Safety Publications/Articles

Before First Solo

Fifteen Tasks To Teach

Every flight instructor knows the need to administer a presolo written test. But do you know exactly what maneuvers you are required to teach before you launch your students on their first solo flights?

There are 15 maneuvers that students must learn before they can fly alone. And the instructor must have a record that documents the training.

FAR 61.87 lists the maneuvers. There are 15 for single-engine airplanes (14 for multiengine airplanes). The required tasks are listed separately for other aircraft and the number of tasks varies: helicopters, 17 tasks; gyroplanes, 15; powered-lift, 17; gliders, 19; airships, 13; and balloons, nine.

Presolo Tasks For Single-Engine Airplanes

  1. Flight preparation procedures, including preflight planning and preparation, powerplant operation, and aircraft systems.
  2. Taxiing or surface operations, including runups.
  3. Takeoffs and landings, including normal and crosswind.
  4. Straight-and-level flight and turns in both directions.
  5. Climbs and climbing turns.
  6. Airport traffic patterns, including entry and departure procedures.
  7. Collision avoidance and wake turbulence avoidance.
  8. Descents, with and without turns, using high- and low-drag configurations.
  9. Flight at various airspeeds from cruise to slow flight.
  10. Stall entries from various flight attitudes and power combinations, both with recovery initiated at the first indication of a stall and from a full stall.
  11. Emergency procedures and equipment malfunctions.
  12. Ground reference maneuvers.
  13. Approaches to a landing area with simulated engine malfunctions.
  14. Slips to a landing.
  15. Go-arounds.

Of course, these tasks apply only to those first solo trips around the pattern. Cross-country flying is another matter and has its own teaching requirements.

12 Tasks Before Solo Cross-Country

Look at FAR 61.93 for solo cross-country requirements. Before a student pilot can fly cross-country alone in a single-engine airplane, that pilot must have received and logged training in 12 maneuvers. The tasks and their number are different for multiengine aircraft, helicopters, gyroplanes, powered-lift, gliders, and airships.

Tasks For Single-Engine Airplane Cross-Countries

  1. Use of aeronautical charts for VFR navigation by pilotage and dead reckoning with the aid of a magnetic compass or heading indicator.
  2. Use of aircraft performance charts pertaining to cross-country flight.
  3. Procurement and analysis of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts, including recognition of critical weather situations and estimating visibility while in flight.
  4. Emergency procedures.
  5. Traffic pattern procedures that include area departure, area arrival, entry into the traffic pattern, and approach.
  6. Procedures and operating practices for collision avoidance, wake turbulence precautions, and wind-shear avoidance.
  7. Recognition, avoidance, and operating restrictions of hazardous terrain features in the geographical area where the cross-country flight will be flown.
  8. Procedures for operating the instruments and equipment installed in the aircraft to be flown, including recognition and use of proper operational procedures and indicators.
  9. Use of radios for VFR navigation and two-way communications.
  10. Takeoff, approach, and landing procedures, including short-field, soft-field, and crosswind takeoffs, approaches, and landings.
  11. Climbs at best angle and best rate.
  12. Control and maneuvering solely by reference to the flight instruments, including straight-and-level flight, turns, descents, climbs, use of radio aids, and air traffic control directives.

Also, prior to solo flight, in accordance with FAR 61.87, the student pilot will be tested on appropriate sections of FAR 61 and 91. Airspace rules and procedures where the solo flight will take place must be covered, as well as the flight characteristics and operating limitations of the airplane to be flown.

At the conclusion of the test, the instructor who gave the test will re-view it with the student and correct all incorrect answers before authorizing that student for solo flight. If a student is to be soloed in a different airplane, that student must take another presolo written test identifying knowledge on that different airplane.

Of course, these requirements constitute a minimum schedule for training. Consistently good flight instructors will attempt to instill in their students a sense of concern and respect for safety and judgment, far beyond simple stick-and-rudder instruction.

By Ken Medley

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