A Student Response To Flight Training Dropouts

By Ted Seastrom

Learning to fly an airplane photoSixty percent of students who start flight training drop out. They never make it to their private pilot certificate.

This is a conservative estimate. It uses student medicals as a reference point. In other words, these dropouts are people who made a serious start on flight training and knew how much it would cost.

So what goes wrong? In my opinion as a recent private pilot student, two things.

First, students are unfamiliar with and unfocused during the training process. Outside of universities and 141 programs, flight training it is usually delivered piecemeal. There is often inconsistency in curriculum, training staff, and airplanes. Consequently, students have difficulty managing their progress.

Second, a large percentage of new instructors are young and inexperienced. Many become CFIs to build time. You have beginners teaching beginners. Worst case scenario, you’re matching an immature reluctant instructor with a demanding mid-career professional.

As a result of my own experience—and seeing friends drop out and give up on lifelong dreams—I decided to write about it. “Learning to Fly an Airplane: Insider information from a student perspective” can be downloaded or read online for free at tedseastrom.com/fly.

This is the book I wish I’d read before taking my first flying lesson. It’s not about how to fly. Instead it walks students through each stage of the training process. It warns them of the pitfalls and encourages them when facing unexpected challenges.

Flight training isn’t going to change anytime soon. But going into the experience with eyes wide open might improve student completion rates. It will certainly make the process less frustrating and more enjoyable.


A private pilot with 220 hours, Ted Seastrom is a writer and consultant. For more information, visit his website at www.tedseastrom.com.

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