Lesson frequency for private pilot training

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Lesson frequency for private pilot training

Postby nathanwonnacott » Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:35 pm

Everyone I’ve ever talked to about pilot training has said the same thing: Save up money (and maybe even vacation time at work) so that you can get the whole license as fast as you can. They say that you should fly around twice a week so that you don’t forget everything between lessons. If you are flying once or twice a month, you’ll just end up wasting time and money because you’ll spend about half of each lesson re-learning what you learned in the last lesson. This advices makes sense, and I agree that this is probably the cheapest way to get a pilot’s license. But my concern is, isn’t that kind of like cramming for finals? If I can only afford to fly once a month, then isn’t it dangerous to save up and fly twice a week until I get my license, and then only fly once a month once I’m licensed? I feel like if I train quickly, I’ll do well on my check ride, but then I’ll forget everything if I can’t afford to continue flying with that same frequency. Since flying with a CFI isn’t really that much more expensive than flying without a CFI, it seems to me that its best to train as often as you plan to fly afterwards. It will take more hours to get a license, but I think I would probably retain what I learned a little better if I train slowly.

Obviously the best option would be to fly often while training and then fly often afterwards too, but that just doesn't fit in my budget right now.

What are your thoughts?

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Re: Lesson frequency for private pilot training

Postby champguy » Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:37 am

The cheapest way to get into the air is to beg borrow or steal whatever cash you can get your hands on today and buy a flying plane that you will own outright. Doesn't matter much what kind of plane it is. Even a lowly beater C-150 will get across the country and through the mountains.
Hire an instructor and fly the pants off it.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.

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Re: Lesson frequency for private pilot training

Postby nathanwonnacott » Fri Aug 01, 2014 6:28 pm

I've heard many people say that, and its great. I may do that, and I may not, but that still doesn't really answer my question.

Say I have an airplane, but I can still only afford to fly it once a month (because just fuel alone is difficult for my budget). So if even after I get my license I can only afford to fly once a month, is it a good idea to save up and fly twice a week during my training, cram in all of my training and then slowly forget it all after I have my license?

It seems to me that you should train about as often as you plan to fly afterwards rather than just training as often as you can.

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Re: Lesson frequency for private pilot training

Postby cozy171bh » Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:35 pm

I'd be interested is hearing Jeb, Jack and Dave discuss this topic. This is a great question. Let me share my thoughts:

When I was an instructor, those students who flew 2 or 3 times a week progressed through the program more quickly (obviously) than those who flew only on occasion. Moreover, the higher frequency resulted in less need for instructional review. Those who flew only on occasion spent a larger proportion of their training in review. Those who flew regularly maintained a higher retention throughout training and achieved proficiency on new maneuvers more quickly.

The end result is that those who flew 2 to 3 times a week (or even more frequently) completed their training in less overall flight and ground instruction time, and with less overall cost. It was not at all like cramming, but you do have to commit to the program and perhaps place other life events (like painting the house) on the back burner to train at this pace.Those who flew less frequently or at irregular intervals took more hours to get through the program - and here's the kicker - many of them dropped out! My recollection is that in the case of our flight school (Part 61) those who worked quickly through the program got their private typically in about 45 to 55 hours, whereas those less frequent flyers tallied 60 to 80 hours to get through. When the training is stretched out too far, students become frustrated with lack of progress and tend to drop out. My training log for Private applicants records nearly as many students who never completed their training than those who did. (Those pursuing instrument, commercial and multi training nearly always completed the program.)

My advice to my students once they completed their training was to try to fly once a week - if only for 20 to 30 minutes. You are better off flying 4 30-minute flights a month than one 2-hour flight, in terms of proficiency. My rationale was that the process of planning the flight, getting mentally engaged to fly, checking the weather and NOTAMS, preflighting, and putting the airplane away - all those parts of a flight that are not flying in and of itself - this process keeps one engaged and contributes to proficiency, and safety. Particularly for a newly minted pilot, to keep one's head in the game and maintain reasonable proficiency, frequency is important. The FAA recognizes this even for airline pilots. It is called "consolidation of knowledge and skill", and we are required to fly our first 100 hours within 120 days of completing our training in a new type.

So to your question, my suggestion is that if you can only learn at the rate of one flight per month, and once you have learned to fly will only fly once a month, perhaps consider a more affordable alternative. Since you don't appear to be looking to fly for business purposes, consider those areas of aviation which are more accessible in terms of cost and training commitment. Ultralight, sailplane, and balooning come to mind. Overall, you will find such options more accessible, and more enjoyable. Later when your life situation changes to permit more financial resources for flying, you will have a solid foundation and will transition to higher performance and more capable aircraft quickly.

My fear is that a one-flight-per-month training pace will lead to frustration. You want to enjoy flying, particularly since time spent flying does not subtract from your life span!

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Re: Lesson frequency for private pilot training

Postby nathanwonnacott » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:53 pm

Thanks cozy171bh.

I think you're right about flying frequency. I guess I should just try to find a way to fly often. I've been doing a lot of studying and I think there are a lot of things I can do to keep the cost down, and I suppose taking shorter flights is one option. I've got some other things I need to pay for first, but soon I'll be saving up so that I can train frequently.

I think that perhaps a flaw in my thinking was to believe that training would be just as fun as flying for the sake of flying. I was thinking "The cost of an instructor isn't that much compared to the cost of renting and fuel, and either way I'm flying, so what's the hurry to get my license? If I'm a student, or a licensed pilot, either way, I'm flying and the price isn't THAT much different." But now that I think of it, as fun as training will be, flying with a license will be even better. Also, just having a license and telling people I'm a pilot is enough to make me want to finish my training sooner.

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Re: Lesson frequency for private pilot training

Postby IBEWguy » Sun Jan 15, 2017 10:31 pm


That's great advice from the 757 pilot - very well said. One option not yet mentioned is a flying club. There are several resources available that can help set up the structure and detail all the arrangements. If you join your local EAA chapter you may find one that already exists. HERE is a PDF from the AOPA on starting a club and there is more HERE.

The Cozy driver also detailed a post on flying clubs back in 2009 - searching for the ideal LSA, but I think you are better served to find an older certificated A/C to kick off your club;)

Even if this is not your ideal solution for training, you may find that this hybrid approach can help you accumulate more flight time.


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