Real Answers from Real Pilots

Getting through a pilot training

Hi, my name is Tom and I have a question about the training. I see topics about what to do after a pilot gets all the ratings but I would like to know more about the training part itself. I’ve read somewhere that most people don’t even finish the PPL for different reasons. From my own experience I went through a skydiving training but I stopped about half through the training because it was just little too much beyond my comfort zone. It was while back. I get nervous when it comes to heights and over the years (I’m 42 now) I got even more nervous about flying. But getting through the fear can be mentally rewarding. This is also one of the reasons I would like to pursue the PPL, maybe it would make me more comfortable, but the idea of solo flight, or night flying is quite frightening right know. I did fly in small planes but only as a passenger, and of course on commercial airlines. I would like to know at what point in the training person realizes that flying may not just be the thing? In other words, when in the training people quit the most and not just for the financial part? Thank you.

Hi Tom and Welcome!

Excellent question and I appreciate you having the courage to ask. This is actually one of my “pet peeves”. Everyday people post on here that they always dreamed of flying and want to be an airline pilot (which is great). My first question is always have you ever been up in a small plane and 90% of the time the answer is no. When I respond you really need to go up before you think about dropping $70k people get annoyed? A fear of heights (and by association flying) is a fairly common one and yes many people believe staring it down by learning to fly (thus giving you control) is the best way to conquer it.

Ok to your question, the answer is there is no single answer but that first solo is definitely a pretty big gate, both before and after. To some the thought of taking off for the first time without your instructor (aka security blanket) is overwhelming. For others, right after they solo they say Ok, I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. Sometimes it’s after the first lesson, sometimes it comes after you start learning maneuvers like stalls. Again it varies for each individual. I actually flew with a First Officer several years ago who confided in me that he was actually terrified every time he gets on an airplane. He started taking lessons to overcome his fear, didn’t have any idea what to do for a career and just kept going till he found himself at an airline where there’s always a Capt sitting next to him to keep him safe. Fortunately he was also working on a degree in accounting because he realized he should never be in command of airplane and quit not long after.

If you think it would help you or you’re simply curious I suggest you take an intro flight. If you absolutely hate it you can always end it early but who knows? Many people embrace the feeling of being the one in control and do actually become great pilots. You won’t know till you try.

Adam

Tom,

I would say that within the first few flights you should know if this is something that you want to do or not. Give it a shot and don’t feel badly if this isn’t your thing. I can tell you one thing, sky diving would scare the heck out of me!

Chris

Thank you guys for your quick reply and the words of wisdom. I do need to go and do few lessons on Cessna, and hopefully build up to some maneuvers and even solo flight (I think that will probably be the decision point). Last time I flew on smaller plane was from LA to Page, Arizona (9 seats but I was the only passenger-you probably know the government pays for the remaining seat, at least that’s what I heard); it actually felt pretty comfortable considering both pilots looked like they were 16 years old )).

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Thanks Eric, I’m actually really anxious to experience what it feels like to be in control, I think the lack of control is what makes me uncomfortable in most cases.
By the way I would not skydive again either, but glad I tried.

Hi Tom,

I’m curious if you ever went on an intro flight or if you took a flight in general where you were at the controls?

I found your post interesting because I felt the same way about flying for quite awhile, but overtime realized it may be my “lack of control” causing my anxiety and sometimes down right TERROR!

I’m not an airline pilot yet, but I’m planning on starting the program this January, bar no intrusive financial obstacles :dollar::fearful:, and I have already taken an intro flight and I loved it. Outside of the hours I plan to earn at ATP I already have ~6.5 hours logged of flight time. I definitely agree with Chris, within the first few flights you will know if it isn’t your thing.

In my case it was around hour 4 of being PIC with my instructor when I had my realization. It was a warm and sunny Sunday morning, with clouds just above the VFR ceiling, slightly choppy with 10sm visibility. I’d be remiss not to mention everything in my life the two days prior to my lesson were crappy (i.e. dating, work, and etc.,) so I questioned even going up because in addition I was quite unhappy with the previous lesson or so, nevertheless I went anyway and decided to change my attitude instead of my flight.

Shortly after I departed and leveled off to my cruising altitude I stopped chasing the gauges and simply looked out the windshield. I took in all of my surroundings and felt the closeness of the clouds. It was then everything just clicked for me and I felt naturally placed in the sky. Without overthinking every control input I simply put the aircraft in what ever position I wanted and maintained straight and level flight with ease, despite the bumps. I felt like I was where I was suppose to be and could have flown for HOURS!!!:airplane::airplane::airplane:

Given my lesson that Sunday was my serenity, as I progress through flight hours I feel more foreign on solid ground and anxious to depart on my next flight everyday. I guess in my own verbose way I’m saying you’ll definitely know when piloting is your thing or not.

Good Luck! Hope to hear about your flight soon.

Michael,

Thanks for sharing your experience, I am glad that you are now so confident of your decision. Good luck in the program, please try to keep us up to date if you have time.

Chris

Michael,

Glad you had such a positive experience. You sound like you’re a lot like me, flying is my “happy place”. Some people find it difficult to compartmentalize but personally I have no issue leaving everything else in my life on the ground :slight_smile:

Adam

Hi Michael and thanks for your post. Congrats on getting in the air! I haven’t got that far. Truthfully my work schedule was pretty busy and gave me not much of free time. However I talked to the owner of a flight school near by and that would probably be a good place where I would start. In the mean time I have been studying several of my student pilot flight manuals and practice the FAA knowledge test, flight computer, calculations, etc. It’s actually fun ;-). Several times a week I’m playing with the FAA test questions and I have to say I learn a lot! But I hope one of these days when things calm down a bit I will make the first flight. By then I will actually have some book knowledge. Good luck and keep on going. Tom

Tom, I am a private pilot with about 120 hrs total time. I am also a career fireman… I can tell you that I hate heights. I get very uneasy looking over the edge of buildings. And on ladders. However I love flying and have never had that feeling. Not sure why. So like the others have said you should know right away. I will say that I was very comfortable while training and even when I taxied out on my first solo, but when the wheels left the ground I had a moment of minor anxiety. I quickly realized that I had to get the plane on the ground and I would rather it be on a runway with the main wheels touching first… long story short, it went fine and I don’t have issues flying solo at all. My point is, you may feel comfortable but the first solo can be an issue for some. Your instructor won’t send you up if they don’t think your ready. Take an introductory flight and see how your anxiety level is. You can be the judge from there.

Ditto EVERYONE!

You don’t know until you actually go up so GO FLY!

Adam

I actually want to add to this old thread… I will be honest and say that I am terrified at starting the program. I am worried I am not “cut out” to be an airline pilot as I have always wanted to be. Now in my case I have around 9hrs of training so I didn’t want to be haste to say no and quit what I have always wanted since I was a kid and later ask myself the “what could have happened” question. I figured that I will definitely give it a try, if I don’t feel comfortable with it then I’ll be true to myself and look elsewhere. Now I don’t know if it’s a wise thing to do money wise but hey I have to give myself the chance right?

Angel,

It’s completely normal to be apprehensive. This is a very big deal and the reality is not everyone is successful. My best advice is to remember whatever you may lack in skill and knowledge (not saying you will or do) can often be compensated for with dedication and hard work. Turn your fear into motivation not to fail. Use it to keep you working hard when everyone else is slacking and the results may surprise you.

Adam

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Thanks Adam I will do my best!

I have no doubt you will :slight_smile:

Adam

What sort of traits (if any) do people exhibit that, in the eyes of a flight instructor, gives you an idea that maybe this person is not meant to pursue this as a career? Just wondering if flight instructors can sort of “sense” this.

Angel,

While it’s normal for new students to be nervous and apprehensive, on occasion you have one who is extremely so, that can be a redflag (but not necessarily a big concern). The ones that would really get my attention were the students who would look for excuses not to fly, or when we did go up were so frightened they couldn’t hear my instructions. I’m sure the other instructors have their own.

Adam

Angel,

My biggest red flag was students that obviously did not want to study. I had a few that would always have an excuse as to why they hadn’t studied something. Well, excuse or not, they didn’t do well in the airplane. I expected my students to show up knowing certain things, not necessarily understanding them. For example, I don’t need to sit there and help a student memorize V-speeds, they should be able to do that on their own. My job as an instructor is to help them understand what those speeds mean and how it relates to safely flying the airplane.

Chris