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How to SOLO pilots in minimum time using the airport VASI Light

HOW TO SOLOS a STUDENT in approximately 

6 hours 

By using the VASI Lights to teach - 

AOA Controls Airspeed and Throttle/Power Controls Vertical Velocity 


KTPF airport, Davis Islands -Tampa, Florida 


Another CFI joined me in the grass area between the runway and the taxiways, as we both watched my student solo. 


I enjoyed smiling to him - the CFI who joined me - when on the second takeoff roll my student wave as he passed us halfway of his takeoff roll. 


I smiled because the student was smiling and waving with confidence in what he was doing - with only six hours of total time. I noted with satisfaction how good his approaches were - picture perfect.   


How did it happen? the wave, the answer is that student confidence came from us using the VASI lights to help implant the basics of a stablished approach that built-up these skills, knowledge and confidence.


I start training by covering all flight instruments for takeoffs and landings noting that the Wright Flyer did not have flight instruments.


We fly out as far as we can and turn back where we can still see the VASI lights then turn back to the airport at a point where we roll out on the Glide path at “ Red-over-White- Thats-All-Right “ ] I then demonstrate how to use power and pitch to remain on the glide slope - having the student write down the power settings and throttle position. I go above the Glide Slope to “ White-Over-White “ while maintaining the pitch and adding power and then go below the VASI Glide Slope “ Red-over-Red-Your-Dead “ maintaining the same pitch and reducing power. 

Later we slow and practice stalls as we turn and weave our way down the VASI glide path. 


I then have the student do the same drill. From time to time I have them trim hands off and ask him to guess the airspeed and vertical velocity then remove a cover or tape on the airspeed indicator and/or Vertical Velocity or both so he can see how good his guess was. 


We continue these drills until a mile on final with the aircraft trimmed hands off with the known - written down power setting and pitch and hold this until we start to enter ground effect then manually fly and land from these straight in stabilized approaches. 


We taxi back and take off again with all the flight instruments covered. Why cover the flight instruments for takeoff and landing? 


First, you want the student not look in the cockpit, better to look out for conflicting taxi, takeoff and landing traffic. 

You want them to listen to the engine-propeller, you want them to feel the control forces, on takeoff roll …you

want them to see the takeoff distance and for many other good reasons I explain later;

that there may come a time in their future flying careers that they lose electric power at night or do not trust your instrument due to icing or a malfunction. 

These VASI drills build confidence, skills, and knowledge until the entire takeoff and landings and stalls are completed with all the flight instruments covered. 

When that level of confidence, skill, and knowledge is reached its time to solo and what a joy is to stand in the grass between the taxiways and the runway.

That simple wave from my solo student as he passed us on his takeoff roll - to this day still brings a smile to my face. 

9 Replies
1230 Posts
I find it difficult to believe that you could train a student to proficiency in all 15 required tasks for solo from 61.87(d) in 6 hours of flight training, especially within the airspace around KTPF.  I also find it somewhat disturbing that you'd practice stalls at the altitude one would be at on final approach at TPF underneath the 1200-foot B-space floor.
5 Posts
Regardless of the details, I applaud you for thinking creatively about how to get the student to solo quicker. When I hear of students taking 20 to 30 hours to solo, I cringe. It's not conducive to building confidence and improving the student completion rate. Covering instruments makes sense. It's no different than learning to fly a cub from the rear seat. What happens to the student when they go to an airport without VASI? I guess it's just another stage of training.
What difference does it make how long it takes a student to solo?  What practical real life aviation safety difference?  I think I took a long time to solo.  Aviation is a hobby to me not a vocation, but I worked my way up through CFI.  No one cares how long it took me to solo.  I've never overheard anyone walking past the flight deck on an A340 ask the captain how long it took him to solo.  If the captain took 18 hours instead of 8 hours would that frighten you?

Here's the wisdom of this issue, IMHO.   My saint of a CFI, an elderly gentleman, was discussing solo one time.  This was long after he finished with me.  He said "You know it's been suggested that I hold my students back too long before solo.  But, .... they are all still alive."  Maybe I was a dummy and it took me longer than some Chuck Yeager wanna be types out there, but I'm still alive.  And happy!!


You can teach someone to do takeoffs and landings in 6 hours but you can't teach them everything that is required to be PIC.  In solo flight he/she is PIC.

Very Impressive, I had to go look because it was so long ago but it took me 24 hours before that milestone, lagged on my check ride till 56 hours (but passed the first time), I guess I'm one of the dummies. I would love to chalk most of that up to being limited to flying once a week and losing a flight school after 11 hours which required a completely new instructor and a different airplane C152 to a Tomahawk. But perhaps I was never Top Gun stuff. I don't really regret the extra hours. I learned something on every flight and pretty much loved it. If I remember it was not a stable approach that was difficult that was good after about 3 landings. It was including a little more work with the flare, traffic management, radio work at the towered airfield, variable windspeed, gust and crosswind proficiencies (maybe they don't have that in Florida so much) we did landings with VASI, PAPI and with nothing but a spot on the runway as a focus point and a few other contingencies I can't remember before the CFI got out of the plane and said take it around.  To this day I don't think I've ever practiced a stall at less than 3000 ft AGL. But I'm not being a critic, basically any good technique for teaching and mastering landings is commendable and appreciate the share. The idea of this article could still be valuable and just let the CFI mix it up with whatever else they feel is needed. I just would like to say that I don't carry around much trauma because I didn't solo in under 10 hours.
1230 Posts

R Dant:
What happens to the student when they go to an airport without VASI?

Or if the VASI fails just after takeoff on their first solo?