Why Some Pilots Don’t Get Through Flight Training


One of the most common fears people have about beginning flight training is that they don’t have what it takes to really fly. Will they be smart enough? Good enough at the controls? Will they struggle with ground school? Or will a fear of heights overtake them?

When contemplating the decision to start flying, people often doubt themselves. But most people get through flight training without a problem at all, once they realize that their fears are unfounded, that they really are smart enough, that almost anyone can learn to fly an airplane.

So why is it that some student pilots never complete flight training?  

First, know that it’s very rare for a student to be unable to complete flight training due to a learning problem. Most functioning teens and adults are completely capable of learning, although some pick things up quicker than others. Believe it or not, success during flight training has little to do with actual intelligence. Here are the most common reasons that a student might not complete flight training.

The don’t have enough time

Flight training takes a bit of time and energy, and sometimes students begin flight training without really having enough time to devote to flying. This leads to cancelled lessons, or going  long periods of time without flying, or showing up to fly unprepared, all things that will delay progression. These students eventually quit altogether when they realize they don’t have the time to put into flight training efforts, but they usually return somewhere down the road. Many flight students are people who are returning to aviation after having a go at it a time or two before.  

They run out of money

Lack of money is a very common reason that students drop out of flight training. Flying involves a large financial commitment and requires serious financial planning and for some, a very strict budget. And just like a person can underestimate the time it takes to get a license, it’s just as easy to underestimate the cash investment it will take. Some people aren’t aware of the total costs upfront, while others might take a bit longer to get through flight training than they initially expected. And still others encounter some other life event that requires taking a step back from flight training due to financial reasons. Again, if flying is a serious goal, these students usually make their way back months or years later.

They don’t have a plan

Flight students who are focused and use a syllabus as part of a larger training program do better than students who just show up and fly without a focus. This is a problem that lies more with the instructor than the student, although a student can seek out a flight training organization like Phoenix East Aviation, which has had great success with an accredited and FAA-approved syllabus for flight training.

They lose confidence or have a scare

Sometimes a student will be scared by a particular even that happened in flight (their first stall or an inadvertent spin, for example) or just by their own lack of confidence in performing well. Almost all of the time, the student will find that by working with their instructor, they’ll overcome these fears or insecurities to go on to further their skills and obtain a pilot certificate, but rarely a student will give up completely, especially in the absence of a supportive instructor.

They have a bad instructor

Finally, a bad instructor might be the biggest reason a student doesn’t complete flight training. While the industry maintains standards for certified flight instructors, sometimes a student and instructor just don’t get along, or sometimes an instructor doesn’t know how to teach a particular student. And sometimes personalities clash, even with the best students and instructors. Many students find that simply switching instructors is the key to their success, but sometimes that’s easier said than done, and unfortunately, students who don’t recognize what’s happening or don’t have the courage to speak up and get a new instructor will have a bad experience and drop out completely.

What’s important to note is that none of these challenges are related to a student’s intelligence level or your learning ability, which is often the first fear that people face when they decide to begin flight training. All of the other challenges mentioned here are easy to overcome if you plan well, keep an open mind, and stick with it.

Have you wondered if you have what it takes to begin flight training? Have you experienced any of these challenges?

  • Norbert Baranyi
    Posted at 10:55h, 02 December

    Erica, you are a real asset to Phoenix East!!

  • Peter Rastello
    Posted at 15:06h, 02 December

    Erica, thank you for this insightful article. I found the section on ‘not having a plan’ to be particularly relevant to me since it is the piece that is holding me back from beginning my education. I am perhaps different than many/most of PEA’s students since I am older and as a consequence am not planning on a career with the airlines. My struggle is in figuring out what direction to take that will provide a decent income without the 65 yr old limit. I’m thinking air taxi or some kind of cargo transport work at this point. Does PEA ever run into people like myself and if so, how do they advise us?

    Thanks in advance!

    — Peter. R.

  • Eze John Ngwoke
    Posted at 06:12h, 11 February

    I have dream’t of it severally,but lack of finance has crippled this dream of mine from being visible,
    please Erica is there away i can asses financial support from any co-operate body or individuals, if there is how would i get to them?
    Thanks in anticipation

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