14 thoughts on “The (Un)Natural

  1. Nice story, some people take longer then others and there is as you said more requirements other then stick and rudder skills now in the DC area. When I was teaching I would never tell my students to give me three good landings or whatever and I would solo them. Puts un needed pressure on them.

  2. John, when I read the byline of this article I knew it would be of interest to me. By the time I was 3 paragraphs in I felt as if it was just about me. There are so many parralells in our stories it’s uncanny. I now realize that it must ring true with countless others. I soloed @40 hours on Aug 20 of this year with almost 200 landings logged. I now have the resolve to press forward despite early struggles and the inconsistency of only being able to fly once per week. I go to the airport even if I know the weather will prevent flying that day just to “be there” and “be in it.” It took almost 35 hours to hear a “good job” from my CFI. Looking forward to my solo cross countries and continued learning.

  3. Keep at it Mark! Believe me, the reward is worth all the frustration. A world of mini-adventures, sunrise flights, and very unhealthy $100 hamburgers awaits. Feel free to hit me up on my website (link is below the story) and let me know how it goes. — bishop

  4. I am afraid that I will have to (at least partially) disagree. When I hear that a pilot needed over 20 hours until the first solo or +100 hours until the checkride, it certainly raises my attention. I think it is absolutely fine if so many hours were needed because of only irregular training, long brakes or because the pilot soloed but was happy to fly around with his student pilot’s certificate and just never cared to take the checkride.

    However, if these many hours were needed, because the student simply ‘did not get it’, it raises some alarm signs. I now a few pilots who needed an extraordinary amount of hours and feel that none of them would be able to handle situations outside of what was practiced during the endless hours of training. Small things like a little bit stronger crosswind than expected, the plane differently loaded than usual, flying into a unfamiliar airfield: All things they seriously struggle with. I can’t and don’t even want to imagine how any of them would handle an emergency.

    Personally, I am convinced that in order to be a competent and safe pilot, flying eventually has to become second nature and must not be just be a repetition of training lessons.

  5. This article should be a standard handout to all student pilots after the first 10 hrs of training to put their minds at ease and in perspective!

  6. My understanding of human nature is that there are different types of temperaments for both teacher and student, and that mismatching these temperaments can retard the learning process.

    Some of us want to explore the experience on our own, and we see the instructor’s basic job as pointing out some things to consider and try out, and then take a nap while we try them out, and only wake up if we are about to kill ourselves.

    I personally don’t like the meticulous step by step progress with strict performance limits approach favored by the FFA. For example, we over emphasis keeping strictly to altitude and teach steep turns holding altitude, and never let the student feel the thrill of plane banking over to 90 degrees as we relax our hold on the yoke and let the nose fall as we bank.

    While that may sound like an extreme maneuver (and it is if we held altitude), relaxing the yoke unloads the g-force on the plane and allows a very controllable, safe, and easy transition into a 90 degree bank, and then roll out of it — easing back the yoke as we return to level flight.

    By not exploring these so-designated “extreme” maneuvers, in fact, forbidding them, we leave the student fearing the airplane.

  7. I think I hold the record for soloing/ getting my private certificate after the most hours. I caught the bug in my 50’s. I had to change instructors and FBO’s a few times (corporate jets beckoning) and stop and start training (joys of home ownership and an unstable job market). Several times I wanted to throw my flight bag in the dumpster and give it all up after a bad landing. I found an instructor and school (53 miles away) I liked and kept at it as much as finances and driving time would permit. Made the decision to keep going and to all who are reading this: practice, practice, practice. If you want it badly enough, find an instructor who you can work with and a good airplane (I have flown some major rattletraps) and you’ll get there.

  8. I can understand the nerves and frustration when learning to fly. I recall back in 1967 a man in his 49 spending 40 + hours trying to learn to fly. He just never got the co-ordination. He went through some of the best ex WW11 fighter and bomber pilots who were either full time or part time. The poor gentleman went through five different instructors, and decision was made to refund the ab initio pilots money that he had spent inn full. This is the only time in my life, that I have ever seen someone who just could not come to grips with flying
    I remember my first solo as if it as today. My instructor was a terrific teacher, plus prior to being an instructor, he was also the workshop foreman when I was doing my motor mechanic apprenticeship. He had no idea of my passion for flying, until the day I rolled up at the airport to book my very 1st flying lesson. The look on his face was priceless. I went solo in 4 hrs 20mkinutes. His ploy was to stop at the terminal building on the ploy he urgently needed to go to the toilet. As he got out the C150 door, he said , “Make one circuit and then full stop and taxi back to the parking area. There was no time to get scared, but bloody hell that C150 jumped into the air without someone next to me. Needless to say I went on to fly 747s and retired 10 years ago aged 67. I own an Aero Commander 690 and use it for holiday around Australia rather then driving or going commercial. Some people are born to fly and other have to work hard at it ti even go solo let alone get their PPL, but with perseverance everyone I have encountered has had an interesting story to tell. Aviation is in my family blood as my son , daughter and her boyfriend are all commercial pilots traveling the world.

  9. All of us are pilots.
    Beware of over confidence. Dangerous times at 40 hours, 100 hours, 1000 hours 10000 hours.
    Just when you think you have it nailed aviation happens.

  10. My instructor had me land our Cherokee 140 on a gravel road near Ryan Field in Tucson to visit his friend who was doing repairs on his Ag plane. After the visit (repairs were progressing…replacing 3 feet of the right wing torn off after hitting a power company ground wire between two towers…sun in his eyes…”thought” he was lower) we began our take off roll. We “stalled” on the ground at about 50 kts……………..until I removed my feet from the rudder pedals (lightly/slightly applying the brakes) and we gained speed and wha-la!…..we were airborne! Hal saw what the problem was, and just before I realized what I was doing he suggested I remove my feet from the brakes…smiling as he told me to do so. Hal passed away, and I miss my instructor who became my friend…and gazing at his type certificates and the zillion hours in the air that he had.

  11. I believe that anyone who thinks that pilots who solo in a handful of hours are genius’s while pilots who take 35 or 40 hours are irreparable incompetents do not understand the complexities of the human mind or of flying. Who would think that person who failed mathematics would become a Noble prize-winning physicist? Well, that person is Alfred Einstein. Would think that an armless woman could not only learn to fly an Ercoupe but obtain a pilot’s license using only her legs and feet. Yeah, just try that.

    Further, there are several kinds of abilities used to fly an airplane. If anyone needs proof, look what an autopilot can do. Autopilots “fly” an airplane perfectly but never able to make a self-generated decision. Further I have flown with incredibly “gifted” pilots who, while being to fly an airplane elegantly, were some the worst decision-makers about flying I have ever experienced. Alternatively, I have flown with pilots whose mechanical skills were nothing other than average be the most incisive, thoughtful decision-makers I can imagine. It takes more than just hand-eye coordination to be a good pilot.

    My simple rule about learning to fly is to simply, but completely commit oneself to one thing: try and try again. Learn to ask questions after teach lesson, write down questions about flying between lessons. In your mind, walk through each and every flight maneuver or planning decision in that perfect way. Finally, talk over your questions over with the instructor, before the next flight. With fair confidence I can say nearly everyone will benefit and improve their learning experience.

    Ignore what others who insist that what kind of person is qualified to be a pilot. The only that matters is how hard, how committed one is to learning and improving.

  12. Thank you for the story. I’m at 8 hours and have been feeling the same thing as you. I decided to go all-in with my lessons about a week ago and can’t wait. I have to tell you that this story couldn’t have come at a better time. I was also struggling in my mind about my ability to land smoothly, even after my 8 hours. But this story has only strengthened my resolve.

    Thank you so much for this story. It is bookmarked and will show it to my honey at home who lacks confidence that I’ll ever be a safe pilot (because I have mild road rage).

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