I have a fairly high (in my research - 80hrs and counting) flight hours and still no solo, with landings having been a major reason. There is definitely progress - but I am not convinced I'll solo before 100. I am 43 in decent shape and reasonably coordinated (no red flags). In addition to being expensive and frustrating it begs a question whether any subsequent flying activities like an instrument rating would also take significantly longer (thus being more expensive and frustrating) and - more importantly - whether it is an indicator that my future piloting skills will always be mediocre.

My CFI says that "everyone hits a plateau" but I am concerned that past may be an indicator for future...

Couple notes to address comments - I have passed my medical - Hours were spread over 10 months and there was a 2-3 month lull (due to weather + ski season) in winter and 1 month break in summer. Otherwise I was pretty religious about 2-3/week lessons. - I actually changed CFI at about 50hr mark and quite like how my current CFI teaches

So while it would be nice to look at outside issues - I think the problem is more likely to lie with me than with others... Now back to my original questions...

Any thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but: If it's mainly landings that you're having trouble with, and you hope to later move on to e.g. get an instrument rating, maybe your instructor would be willing to let you do one or a few lessons of simulated instrument time? That way, you could benefit from their experience in instructing students in instrument flight to see if that's something you might have an easy or hard time with when the day comes. Also, have you considered flying with a different instructor, even if for just a few flights? Sometimes getting a fresh perspective can help a lot. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 11, 2019 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ That long to solo is either a significant issue with continuity (hours spread over many, many months), a significant issue with the instructor, or else a significant issue with the student -- in which case a competent instructor owes you a FAR better & more detailed explanation than "everybody hits a plateau". My first guess: issue may be in part or mostly with your CFI. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Aug 11, 2019 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Aleks you may like how they teach, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're good at it. $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2019 at 15:15

4 Answers 4


Yes, that much time pre-solo is a huge red flag.

If you have 80 flight hours logged and no solo, unless there is some unusual extenuating factor (e.g. those 80 hours were spread over many years), something is seriously wrong. Either:

  1. You do not have the right aptitude for flying
  2. Your instructor is incompetent, or
  3. Your instructor is deliberately milking you.

If the instructor hasn't already had a frank discussion with you about your progress and prospects by this point, that would indicate #2 or #3.

  • $\begingroup$ Second this. Try flying with a new instructor for a few lessons. One not associated with your old instructor or school. Preferably somebody with significant experience instructing and good references. Local FSDO can probably recommend a few who are good that way. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Aug 11, 2019 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ FSDOs are prohibited by law (or maybe it's just policy) from recommending any particular CFIs, DPEs etc. They can give you a list of all the CFIs registered in their district and their contact info but won't help you pick. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2019 at 22:15

It depends on few factors.

If you had some pauses in your flying or if you are unable to keep the regular pace in your lessons, that may slow you down. Flight students tend to lose coordination fast.

I suppose that you have passed your medical? There is an eye condition that may prevent you from seeing the depth correctly. I hope that this is not the case as this usually disqualifies you to be a pilot.

I am 47 myself. Very young people tend to advance faster before first solo as they are able to learn coordination faster. During the route flying older people have more patience and general knowledge, so they advance faster. That is not the same set of skill.

In the end, you should discuss that subject with your instructor. Your hours are a bit long for the first solo, so it might be smart to discuss the root cause. This "open end" situation leads to frustration. You might lose motives and they may lose a student. It looks to me that tis is a good time for the "next steps" conversation.

In the end, I know some people that were in the same situation as you and they are great instructors now.


At the risk of answering a question with a question, what about "landings" is holding you back?

2 recommendations: First, fly the plane all the way down to the ground. A landing doesn't just happen, you control every step. Break the landing pattern down into parts and gain proficiency at each one. "Landing" will be much less stressful, rather than "facing it" as one stressful event. Second, at this point, before flying, sit down with your instructor and be perfectly clear you WANT control of the plane and DO want to get past this step so you can solo, when you feel you are ready.

This can be worked out by incrementally gaining proficiency in entering downwind, lowering to approach speed, judging glide angle, controlling flaps and power, stable final approach, rounding out, flaring and landing.

Try to focus on your weakest point, and work to improve it.

Your instructor should not "jump in" unless you need help. Do lots of touch and goes and work to gain confidence in each step.

Not everyone solos after 20 hours.

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    $\begingroup$ While this may be good advice, I feel it doesn't answer the question whether a long time until first solo is an indicator for total required training time. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Aug 27, 2019 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Aug 27, 2019 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ I don't disagree with that statement, but I don't think this question is entirely unanswerable. Difficulties to acquire a certain skill (e.g. perception of visual cues & motor feedback skills) in one phase can be indicative of difficulties to acquire similar skills in a next phase. However, if the next phase requires totally different skills, then there may be no difficulties. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Aug 27, 2019 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima well, especially since the training was broken up and not consistent, very difficult to draw a conclusion other than to get a good instructor and focus on getting past step 1. $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2019 at 19:17

I would second the responses that say, "Not necessarily." It really does depend on what's holding you back, but in general, the ability to master the skills of landing are quite different from all of the knowledge/memory items required for cross country, decision-making, etc.

Also, and this may be completely irrelevant for you, but I heard about a person who struggled for so long to make a good landing her CFI was ready to give up on her - told her she just wasn't cut out to fly. Another CFI did one flight with her, got her a pillow to sit on so she could see the ground, and she soloed within another hour or two of lessons. Just to say, it could be something pretty simple.


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