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11 Reasons Why 80% Of Student Pilots Drop Out Of Training

According to AOPA and General Aviation News, 80% of student pilots drop out of training each year before receiving their pilot certificate. So what's causing 8 of 10 flight students to drop out? Here are some of the most common reasons...

1) Lack Of Structured Training

The last thing a new student pilot needs is to step into a flight school and not have a clear path towards their certificate. I've been there. At my first flight school, I found myself wondering what the next lesson would entail, even occasionally showing up having to tell my instructor what exactly I wanted to accomplish that day.

This is a poor model for someone with little aviation experience; it leads to overwhelming confusion for many students. Setting expectations for each flight lesson is a good thing. If you don't feel like there's enough structure, talk to your instructor. And if that doesn't work, try a different flight school. You're the client and you should get your money's worth.


2) Finances

Not being able to fully fund training is a top cause of dropouts. If you're not able to adequately fund most (or all) of your training before you begin, you should consider waiting to start. Save up beforehand and apply for as many scholarships as you can find, so you won't get stuck halfway through training by running out of funds.

3) Medical Problems

It's no secret that getting a medical certificate holds many people back from flight training. If you run into a problem with getting a medical, set up a meeting with your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). They'll work with you to find a solution that's acceptable in the eyes of the FAA. You'd be surprised at how many people can get exemptions. Jessica Cox is an incredible example of just that...she's the first licensed armless pilot in the world.

Go to an AME near you before you begin spending money on initial flight training. If your goal is to become a professional pilot, consider getting a 1st or 2nd Class Medical Exam. These more restrictive exams will test everything you'll need to fly professionally. You don't want any nasty surprises down the road.

4) Poor Flight Instruction

Most pilots have faced a poor instructor during training. It may be a personality barrier, the instructor isn't motivated, or you just aren't getting along. If you can, switch instructors. It doesn't have to be an awkward situation, just keep things professional.

KamrenB Photography

5) Checkride Failures

Failing checkrides isn't an uplifting experience. Students who aren't passing are often left feeling unmotivated to continue.

You should feel fully prepared and confident heading into a checkride. If you don't, consider receiving final instruction from someone other than your primary instructor. A new instructor might be able to tie up unnoticed loose ends.

Joao Carlos Medau

6) Not Setting Clear Goals

What do you want a pilot certificate for? That should be one of the first questions an instructor asks their students. When students don't have clear goals, it's hard to stay motivated to continue training.


7) Killing The Fun Of Flying

It's not all about lessons and checkrides. Most of us began flying because we love it, so don't let the aviation bug fade away through continuous, unrelenting training. Give yourself a shot of aviation adrenaline by picking a fun destination, planning a weekend flying trip, heading to EAA's Oshkosh AirVenture this summer, or any of these other reasons!

8) The "Solo Plateau"

Transitioning from flying with an instructor to those first few solo flights is a huge obstacle that student pilots face. A number of things can go wrong: students don't feel ready, instructors become hesitant, or the weather just isn't cooperating. If you're about to solo for the first time, relax by remembering that your instructor is signing you off because they have total confidence in you.

Rodger McCutcheon

9) Flying Is Much More Work Than Anticipated

You can't get around this one. Many students begin flight training because becoming a pilot seems glamorous or looks adventurous. But when it comes down to it, flight training is simply a lot of hard work. The countless hours studying pay off in the end.

We're here to help you get there. So check out our training courses, which will walk you through some of the most challenging aspects of learning to fly: Aviation Weather, Charts and Publications, and the National Airspace System.

10) Airsickness

Everyone's tolerance for motion sickness is different, and that's especially true in airplanes. Students with little to no flight time in airplanes are often thrown off by initial problems with motion sickness, sometimes dropping out of training because they see little hope of adapting to the motion changes.

Even in extreme cases, it's not impossible to work through. A friend of mine threw up during her first 5 flight lessons. Today, she's a pilot for a major airline flying 737s across the country.


11) Flight Training Isn't A Priority

This one's pretty simple. If you don't make flight training a priority, it won't get done. Students that drop out tend to throw around lots of excuses for why they can't make it out to the airport.

There's no getting around it. If you really want that certificate, you'll need to make flight training a priority.

Daran Dorman

What other reasons might a student drop out of training? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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