Unable to Solo, Advice needed

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Rajiv Sharma, Aug 23, 2020.

  1. Rajiv Sharma

    Rajiv Sharma Filing Flight Plan

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    Hello Everyone

    I have been training for almost 9 months now. I have 55+ flight hours and over 130 landings. All of it in Cessna 152. But still I am unable to Solo. I have had trouble landings including pilot induced oscillations, hard landing, trouble landing in cross wind, not landing on center line, drifting from center line post touch down, missing touch down point, not flaring at right time etc.

    I have invested a lot of time and money into this but I am feeling very disappointed that I am unable to land airplane consistently. My CFI has been very patient with me and trying to teach in different ways but it seems like I am unable to get this right. I am even thinking if I am fit to be a pilot or not.

    Please advice.

    Thanks
    Rajiv
     
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  2. Drecula

    Drecula Filing Flight Plan

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  3. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    No advice given on the Internet will fix these problems other than you are way overdue for an instructor change.

    You should’ve been about wrapped up with the rating by now with those times.
     
  4. Drecula

    Drecula Filing Flight Plan

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    Did you try changing the flight school. At this point I would say changing flight school will be a good move.
    And remember.. landing is something you have to feel.. you can’t learn to master landing from theory.


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  5. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Have you flown with another instructor? That is absolutely not a criticism of your current instructor. No one's perfect and no CFI can see everything. Sometimes all it takes is a second set of eyes.

    I had an excellent instructor but he couldn't fix my landings. Name a landing error and I was the poster boy for it. I thought I would never solo! As luck would have it, my CFI had a blow-up with management and had to leave. I was given to a new instructor. He saw something I was doing CFI #1 didn't. I soloed on my second lesson with him!

    As an instructor, I never forgot that lesson. Even if not permanent, I have had other instructors fly with "problem" students of mine and vice versa.
     
  6. sarangan

    sarangan Cleared for Takeoff

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    Brute force repetition is not going to solve this problem. You need someone to analyze what is going on with an onboard video camera. Most common problems boil down to improper visual scanning during the flare, but it is hard to pinpoint by talking about it on the internet. If you have patience and perseverance, you are fit to be a pilot. It is not all about manipulating the yoke or pushing buttons. Don't stress over the hours it takes to solo, and don't give up at this stage.
     
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  7. beretta

    beretta Pre-Flight

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    Agree with the instructor change. If there is no immediate improvement (give him/her couple weeks) go for the school change.

    On that note, it only dawned on me how to land after over 200 landing, until my instructor took controls during the final approach, and it just came together. After that - it really does not matter crosswind or not, short field, soft field, normal - I can land.
     
  8. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Go fly with a different instructor for a few hours ,a new set of eyes can be helpful.
     
  9. Stingray Don

    Stingray Don En-Route

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    Flaring at the wrong height over the runway can be quickly overcome using a technique called the Jacobson flare. You can check the archives here or just google it. This can help you imprint the correct sight picture. Also, make sure you are nailing your approach speeds on final. As others have said, find another instructor to provide another set of eyes.
     
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  10. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

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    Fly with another instructor and see if they can give you new tips
     
  11. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    Getting a second opinion (another instructor) to review what you are doing might be helpful. Every instructor has their own bag of tricks and insights.
     
  12. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    My 152 experience was a while ago. I remember with full flaps all I could see was the ground. Getting into the landing flare was a matter of getting the timing right. After that, just don’t overcorrect and let it land.

    I’m not a cfi: maybe try different flap settings? Maybe stop worrying about it so much and move ahead with some other lessons? Maybe do some aggressive maneuvering at altitude to help you get more confidence in controlling the airplane?
     
  13. Groundpounder

    Groundpounder Pattern Altitude

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    Not everyone is destined to be a pilot.
     
  14. Flocker

    Flocker Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Are there any C-152 owners at your airport? Network, find them, and ask for a ride along. A private owner with thousands of hours and landings may be able to give you some valuable tips (for free).
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2020
  15. dmspilot

    dmspilot En-Route

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    The students I've had trouble soloing had problems with multiple aspects of aircraft control during multiple phases of flight. I don't think a special flare technique would actually help most people.
     
  16. Spring Ford

    Spring Ford Line Up and Wait

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  17. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Fly a low wing.
    Flaring those Cessna's is like being a monkey on a swing, you have to be ready for it otherwise it over rotates in the flare, then you push the yoke, and it overrotates the other way. You need to finesse it.

    Also being uptight and using a death grip on the yoke makes it worse. You need to relax, you have an instructor next to you who will save your butt so don't be worried.

    Everybody hits a plateau or wall when training, you've found yours. Don't listen to SOGI telling you that you don't have what it takes, your instructor would have told you that. 55 hours and 130 landings don't seem to jibe to well in my book, I think you should have more landings for that time, spend the next couple lessons in the pattern.

    I wouldn't be too worried about the touch down point until you can actually touch down, that may be causing your oscillations as you try to force it down. Hold the landing position and crosswind correction in the flare. Remember as you slow the controls become less effective, so you have to adjust, gently. Keep the crosswind control in after you land.

    It will click, and the solo will happen very soon after, don't get discouraged.
     
  18. Flocker

    Flocker Pre-takeoff checklist

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    +1
     
  19. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    here's a timely video that may offer some help to some of your issues. but yeah, you need to change 'something' that you're doing, and that something 'could' mean another instructor. but something needs to change so whatever you're doing, do something different.
     
  20. Stingray Don

    Stingray Don En-Route

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    The OP has several issues that need to be resolved. Solving one puzzle piece will help the OP focus on the other issues.
     
  21. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    130 landings isn't that many for 50+ hours of training.

    I had 120 landings in my first 18 hours before I solo'd. Spread those 120 landings out over 9 months and I probably wouldn't have solo'd yet either.

    If landings are the problem, why aren't you doing more of them? (Rhetorical, the answer is switch instructors)
     
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  22. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    You hope.
     
  23. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    I agree with another set of eyes on the problem. The one thing I found helped a lot was just realizing that if you fly the plane down into ground effect and let it slow down while following the runway, it will land.

    Initially I had always been too focused on too many things going on all at once. And let’s face it, there is only a brief period of time when you are trying to learn this on each landing.

    Maybe just try flying down above the runway and fly it it there while letting in naturally slow. Then after that you can start modifying and getting precise.
     
  24. JScarry

    JScarry Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Since you are having trouble with so many areas, it could be that, like me, you don’t multi-task well. What you may need to do is master each part of landing separately, then combine them together.

    If you airport isn’t busy you can do these exercises over the runway, but when I am transitioning to a new airplane or helping someone with their transition, I like to find a straight stretch of highway (or a pier) and practice there. Add 1,000' to your airport’s elevation and then fly as if you were in the pattern. (Don’t forget to pick an area where you are legal as well—500' AGL in unpopulated areas or 1,000' AGL in populated areas.) Try this first with a little bit of wind if you can. For the first part have the instructor handle the yoke and you do rudder and power. Remember that pitch plus power equals performance.

    1. Set up the plane for slow flight with flaps at takeoff setting. Add power and right rudder to keep the airplane on the roadway. Have the CFI pitch up to the appropriate takeoff attitude. Determine when you need to pull the power to level off. The rule of thumb for leveling off is 10% of Vertical speed is when you start the level off. I haven’t flown a C150 so I don‘t know how soon or how much to pull the power. (You should already know this and if you don’t that could be part of your problem.)

    2. Set up the plane for the downwind. You should already know the power setting that you need. Ask the CFI to set neutral pitch. Use power to fine tune the altitude. Look out the window to get the sight picture for level flight. Glance at the VSI. Look out the window. Glance at the Altimeter. Look out the window. Make adjustments. The objective here is to figure out the sight picture for level flight at pattern altitude. With practice you should be able to be within 100' or less of pattern altitude without even looking at the instruments,

    3. Pick an intersection to act as the numbers. When abeam the numbers reduce the power and add the first notch of flaps. You should already know the power setting you need for about 500fpm descent. From here on, you need to be verbalizing three things, airspeed, altitude, and scan for traffic. I don’t know the airspeeds for a C150 but let’s assume they are the same as my Cherokee. You should probably be aiming for 90mph, so tell the CFI to pitch up or down.

    4. 45° point. Start your turn to base leg and add the second notch of flaps. Remember to use rudder. Adjust your power to keep the 500fmp descent going. Start slowing to 80mph. Look out the window to get your sight picture. Ask you CFI how it looks to them. I’ll bet you forgot to use your rudders. Glance at the ball.

    5. Tell your CFI when they should start the turn to final. Monitor airspeed, altitude, and scan for traffic. I’ll bet you forgot to check the ball in the turn. How’s the sight picture? Do you need to add or remove power. Start slowing up to 70mph. Add the last notch of flaps. That’s going to add a bunch of drag, so you might have to adjust power. Did you notice that the CFI has been trimming the whole time? Have them take their hands off the yoke and fly the plane to the "numbers" using just rudders and power. (If there is a strong crosswind they may need to hold the crab in with some yoke pressure.) Normally you’d also start slowing down to approach speed, but unless there is a runway below you get ready to go around when you hit the “numbers”. You should also be at 1,000' plus the airport elevation.

    Do it a couple more times and make a written note of the pitch and power settings. Then cover up the VSI and Altimeter and do it a few times.

    Repeat the whole thing a few times with you using the yoke and the CFI handling the rudders and power. Then combine them.

    When you have mastered the pattern try it at the airport. I personally hate touch and goes and never do them. I spend the taxi-back time reviewing what when wrong (and right) with the instructor or friend.

    Remember the point of the roundout. It is to fly the airplane close to the runway and then let it lose enough energy so that it no longer feels like flying. Ideally it stops flying when the wheels are just above the runway and the nose is pointed up. Depending on how tall you are the end of the runway may disappear from view.

    One of the reasons I hate stop and goes is that this is the point where you add power and start to around. But especially as you transition to heavier aircraft or tailwheels, this is also the part where it is easy to lose control, especially in a crosswind. The ailerons should remain where they were for the wind correction and gradually lower the nose. Gentle but quick application of the rudders is essential to keeping it on the centerline.

    The nosewheel of a Cessna drops down when you lift off and is aligned with the airplane. If the airplane is aligned with the centerline when you touch down, the nosewheel will also be aligned with the centerline. If you are correcting for a crosswind with a crab, you need to kick it out before the nosewheel touches. If you are landing with a slip, you need to neutralize the rudders when the nosewheel touches down. Either way, when the nosewheel touches down, it is important to have the rudders neutral—otherwise you go careening off the runway.

    Remember that the wind doesn’t stop when you are getting close to the runway. Use your rudders to keep aligned with the centerline. You don’t have to worry about keeping the ball centered here because you aren’t turning so aren’t going to start a spin.

    Get of the runway and stop. Clean up the airplane using a checklist or pneumonic. I like BCFLAGS since it works for all the airplanes I fly. Boost pump. cowl flaps, flaps, lean, air, ground, squawk VFR.

    Gary Wing has lots of 5 minute videos and he mostly flies a C172 so they should apply directly to you. Here’s one on how to land a Cessna.



    Jason Miller at The Finer Points has some good videos on landing as well. If you are having trouble hitting the aiming point, he recommends using a whiteboard marker to make a mark on the windshield so you can keep the aiming point stable. Here are a couple.



     
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  25. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    That would be my recommendation ... don't land. Fly the length of the runway close to the surface nice and slow but do not let the airplane land. Do it again and get a bit lower and slower but don't land. Don't view the landing as a goal but as an option. Some of my best landings are when practicing wheel landings and seeing just how gently I can set the mains on the runway. Obviously it don't always work as I plan but flying the length of the runway down low with no intention to land is a great way to get into the zone and gives you extended time to look out at the landing attitude of the airplane while handling the controls. Approaching the runway with the landing being an option relieves you of the requirement to set it down at a precise location. That is needed but will come later after you have learned what the view should be just as the airplane floats just above the runway surface.
     
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  26. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Not believing that is a huge problem. If that's the case, get an instructor you trust.
     
  27. Huckster79

    Huckster79 Pattern Altitude

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    I second another instructor and that’s zero critique of your current cfi. I was there at 22 hours and never thought I’d get it- I was miles away from solo- I couldn’t land without getting bailed out by the cfi most of the time.

    3 hours with a different guy I soloed ...

    may or may not be your issue: one of main probs I had is I was sitting too far back... the new guy had me slide up to point it felt slightly awkward- once I was more on top of the controls it was easier to stay ahead of the plane...
     
  28. TommyG

    TommyG Pattern Altitude

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    As a CFI I have had a student that was hitting a roadblock go with another CFI. He saw what I saw, but was able to tell the student in a way that clicked what was going wrong.
    Sometimes it’s not a bad CFI or student, but more of the married couple syndrome. The CFI might not see the problem or the student might be blocking the out the CFI due to constantly hearing him repeat things.
     
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  29. JOhnH

    JOhnH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I know several fine pilots that took similar or greater times to solo. But for the most part, they were older pilots, and even though I hate to admit it, it sometimes takes us older folks a little longer to master new skills. I don't know how old the OP is, but I would still advise they hang in there. But asking his flight school, or even a different flight school to let him fly a few times with a different instructor might be beneficial.
     
  30. TCABM

    TCABM Pattern Altitude

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    I’m curious how often the OP is flying. 55 hours over 9 months averages just above six hours/month.
     
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  31. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    1. Another instructor.
    2. Try flying over the runway as slow as you can without landing.


    What are we doing differently training students than what we did 30 years ago? Are CFIs just more risk averse?
     
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  32. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    This, I still remember my first lesson, first time in a single engine airplane, the instructor had me taxi, then had me take off ( he helped of course). We went out, flew around for an hour, then he told me to pay attention and he talked through the landing. Second flight, same thing, but this time we stalled, did slow flight, I flew the approach, it was a mess, but I did it, he landed. Third flight, it was on, I flew to the flare, then finally started landing. I took a while to land on my own, I was too uptight in the flare. When it finally clicked, he told me I should start wearing old t shirts. Next lesson, I did two landings, he jumped out. I haven't counted the landings before that, but it was a lot.
     
  33. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN Pattern Altitude

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    Not necessarily. CFIs tell students something over and over but if the student isn't ready to understand it it won't stick. The joke is that the umpteenth time the CFI repeats the same thing the student say, "Oh! That makes sense! Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

    CFIs also have to change the way they explain something based on how the student responds. Sometimes, one CFI can't find the right angle but another one can.

    It may not be a problem in the pattern work. It could be that the OP has missed one of the building blocks along the way such as pitch control, trimming, controlling ground track, or understanding how to use the sight picture. Another set of CFI-eyes can often spot what the original CFI is missing.

    Have you looked at 14 CFR 61.87 lately. There are a ton of things that are now required to be taught pre-solo. You also have more students learning in busier airport environments. I taught for a while at an airport with four flight schools. It wasn't unusual for there to be as many as ten or twelve aircraft in the pattern. It's not a very time-efficient training environment.

    I was never in a rush to solo a student. I would do most of our dual time prior to solo saving only short and soft-field work, night time, cross-country, and the three-hour checkride prep for after solo. That gave the student more experience, and exposure to more things, before he was out there on his own. When he did solo, he was better prepared to confidently and safely operate the aircraft. There is no training benefit in rushing to solo as quickly as possible.
     
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  34. WannFly

    WannFly Final Approach

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    Stick to it and as others have suggested, try another instructor. It takes as long as it takes. Do more pattern work and get more landings in, go to a podunk airport if your airport is too busy.
     
  35. guzziguy

    guzziguy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Let's not forget the possibility that the CFI is milking the student.
    We've all seen it.
     
  36. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Pattern Altitude

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    I haven't, but I don't doubt you. My flight instructor consistently pushes me and sees I'm ready to move on way before I feel I'm ready. Never felt milked.
     
  37. Sierra_Hotel

    Sierra_Hotel Line Up and Wait

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    That’s exactly what I’m dealing with right now with one of my students. Almost 15 hours we’ve flown together and he’s not much closer to solo now than when he started. Going to get him up with another instructor as well and see if that helps.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2020
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  38. Philip Stokes

    Philip Stokes Filing Flight Plan

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    Rajiv everyone has a tough time with learning to land for sure and I am not going to criticize your instructor. the issues you talked about are super duper typical and there are a number of practical things you can do to learn how to pull-off the landing. Discuss these (below) with your instructor and the best way to go about doing these:

    1) It sounds like many issues you have are right at the end of the descent and coming into ground effect with the wrong energy (approach and landing is all about energy management). Discuss with your CFI a really good set up beginning downwind, and nailing the altitude, speed, and configuration on downwind, base and final (a good landing begins on the downwind leg).

    2) Discuss with your CFI the types of sight picture you should have of the runway shape when on final. Have him demonstrate what too high/low looks like, and have him explain "runway expansion effect" as it relates to your aiming point. Getting that runway shape right, along with a stabilized approach and proper speed is the best way to give yourself a fighting chance. Also -- dont forget to trim as you make your way down! the controls should remain light in your hands.

    3) Work with your CFI extensively and EXCLUSIVELY on ground effect work (low-approaches). By having your CFI demonstrate getting you into ground effect and remaining in ground effect by adding a touch of power, you get to experience the sight picture of ground effect, where ground effect even is, and gets you comfortable with being close to the ground -- all for an extended period of time. When doing these exercises, dont worry about touching down at all...adding a touch of power in ground effect will put the plane in a more favorable energy state where you can experience ground effect for extended periods of time. In this state, you have the entire length of the runway to experiment with footwork, maintaining the centerline, and crosswind correction. Do this over and over and over again, then when you are ready, have your instructor ask you to come into ground effect as youve been doing, except this time, as you enter ground effect add a little less power as you did before to remain in ground effect. This will allow the plane to descend more gently and slowly to the ground. Practice going this earlier and earlier with less and less power (using more and more pitch authority to perform the flair) until you are entering ground effect normally and simultaneously leveling off, going power idle, and then easing the plan down with gradual and continuous back pressure as you flare. Each time you do these exercises, you are simultaneously learning go-around procedures as you come up to the departure end of the runway in ground effect and increase power to begin climbing back up into the pattern to repeat the exercise. You'll find that a few of those times of entering ground effect with SOME power (but just less than required to sustain in ground effect) result in you touching down perfectly "on accident" ! :)

    Hope this helps.
     
  39. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Cleared for Takeoff

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    Criticism of the instructor (or the student) is unwarranted. These scenarios can develop for a lot of reasons.

    I'm personally aware of a tale involving a person who tried for years to solo. I'll share it. Her instructor was excellent, based on personal experience both with the primary instructor and the applicants he sent to me for practical tests. A period of years and some 200+ hours of dual instruction were logged with no solo in sight. At one point I flew with the student and observed the same issues relayed to me by the instructor. I didn't have a chance to work with the student beyond that for various reasons (my appointment as a DPE being one of them). The student had a very positive view of things and recognized a challenge was at hand but did not want to give up.

    Finally she changed flight schools and instructors -- reluctantly. She had a champion in her flight instructor and flight school. Everyone wanted to see her succeed. It just was not clicking.

    Within 20 additional dual instruction hours she solo'd at a new airport. The change-up was simply necessary. No one did anything wrong -- not her previous instructor(s), nor herself. Change was simply needed and this was the agent which allowed development to occur.

    I would suggest to the original poster that if the rut extends and continues to the "should I keep trying this or not?" point, try a new instructor or even a new flight school. We all gain insights in unique ways as learners. And try not to let emotions get to you -- easier said than done.

    I have rarely, if ever, seen "bad actors" holding people back or in other ways not acting in the best interests of the student. Of course this exists, but the odds strongly favor well-intentioned people not succeeding, sometimes for reasons outside the realm of obvious perception. Be gentle with them and with yourself, and get a fresh look at things if needed. I'm betting it will work out in the end.
     
  40. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-Flight

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    1000RR
    Don't feel bad man... I just solo'd this past Thursday. I started this process a year ago. I had 69hrs and ~200 landings under my belt going into the day I solo'd. Now I did have a 4-month hiatus this spring due to Covid and the Cherokee I was flying going down for its annual and subsequently I switched to a 172. So that added to it. I found, that my landings continued to get better as I was able to fly the plane further and further into the ground affect and begin flaring at the right height, but more importantly at the right speed. We actually began trying to do short field landings and that made a HUGE difference in getting my speed on short final more appropriate and made landings MUCH easier. Prior to that, I was a hair too fast and carrying power a little too long and it caused me to float a little, sometimes balloon, sometimes a crosswind catching me. Once I got the plane slowed down (only 5-8 mph slower) it was night and day. Anyway, don't give up. I had 69 hrs before I solo'd and I personally don't give 2 ****s that folks solo'd at 10, 12, 15, and 20 hrs. I didn't and that's that. So don't sweat it... keep working it. Pay attention to your airspeed. That turned out to be a big issue for me... and like I said it wasn't terribly off... but enough to make it more difficult.
     
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