Pilot learning plateau? Don’t get discouraged!

Do you ever feel like you’re not getting anywhere with your flight training? That on some maneuvers your skills seem to be sliding backward rather than progressing? Perhaps you’re suffering loss of confidence as a result. Well if so, you’re not alone. Every pilot-in-training runs into such problems — excelling at times while frustrated at others. Unfortunately, few student pilots hear about the challenges their peers experience, so they often assume that only they are having problems.

Your flight instructor will tell you that every student faces training setbacks, but virtually everyone who sticks with it goes on to become a competent pilot. In fact, what you are facing is so common it has a name: Learning Plateau.” The phenomenon is formally taught to CFIs because it occurs with every aspiring pilot — the student progresses rapidly for a while, then hits a learning plateau with no apparent progress. Once overcoming the plateau it’s back to rapid progress again!

Here’s a graph of the learning plateau. To quote directly from the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, “…in learning motor skills, a leveling-off process, or a plateau, is normal, and can be expected after an initial period of rapid improvement. The instructor should prepare the student for this situation to avert discouragement. If the student is aware of this learning platform, frustration may be lessened.”

There are several approaches for overcoming a learning plateau. Step one is for your instructor to tackle the challenge in a variety of different ways. Each of us learns differently, so several approaches may be required to find the one that works best for you. If you feel that you and your CFI have “tried everything” with no results, schedule a lesson with someone else you respect, like your school’s Chief Flight Instructor. A fresh perspective will likely put you back on track.

Finally, if you find yourself getting discouraged take a break from stalls and steep turns and make a pleasure flight — to remind yourself of why you’re learning to fly in the first place. For fun! For adventure! For relaxation! Assuming that you don’t come from an aviation background, your piloting experience is probably limited to an intro flight followed by a series of high-intensity lessons. Other than craning our necks for traffic, not many of us get to relax and enjoy the view prior to solo cross-country. But few pilots learn to fly because they love practicing stalls and steep turns.

That’s why, even though it’s not on the syllabus, a casual “pleasure flight” is sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself. Ask your CFI to schedule an extra “brunch lesson” to fly to an hour-away airport. If you want to make the flight educational, visit a nearby Automated Flight Service Station or radar approach control facility for a tour. Or go to a pancake fly-in. (Fly-ins are great places to learn collision-avoidance techniques!) But wherever you go on this trip, make it long enough for you to do some relaxed flying, and allow time at the destination to kick back with your instructor, relax, and talk.

Your “pleasure flight” objectives are to get some positive feedback on skills already learned, and to remind you of why it’s worth the headaches to become a pilot. Such adventures break the pattern of stressful lessons, and give you the opportunity to realize, “Hey, I may not have stalls perfectly nailed yet, but look at how far my piloting has come! I just flew an airplane comfortably for a hundred miles, all while holding my heading and altitude within Private Pilot practical test tolerances, handling the radios, and having fun to boot.” Imagine doing that a month ago!

Finally, keep in mind that the number of hours it takes for a pilot to earn a Private certificate doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the pilot’s skills when done. If anything, those who rush through training are often poorer performers. So keep chipping away at those learning plateaus, knowing you will indeed overcome them, and if necessary, take an occasional pleasure lesson to reawaken your excitement about being a pilot. You will never regret it!

©2009, 2017 Gregory N. Brown

(See also my Student Pilot Pep Talk Facebook Group.)

For more guidance on this topic, see Greg’s book, The Savvy Flight Instructor 2nd Edition.

51 thoughts on “Pilot learning plateau? Don’t get discouraged!

  1. Fantastic post, Greg. And, well-timed. In fact, these fun flights mentioned in your post have worked many times for my students, along with reassuring them that the plateaus are normal.

    Never give up, but try not to get stressed when the learning slows down. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Ben! Good to hear that someone reads this stuff after all the effort I put into writing it – and more importantly, that another instructor actually agrees with me!

  2. You are very welcome, Greg.

    Indeed, I am taking a “fun flight” Sunday at 0745 local to SEZ (unless Wx and TFRs dictate another location) for the very reasons stated.

    Will send some photos if cell phone works right!

    Your insights in your books and columns are the best!

  3. Thank you Greg for your encouragement. I am just that, a frustrated student pilot. Just can’t seem to get my mind wrapped around crosswind landings. I get it on paper but doing it is another story. I am a very visual learner and I wish there was a way to visualize what I was doing. I guess it would help if I could see the wind haha! Have a great day. I have your website bookmarked so I can return for more help. A leisure flight sounds really good about now!

    1. Hi Liz! Presumably you came to learning plateaus from my crosswind landings post, but if not, I encourage you to read it. Being a visual person myself it’s the only method I’ve discovered for rationally comprehending crosswind work. Let me know if it helps! Greg

  4. Thanks for the helpful post, I’m about to quit this whole mess too but I don’t really like quitting things. That’s about all that’s keeping me in. Plus I feel so close to soloing I know I’ll look back and regret not sticking in this if I give up. But the pattern work feels endless and it’s just not going anywhere.

    I wonder if Liz, the previous commenter, got to solo?

    1. Hi Ashley,
      Please don’t give up! Let me know if you’d like to chat personally about it, or be put in touch with other pilots who recently went through what you’re going through. It’s worth the effort!
      PS: Wish I knew if Liz soloed; I never heard back from her.

      1. Greg – after your nice reply I promised myself I’d come back and give an update someday.

        I soloed. I won’t say flying “clicked” with me as much as gently started to work out. I flew with other instructors. I went on a ride-along with another student. I took a break when I needed to, then hit it every other day when I needed to, and I didn’t notice when things started going well for me but they did. I proved on separate flights with different instructors that I could put the plane down gently on the centerline. Weather was nice one day this week, and they let me go.

        August 23rd seems really recent so I’m not sure what changed, it doesn’t seem to be worth all the heartache now when I think about how close I was! If only I could write a letter back to myself to say “Relax, you’ve got TWO WEEKS!” Maybe I was in my own head way too much. Anyway thanks for writing about this topic, it was encouraging to me at the time.

  5. Congratulations, Ashley! You have made my day! Are you on Facebook? I’d be honored if you’d post a solo pic on my Facebook page. (See link under “Blogroll: Greg’s pages.” Keep me posted on your progress! Greg

  6. Hi,
    I have been a bit discouraged the past couple of lessons. I have about 48 hours, recently started soloing. I have done 4 solos and was really feeling like I was doing well. Then a couple of real lousy lessons where I just felt I couldn’t ‘get it.’ Things like Steep Turns and Stalls that I had thought I had gotten down, for some reason, on these lessons I was less relaxed, more tense and generally did not perform well. Reading your post here really is encouraging. After my ‘lousy’ sessons. I spoke to my CFI and he told me a bunch of things I had done well on the lesson(s) but I couldn’t seem to shake that feeling of ‘going backwards.’. Now I feel a bit better. The biggest problem wasn’t the problems I had with specific skills but the overall lessening of confidence….. Thanks though…. feel much better after reading the posts here!.
    – David

    1. I’m so glad you’ve kept with it, David. Honestly, these periods of discouragement happen with literally everyone. And if there’s any space between lessons, I have learned that our confidence goes away before our competence does. (Which is actually encouraging, if you think about it.) So keep kickin’. You are doing great! And keep me posted on your progress!

  7. I just got back from the most frustrating flying lesson to date. Practicing forced landing technique, how come when i did this first time a few months ago i nailed it quickly? This time i had an utter brain freeze, could remember nothing that i should do, again and again, and finally finally got some semblance of it, then had to return. Landing was the worst ever, i was so relieved to be back at the runway that i flared way too early. Then to cap it all, acted like a complete girl and cried my way back to the hanger, convinced that all this money i had spent so far was a complete waste and i was an idiot who was just going to regress and never do it. Then i got home and saw this blog. I feel so much better that it is not just me, it is normal and next time i WILL do it. thanks heaps

    1. Lesley, thanks for sharing your experience and feelings. You are so cool! We have all been there – still are sometimes – but when you conquer this you will be so glad you did. In the meantime you may experience other bad days like this one, but you’ll have victorious days, too. And in the end you’ll be a glorious pilot! Please keep us posted on your progress – and above all, keep kickin’! Sincerely, Greg

  8. Thanks Greg, good to hear all that. I also re-read David Rosenthal’s post too, and realised i had the loss of confidence thing too. I have thought a lot over the past couple days about the “confidence goes before competence arrives” relating it to other things i have learnt to do, scuba diving, skiing etc and it happened at some point with each one. I guess it is all part of how we as human beings (and me particularly) learn. I learned a lot about myself too, about how i react to my own perceived failure, how i dwell on it too much, and how i should just parcel up the bit that went wrong, put it to one side and concentrate on the task at hand, particularly when flying. Ultimately this has actually been a positive thing and will make me a better pilot in the end. Thorough, skilled and safe. Thank you.

  9. I am back! Had a great follow up lesson to the disaster described above. Managed to do a fab power on stall, wing drop and recovery without grabbing my instructors knee! Not so much fun for him, but good for my confidence. I also did the best landing ever yesterday in marginal visibility. Yee har! This weekend i am determined to get the forced landing well and truly down pat. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. Lesley, you are so cool. Thanks for sharing the good news! Can’t wait to hear of your upcoming adventures! Greg

  10. I am really stuck in my learning. I am nearly 15 hours into training and I cannot land the plane. I seem to be doing okay on other maneuvers but l just can’t seem to land the plane. Do any of you have advice or even just encouragement. I am feeling like the stupidest person that has EVER tried to fly so I appreciate the blog. I don’t really see anyone who had that many hours and still could not set a plane down safely. I am getting a lot of practice on go-arounds though.

    1. Hi Marj! Please don’t get discouraged. You are actually doing better than most since you are already working on landings at 15 hours. Please start by reading my Student Pilot Pep Talk page for a dose of encouragement from others in your shoes. As for tips, see also my make better landings post. Landings are tough, but you can (and will) master them!

    2. Hi Marj, I read your post and almost thought i was reading my own again! (see above) Even though you don’t believe it now, you will get this. Yes its tough and depressing at times and you think you will never get it, but you will. After my disasters in November, I am now into the cross country phase and my confidence has sky rocketed! That’s not to say i still don’t do things wrong, I do. However, every time i fly i learn something extra. Some days i consciously do something much better than before, other days it is just on later reflection that i realise it has improved. I viewed it that because i took longer than the “average” to get it and solo, it meant that i had experienced so many more things and consequently when they happened again later on , i could deal more competently with them. From a practical perspective for you, my Instructor kept beating into me that “a good approach makes a good landing” and made me focus on my approach speed, getting my circuit pattern, height and distances absolutely right, and then the landing itself happened as if by magic. I also take a breath before i make a maneouvour too, as i often try and do things too soon. Hope this helps! Keep at it! We need more lady pilots!

    3. Sorry, but I had to laugh. I’ve heard the AVERAGE time to solo is somewhere around 15-25 hours… and if you’re in a busy area, it can be a lot longer (I’ve been told by one flight school nearby that their average is about 30 hours to solo). So if you’re at 15, you’re certainly not behind the game.

      It seems most of us have problems landing. Many problems are caused – or rather, not fixed – by bad instructors that think they should sit and watch while we try to teach ourselves to land. How can you possibly know what’s RIGHT if you’re constantly doing it WRONG and the instructor isn’t letting you know AS IT IS HAPPENING?

      So be more specific… what it is that’s happening? Are you having trouble in the approach? Are you having problems flaring? Bouncing? Losing control once the wheels touch? Let us know what’s happening and perhaps we can help.

      1. Well I now have about 30 hours of training in the plane and I still cannot land consistently. The school has nudged me to tell me that I should be doing a solo by now so I can’t say they are making me feel that much better. I have mostly decided to ignore their comments and just focus on making small steps (I have landed it a few times) and I am doing okay on other maneuvers for the most part. I feel like I am more slow and steady in my learning (maybe I am taking the short bus to flight school). I am doing it in one week stints at a Part 141 facility so each week is packed with flying and hopefully next week will find me able to consistently land the plane. I can’t solo yet anyway as we are going yet another round on my physical with the FAA so it will be about a 10 week process in total just to get that part. I am actually fine with it but I am pretty sure the head dude at the flight school will be grumpy even though it means a lot more $$ for them and I am not complaining about it. I really see it as more experience before I am left to my own devices. Thank you for the encouragement – oh for the answer – I do okay up until the flare. I am just not getting the feel of the flare they say. Congratulations to Flyingninja. Nice job!

        1. Hi marj g, thanks for the kind words.
          Can I just say that reading your post, I totally get what you are experiencing. Whatever you do, just keep at it. I’ve had so many moments in the recent past when I’ve wondered if I’m wasting my time. I only got the hang of my flares about 2-3 weeks ago (that’s no more than 3 lessons ago). And they’re not perfect either, but okay enough to get the job done.
          One thing did help me – it was a seat cushion to give me probably another two inches of visual height over the engine cowling.
          Another little thing that I did was a light tap dance with my feet on final approach. This was like a wake-up call for my feet to work the rudders. I’d been trying to steer the plane with my hands like I do in a car… in a plane as we all know, that’s just not going to work.
          Everyone learns at a different pace. You’re doing great, so keep going!

        2. Marj, your roll-with-the-flow attitude shows what a winner you are! Surprisingly, the most common challenge entering the flare results from whether you stabilized your approach angle and speed. Too fast causes you to balloon, and too slow to drop it in. (Have you read my make better landings post? It might help.) What model plane are you flying?

  11. Hi all,
    At 1210 today, I flew my solo at Jandakot Airport off Runway 12 on VH-KMB!
    After 25.2 hours of flight training (18.2 hours in circuit), I have managed to fly a circuit as Pilot-in-Command. I’ve got 0.4 hours logged as PIC!
    Totally chuffed and grateful to have got to this point. In anyone’s lifetime, there’s only ever one of this kind of experience.
    I now have to do 3 hours of solo circuits in the Boomerangs before commencing my navigation training in the larger, four-seat Pipers.
    There was awhile back there when I thought I’d never get to this point. But here we are!

    1. Congratulations, FN! Tough as it is soloing, once you accomplish it, there’s no looking back, eh? Good goin’! And keep us posted. Your first solo XC just might be even more fun than your first solo!

      1. Cheers Greg. Am looking forward to the XC solo – actually I’m just keen to start flying above 1000ft again and flying further beyond the airfield’s immediate circuit area!

        Please do keep up the great work on this blog. I totally enjoy reading the info here!

  12. You bet I have read it Greg! Several times in fact. I am one of those “older” people doing this and I do find it harder to learn new tricks vs when my brain was still more spongy – haha. I am learning in a C 172. That is what the school uses.

  13. Hi everybody. its comforting to see that others struggle at times with their flight training. I have just under 17 hours under my belt. it has felt like i have been getting close to my first solo for the last few lessons and today I was going to do it.

    After preflight, I went up with my instructor in the traffic pattern for a couple touch and go’s. Our pattern altitude is 800ft (I know, most are 1,000). I felt like I did everything correctly but everytime I turned off base to my final approach I was LOW. It seemed like nothing was coming together. My instructer had to take control on almost all of my approaches. SO DISCOURAGING. especially in such a “Basic” flight. I also found that my airspeed was slow right before touching down. I have trouble managing my airspeed during slow flight (Any suggestions or tips??) The wind wasnt too strong so I can’t blame it on that (about 8-9 knots).

    I want to fly, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. I have a great sense of accomplishment after a good lesson.. but feel like I’m wasting my $$ after days like today. I find myself not “enjoying” my lessons, even the good ones…instead, a I’m little on edge. Today i was actually looking forward to flying and I was confident…then this happened. So aggrivated at myself and the situation. :\

  14. Hi Matt,

    I get that feeling, too, after each challenging session, so don’t think you are alone. You most definitely are not!

    I had a couple of weeks some months ago where I had trouble with my Straight and Levels. I was trying too hard as it turned out. The next time round, it all clicked and I wondered what that was all about. And then I had issues with my landing… surprise, surprise!

    Can I suggest reviewing your trim on your base turn. You might be trimmed a tad too far back resulting in a higher nose pitch that causes you to lose airspeed and therefore altitude. Also, have a look at whether you are unconsciously applying a fraction too much back pressure as you are on final. This could also be a cause. I know that was/is my problem and the FI has to keep fighting me to delay my flare. Remember, a bit of nose down attitude gets your airspeed back up to your ideal spot again and the plane behaves much better with more airflow over the wings. If you need it, try giving the engine an extra burst of power on short final if your airspeed is on the lowside… I find that helps sometimes as I cross the runway threshold.

    You’re probably a lot closer to your solo than you think!

    Good luck and keep going my friend!


  15. Hi Everyone! I have so enjoyed reading all the posts. Congrats FN on soloing. I remember prior to soloing how discouraged I was thinking how I was wasting my money and not getting anywhere with my flying. Then the day finally came and I was able to solo. Landings were a never ending challenge. My highlight after soloing was my crosscountry from St. Cloud, MN to Duluth, MN to Brainerd, MN and back to St. Cloud, MN. 243 miles. I still can’t believe that I flew an airplane by myself to all those places. That was back on November 18, 2009. I am trying to get myself ready for my checkride. I did the mock checkride with another instructor and he pointed out some things I should work on before my checkride. I flew with my instructor after that and felt like there was nothing that I could do right. I scheduled a solo lesson to practice maneuvers on my own. Steep turns, ground reference maneuvers, landings and takeoffs went well. I struggled with slow flight and stalls. I had a lesson scheduled yesterday but it was OVC 001 most of the day and today is pretty much the same.

    I hope that it clears for Thursday afternoon for the next scheduled lesson at 1pm but we are stuck in a low pressure system for a few days. I have been working on my certificate since June 2008 hoping to be done my January 2010 my 50th but life happens and I missed that goal date so my next goal is before May 5, 2010 because after that I will have to retake my knowledge test and on July 21, 2010 my medical is up. I wish that I could have a great lesson with much confidence and be signed off for my checkride. I love flying and am ready to share that with my husband and kids.

    To all of you discouraged, struggling students hang in there – it is so worth it.

  16. Thanks for the reply FN

    It would be nieve to think “I” was the only student pilot going through this learning curve and the up’s and down’s of flight training. However, it is comforting to read others’ experiences and to share my experiences in this blog. There is nobody around me that I’m close with that can relate to the wonderful (somtimes discouraging) flight training that we are taking on. From the most obvious things like the basic controls and feel of the plane…to the less obvious things such as wind compensation and radio communications..it is all about repetition and learning from our mistakes.

    I am hoping that I solo soon. I plan on sharing my experiences-good and bad on this board and I hope others do too. Sometimes its just good to know that others have shared the same experiences and all learn at their own speed. And yes Jean, I believe that it will be worth it in the end.

  17. Hi Matt,
    One of the things that helps me most is to have a stabilized approach for landings. If my airspeeds are off or my altitude is too high or low for turning downwind to base then I can almost guarantee that I will struggle when it comes to landing. Oh I will be able to land the plane but it won’t be pretty or the soft controlled landing I am looking for. I really struggle with maintaining my airspeeds and altitudes. It has to be a constant effort on my part to be scanning and making adjustments to both. If I have the plane trimmed out it helps- not as many adjustments are necessary. My CFI told me to give my trim wheel one turn down on final and that has helped in my flare and overall landings. This will depend on where you have the trim wheel set in the first place. I was at the same frustrating point you were at with my CFI almost alway taking the controls when we were on final. It took me nearly 8 months of flying weekly before I soloed. It was very frustrating but one thing I learned during all that time was I was still flying and learning about flying during that time. Now I am very comfortable in the pattern, with radio calls to the tower, and landings, if only I could feel that comfortable with slow flight and stalls.

  18. I have a plateau in my learning as well. I am working on my Commercial Certificate. I cannot for the life of me do any Chandelles or Lazy 8s right. I feel like, just like my private days, hit a plateau and feel like I can’t accomplish these maneuvers.
    One, I finally mastered the landings but after endless hours of soloing in the pattern. I have mastered, I think, the Power-Off 180s. I can pretty much nail the 1,000 foot marker everytime.
    Two, But I cannot seem to master the Chandelles and Lazy 8s. When I think I am pulling back slowly for the Chandelle, I am actually pulling back way to fast. When I think I am leveling out slowly, I am actually doing it way to fast. I start to feel stupid because I ain’t progressing. The last two weeks I have been flying I think I’m doing great, I have done well, but this weeks has been different. When I think I am doing it right, I am wrong. I told my CFI, who is excellent by the way and he wasn’t my CFI doing my Private, that I am no longer continuing my Commercial but continue to fly privately. (My checkride was scheduled for this Saturday.) He immediately called back and explained everyone goes through this. I know he is right, but I hate being behind the 8 ball all the time. I have been flying for 14 years, Private and Instrument, but feel like, at times, not progressing as a pilot. All I know is I can land and take off really well, if not flawless. My CFI says I am doing fine all around, but I feel differently. He wants to take me back to the basics of flying. At 37 years of age, I don’t learn as quickly as I once did. This really sucks.

    1. Hey, thanks for your post! As a (much) older pilot myself and longtime CFI, I can verify that it indeed takes us much longer to master various flying skills than when we were younger. On the other hand, once we get it, we tend to be as good or better pilots, and best of all, along with maturity comes vastly improved judgment.

      I do hope you’ll continue down the path of your Commercial and CFI, because based on your flight experience and your eloquent writing, you will make an terrific flight instructor. We need you!

      Are you by chance on Facebook? If so please consider reposting your comment on my student pilot pep talk page. We have some terrific expertise there at every pilot level, and I suspect you’ll get some worthy advice from other members to help you keep rolling. http://www.facebook.com/groups/302038186962/

      In any case, thanks for posting, and do keep flying!

  19. Interesting comments and I appreciate everyone sharing their thoughts. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I recently took up flying again after a 43 year “hiatus” Previously I had soloed and done some solo cross country but did not make it to my check ride. Now I’m starting all over again. I quickly picked up on slow flight, stalls, turns to headings while maintaining altitude, etc, but my old problem has come back — the infamous landing plateau. A few days ago I set the plane down perfectly with no input from my CFI. Today, I flew the pattern correctly, got my speed right, and set up on a good final, but I misjudged the flare and my instructor assisted with the stick.,We did a touch and go, with the same results. Afterwards, my CFI told me to try looking further down the runway, and my next lesson will focus only on pattern work. Maybe practicing landings when I’m fresh instead of at the end of a lesson will help. . .

    1. Hi Joe! Congrats on getting back to flying! Even after all those years, that past flying experience will serve you well. What aircraft are you training in? And where? Keep us posted on your progress! Greg

      1. Thanks, Greg. I’m training in a Liberty XL2 in Maryland. I’ve had time in Cessna 150’s, 172’s, and a Piper Colt, so the stick is new to me, and I like it. And I found that even in my 60’s I have the flexibility to stuff myself into the small cockpit and extricate myself after my lessons.

  20. I just looked back at the comment that i made in 2009, and here we are 2 and 1/2 years later and i had to do a real emergency landing last Sunday following a partial engine failure. The good news is i kept calm and focused, remembered the procedures, made all the correct decisions and landed safely. All the persistence and the insistence of getting it right paid off just when i needed it most. THAT’s why we push ourselves to learn properly.

    1. Welcome back, Lesley! What a story! Please fill us in. Did you knock off your Private? And what’s the story on the partial engine failure? You’ve come a long way!

      1. Hi, yes finished my PPL and done 2 out of 7 exams for the CPL. Bought a plane, a 1950s Chipmunk, also been doing aeros and have since been signed off in a Pitts S2C, a Tiger Moth, retractable and CSU. I’ve also done 12 hours in a Texan T6. 4 hours in an Extra 300 and an hour in a P51 Mustang! Partial engine failure was in the Chipmunk, over water last Sunday, heard a bang/pop and thought it was another cylinder head, but with the calm assistance of ATC on the radio, managed to keep it at altitude and get to nearest airfield about 30 miles away. Huge confidence builder for me; some pals who were listening on the radio complimented me for remembering the golden rule, Aviate, navigate,communicate. Lots of people helped in all sorts of ways, finding hangarage, phoning me afterwards, clearing traffic etc., the aviation community is wonderful! Thanks to everyone!

        1. Lesley, you’ve had some amazing adventures already in your career as a pilot! Isn’t it incredible how quickly (and mercifully) one forgets the trials and tribulations of learning to fly? Congratulations on your accomplishments!

  21. Wow,
    What an awesome article. I soloed on May 21st. My instructor was very happy about how quick I am progressing. I soloed around 15 hrs even though I was ready before that. Today my instructor asked me to solo again but he will fly with me for a couple of landings before letting me do the traffic pattern. After taking off I seemed to have forgotten all the procedures like carb heat, proper rpm setting for each leg etc…
    My instructor told me that if I don’t get it right on next landing we will just quit for the day, he won’t let me solo. That was the first time I felt he was not happy and that scared me a lot. Being the pro that he is, he noticed that I was pretty disappointed myself so he was explaining to me that what I am experiencing is called the plateau. I got it right on the last try and he let me solo again. While soloing I was still pretty shaken and my landings were a little bumpy. At some point I just stopped the flight and went home.
    I am glad I read this article. It helps a lot.
    Thanks a ton for this article Greg.

  22. I’m about 45 hours into my training and feel completely stalled. I felt good for most of my training and then imposed a hiatus while I studied for the knowledge exam. I took waaaay too long preparing for the exam so the hiatus, combined with a busy life, has left me having flown 5 times in 4 months. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped on the exam and it really deflated my confidence.

    My last few flights have been disappointing and even dangerous at time I feel. My CFI is great and tries to keep my spirits up by focusing on the positive but I am very discouraged that I’m not improving. Heck, I’d like to be able to just handle the basics like I used to. Despite all this I am committed to finishing my training. My desire to be a pilot is still strong so I know I’ll get through this even though it feels a bit hopeless for the moment.

    Thanks for this post and to all those who have commented. It’s very helpful to not feel like the only one who’s struggled. Hopefully I can report back with happy news once I’m back on track!

  23. I’m a 15 hr presolo student that can’t get landings to “click”. If anything, it feels like I’ve regressed the last couple of lessons. Was getting quite frustrated, but then found this post. It’s nice knowing that I’m not alone. Thank you!

    1. You are most welcome, Daniel! Anyone who gets landings to “click right off, is by far the exception. So keep kickin’! Are you on Facebook? If so, please c’mon over and join my Student Pilot Pep Talk Group. Lots of warm support and great advice and answers there!

  24. Thank you.
    My instructor recommended me to have a flight with my Chief Instructor to hear a new voice and I didn’t know how I should take it.
    I’m at 21 hrs and not ready for my first solo.
    It’s a little discouraging when you think you’re learning a lot and you find out you’re not quite at the level you should be at. Your article encourages me to keep marching on.

    1. Hi Steven, don’t be discouraged as riding with another CFI is a really good thing, and is in fact mandated in programs requiring stage checks. Also, 21 hours is not an extreme number depending on your age, frequency of lessons, and flight location. Are you on Facebook? If so please come join my Student Pilot Pep Talk Group!

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