Undoubtedly this question has been asked many times, but perhaps my situation is a little different than others. I'll try to be detailed but succinct:

I've accrued about 18.5 hours, 17.5 under the same CFI. I've checked off the 3 nighttime hour requirement (although my CFI said before my checkride we'll do more to get my nighttime pilotage skills improved), and 2 of the 3 required hours of XC, plus about one hour instrument time. Over the course of all this training time I've accrued 90 landings (my CFI loves touch and goes and we can do 10 landings in little over an hour). Yet still I'm not ready to solo. Now, I know I'm not the most proficient pilot he's seen, and perhaps I'm just average among the overall population, but 90 landings, and not including the hundreds of landings I've done on my simulator and countless hours around the patterns of my local airfield? Rarely do I have a hard(er) landing and some downright kiss that runway on or near centerline. Here's the other compilcation: My CFI is a one-man shop with his own planes, has logged 18,000 hours in his career and is a lifelong instructor, about 29 years experience as a CFI. If my CFI was part of some instructor mill at a flight school, I would certainly consider walking away or having a serious discussion with him at this juncture. However, since I respect his seniority it's creating a lot of cognitive dissonance. Am I missing something? Another little twist: he says I'm on a trajectory to be one of his 45 hour and done students (he has numerous students done in under 50 hours and an extremely low failure rate), so perhaps he's one of those people who solo people later after making sure things are absolutely positively perfect? Has anyone had an instructor who went about the process in this manner?

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    $\begingroup$ I understand the need to vent, but there really isn't an un-opinionated answer to this question. You really should be discussing this with your CFI. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    May 2, 2019 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ Understood. I modified the end of my question to see if other pilots had a similar experience with an overly conservative instructor. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2019 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ Just dug out my log book, 83 take-offs and landings before my first solo. Dunno if that's typical. Also, my opinion of my flying ability at that point was probably not the same as my FI!!! $\endgroup$ May 3, 2019 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ I know people who haven't solo'd until well into the 30's. They aren't bad pilots or slow learners, it's just about comfort levels and even things like insurance requirements. Some instructors just wait longer as a matter of personal preference. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    May 3, 2019 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ I soloed in 10 hours in 1975 but I was 18 years old and the syllabus was about 2/3rds of the modern one. I would say most people solo between 15 and 30 hours; the older you are the longer it tends to take. I used to instruct at a summer glider camp where we would take on 15 teens all at once and bring them to license in 2 weeks, and even with all youngsters the variation was astounding, ranging from "top gun" boys who soloed almost right away to stragglers who had to come back after the camp to finish up their training. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    May 3, 2019 at 2:32

3 Answers 3


This question is pretty open ended. As a CFI myself, I really couldn’t assess whether you are ready to solo or not until I have flown with you and seen how you are handling the airplane on takeoff, landing, and in the traffic pattern.

My general assessment standard for readiness to solo is to see the student exhibit solid knowledge and practical fundamentals for takeoffs and landings and the required airmanship needed to perform them down pat. They can either correct for errors in the approach and landing or exercise good judgment when a go around should be executed. Very rarely, if ever, do I need to provide technique guidance, verbally or otherwise. The student may not yet be acceptable quality for a checkride, but the technique is solid, safe and the student is exercising sound judgment in ADM and risk management for airport operations, including go-around assessment and techniques, pattern spacing, accounting for the effects of wind, solid crosswind skills in light winds.

First off, we want you, the student, to be safe. The last thing I want as a CFI is to grab a newspaper or turn on my TV and see an airplane crash in the news with my student’s name listed as a casualty. Secondly the CFI is legally responsible for whatever you do on a solo flight he/she has authorized and their ticket can be on the line if anything happens and the authorities determine they are culpable. We don’t want you guys going out and breaking the law, unintentionally or otherwise. Third, we don’t want you to learn and ingrain any bad flying habits and techniques, particularly when sending you out on your own, so it’s best - and particularly during the pre-solo phase - that we route them out early.

Finally, everybody is in a rush to get the magic minimum number of hours to go for a checkride. Or solo. Or go on a cross country, etc. We all have heard stories about people going from no experience to PPL in two weeks (drunks at a bar tell fanciful tales, too, BTW!). We all expect to do this or better because every pilot thinks he/she is Sierra Hotel and wants to be better than the other guy. While I can appreciate this, especially from a financial standpoint, keep in mind that that’s just the MINIMUM seasoning the FAA expects in an applicant. Typically people are getting a PPL these days at around 70 or so total flight hours. While the regulations provide guidelines for what an knowledge and practical skills an applicant should bring with them for a checkride, solo or any other phase of their flight training, the real answer is are they unconsciously competent at their airmanship to do it. Like any human endeavor which requires motor control and practice we have good days and bad ones. When your ‘bad day’ in the airplane is at or above the standards set for that phase of flight training, be it solo, checkride, or otherwise, you’re probably ready to pass.

I hope that helps.

  • $\begingroup$ A nicer answer than mine, so I tip my cap to you. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2019 at 3:22

You aren't soloing because your instructor wants you to live a long and happy life.

Instructors who are allowed to sign you off as safe to solo have your life in their hands, and potentially the lives of others in the future. If you aren't ready in the estimation of the instructor who signs you off safe for solo, you aren't ready.

Keep trying, keep learning, keep getting better, keep working. You'll get there.

Your instructor wants you to come back alive. So do I.
Just so you know: over 2,000 hours as instructor in my log book. (And that's not a lot compared to career CFI's, I am sure Carlo has a lot more than me).


Landing counts show experience, but are you ready to take control of the plane? Do you have it broken down to where you are comfortable to fly the plane without intervention through the entire pattern?

In any learning (even after age 50), you basicly fill your brain with information and apply it to your task. Eventually it comes "naturally", but not before a period of confusion, bewilderment, and doubt.

Everyone is different, so pressuring your self to solo after X number of landings only leads to more stress. It sounds like your instructor thinks you are doing well, but sometimes even very experienced people can just gloss over things that may be very important to you.

So now you are at the point where it might be a good idea to talk to the mighty king and say YOU want to fly the plane, if you feel you are ready. Try a few circuits as if he is not there, and explain this is important to you.

I would not worry about his feelings too much. My instructor saved me from crashing twice, but later the parts began to fit. All the parts, not just I landed.


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