aren't you doing the same here? Or at least having a “come to Jesus” meeting with club management making clear your frustration and intent to take your money somewhere else if they can't do better?
I understand. There are lots of frustrations in flight training, as most of us “guys” know. That's part of why the successes are so satisfying. And every pilot's path is different, since there is truly no set “program”, per se.
Flying clubs typically exist primarily to save money, not maximize time. For-profit flight schools are oftentimes better equipped and prepared to meet students needs, especially young, eager students with supportive parents, like you. Not sure what options you have in your area, but I hope you and your son seek them out. In addition, I hope you'll talk to some experienced pilots. I've found the aviation community to be very supportive, especially for students.
I can relate to not being rich as I grew up in a low income household. It took me 12 years after I could earn a private pilot certification to figure out how I was going to finance my flight training. I attempted to start my training while in college and had about three flights before I totaled my car and had to reroute my flight training money toward a car loan. It wasn’t until years after I earned my degree did a friend encourage me to look back into how I could pursue my passion. That’s when I found a professional flight school to earn a PPL, IR, COM and CFI, CFII and COM Multi-Engine and MEI within a year.
From what I have learned so far about flight training from my experience and from having observed other students experience is that the training requires expectations and goals from both the student and the instructor on day one. Your son will be able to determine how well the instructor is based on this meeting before spending a dollar on training. Here are some of the topics which need to be discussed in this initial meeting:
- how much time can be committed to training each week
- how fast does each party want to complete the training
- what is the instructors program outline (you should expect the instructor to provide you with a timeline broken out in the various phases and not only talking about what the generally do)
- how many flights/hours are committed to each phase of the training
- how does the instructor evaluate when the requirements of each phase has been met as satisfactory
- how far in advance should the instructor send out the training week schedule
- planes to students ratio
- maintenance plans (planned vs unplanned)
- does the school use a local/on the airport maintenance facility
- what does the student need to demonstrate to receive an endorsement for the knowledge test
- how many hours will the student spend studying the PHAK, AFM, CFR 14 and the ACS
- and so on…
Something to consider is that a collegiate flying programs receive the same certifications but over four years and have to be balanced with the degree studies. Meaning your son may only fly once or twice a week if weather permits. I have found my flight proficiency with low flight hours can deteriorate after 10 days of not flying due to weather. Additionally, two hours should be spent studying aeronautical knowledge for every flight hour.
I would recommend you discuss with your son if he can handle both college and flight training and create a plan that works with him. He may want to enjoy college and pursue flight training afterwards. It may be your money, but it’s your son who is spending it and earning the certifications. As I tell everyone, I’m the one who signed the loan so I’m going to make sure my investment appreciates.
I can see your frustration. Please understand that few of us here are instructors. We are pilots who went to schools the same as your son is doing, and got our licenses. We are here to convey suggestions on what you might change to be more effective. Nothing more.
With that in mind, it's time to change the music. This “club” isn't getting you the results you desire.
When I was in training, I was training with Don B. Period. Don was a retired pilot who wanted to give back to aviation. I booked all my flying lessons with Don. I had to go with another instructor one time when Don was sick, and it was a mess. I learned from that, and stuck with Don.
54 flight hours of dual and solo later, I took my check ride.
So, let's get to the meat of the matter. Here are some suggestions:
- Find a flight school with an instructor your son can work with almost exclusively. Note: This may cost more money or he may have to travel further.
- Fly a minimum of 3 times a week. The reason for this is simple: Each lesson starts with a review from the last lesson. Fly the review material right, you move on. You don't fly it right or good enough, you don't move on. If your son is flying once or twice a month, they are treading water, not moving forward in the program.
- Fly ONE make / model of plane.
- Once you are with a program, ask for their syllabus. Track your son's progress through their syllabus.
If you use this approach, I suspect your feelings about this will change. You may have to think about it.
As to my recommendation, I've studied this and researched it. People who learn to fly and fly frequently get their license faster and actually cost less in the long run than those who fly “when they can afford it.” I have written several articles on the subject for aviation magazines in the past.
So do some research. Visit area flight schools. Find one with an instructor who is willing to work exclusively with your son. Change schools, and get him his license.