Requirements for Solo Flight
A few students here at CHI Aerospace have excitedly asked what exactly they need to successfully demonstrate in order to make their first solo flight. Thank you to those students who have submitted such a question for a blog!
The answer can be found in the FAR/AIM; specifically, FAR 61.87. This section outlines the solo requirements for single engine airplane, multi-engine airplane, helicopter, gyroplane, powered-lift, gliders, airships, balloons, powered parachute, and weight-shift controlled aircraft. However, we'll only discuss the requirements for single engine airplanes in this blog.
With that, let's get started!
The student must complete/successfully demonstrate all of the items in this list. Yes, that's essentially what 61.87 starts with.
Take a pre-solo aeronautical knowledge test. This text must cover the applicable sections of FAR part 61 and 91, rules and procedures for the airport and airspace you'll solo from, and operational characteristics and limitations for the airplane you'll be flying. You and your CFI will then go over the test and review any mistakes.
Receive and log flight training for the specific maneuvers required for solo flight. Also "demonstrate satisfactory proficiency and safety" while performing those required maneuvers.
Okay, fine! You can do that. But what are these required maneuvers? Part 61.87 lists them very clearly:
Proper flight preparation procedures, including preflight planning and preparation, powerplant operation, and aircraft systems;
Taxiing or surface operations, including runups;
Takeoffs and landings, including normal and crosswind;
Straight and level flight, and turns in both directions;
Climbs and climbing turns;
Airport traffic patterns, including entry and departure procedures;
Collision avoidance, windshear avoidance, and wake turbulence avoidance;
Descents, with and without turns, using high and low drag configurations;
Flight at various airspeeds from cruise to slow flight;
Stall entries from various flight attitudes and power combinations with recovery initiated at the first indication of a stall, and recovery from a full stall;
Emergency procedures and equipment malfunctions;
Ground reference maneuvers;
Approaches to a landing area with simulated engine malfunctions;
Slips to a landing; and
Some students can complete all of these items in a few hours, while others take longer. It's okay, everybody is different and we all struggle with different skills. A great way to practice some of these skills (and save money) is to use the full-motion simulators offered here at CHI Aerospace. The Redbird XW is great for practicing those challenging crosswind landings, while the Redbird FMX is useful for practicing other skills like ground reference maneuvers, go-arounds, traffic patterns, normal flight procedures, radio work, and more.
To see the full section of 61.87, either pick up a FAR/AIM from our pilot shop or check out this link: http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgFar.nsf/FARSBySectLookup/61.87
As CFII Dave Hirschman says in AOPA Flight Training,
"I'm not looking for perfection. An unbroken string of greaser landings makes student pilots feel great, but they mean little to me as an instructor. The thing that shows me a student is ready to solo is his or her response to unanticipated adversity: bounced landing, an obstacle on the runway, a stronger-than-expected crosswind, an aircraft door coming open in flight. Aviation is full of surprises, and handling the unexpected is an essential skill for pilots. Calm, clear thinking and solid aeronautical decision making (ADM) are the best indications of readiness for solo flight - and long term pilot success."
Your first solo is a huge step in your training and it'll be a ton of fun. Keep practicing your flying skills and studying the aeronautical knowledge. You'll be flying solo in no time.