Welcome to Flightinfo.com

  • Register now and join the discussion
  • Friendliest aviation Ccmmunity on the web
  • Modern site for PC's, Phones, Tablets - no 3rd party apps required
  • Ask questions, help others, promote aviation
  • Share the passion for aviation
  • Invite everyone to Flightinfo.com and let's have fun

student pilot drop outs

Welcome to Flightinfo.com

  • Register now and join the discussion
  • Modern secure site, no 3rd party apps required
  • Invite your friends
  • Share the passion of aviation
  • Friendliest aviation community on the web


Well-known member
Jan 6, 2002
I'm a CFI and it seems like quite a few of my students don't continue to complete their private pilot training for what ever reason.

I was wondering if this is common or am I doing something wrong. I strive to do the best job that I can and always request feedback about my teaching. It must be obvious that I can't keep them excited about flying.

When I did my private we had 10 people start ground school.

2 were doing it because mom and dad wanted them to. 1 was a housewife with a husband wanting her to do something, and the 4th was some kid that never studied anything and failed the first two written test(141 school).

When ground was up, 5 were left. All personal issues in my opinion and not that of the school or instructor.

I would think many people think, humm, I think I will learn to fly. Then find out it is too much to hack.

If it makes you feel any better, when I was in corp america, I would hire two people for one position, knowing that one wouldn't work out. I tried to hire people that would last years, not months, but some people talk a good talk and don't walk the walk.

I had high turnover, but always kept my dept staffed. If a student quits, move on....you can't beat yourself up or think it was your fault especially when you didn't hire the students!:)

If it still bothers you, call them and ask them point blank why they stopped. I bet they will tell you the truth and that it is money (or the lack of), school, time, or a job.
It's probably not your fault.

Most people come into pilot lessons thinking that the only thing the pilot does is steer the plane and call out "Fox 2!". Because for many people the only prior experience they have had with aviation is sitting in the back of a 737, watching "Top Gun", or watching F-16s whiz by at an air show.

As a teenager I was very surprised to see how much you need to learn.

But after months of training it's still interesting to me and I still like it.
When I was instructing I found I had about a 45-50% drop out rate. After the first few I started to ask questions from the start to understand the student and thier individual goals. Equally, by the time of the solo I had a fairly good idea who would stay and who was just for the ride...

I found most were money issue's, some were time and the balance were quite frankly a desire or a dream and it can quickly fade when you start to raise the bar.

I found if it was money, I would make concessions if the student had the drive and desire, and not one let me down. If it was the time, then I tried to accomodate that but it was very hard and only a few followed through. As for the dream and desire, I found out by the solo if it would stay or if it was a fad.

Do not think for a second to blame yourself, but do ask your students, get personal if you have to. It may come across as nosey, but it can also come accross as concern.

My final comment is after I started to understand the student, my drop out rate was a lot lower but I still had a few...
I think the national average is 70% drop out rate, so if only half of your students bail, your doing better than most!
Find out WHY each student wants to fly and find a way to keep them on track to obtain their goal. I know.. easier said than done.

Our school is also a flying club. We call members who haven't flown in a while to keep them fresh/current. Sometimes a person may have a bad flight and go home feeling like they don't have what it takes and weeks turn in to months before or even IF they return. When I call them to set up a flight, most are very eager to return and just wanted someone to show some interest in them.

Communication is key. Find what motivates them. For those who just don't try or care, they'll have to wake up and figure out what they want.
I agree with A1

I agree with A1, you need to find out why. We have instructors who have a 90% dropout rate and frankly those guys don't know what their job is as an instructor. Mostly the reason is the instructor isn't making it fun for them, isn't allowing them to handle the plane enough or isn't keeping them motivated.

Your success as an instructor isn't measured on how many students you have but how many you finish successfully. Flight training is expensive and it really ought to be fun for the student/customer.

I think one of the biggest reasons they quit is they get frustrated and forget about why they started doing it in the first place. This is where the instructor makes the difference. We need to care about them, thats our job. If one of my students drops out I take it personally unless it was a financial decision. Then I improve or change whatever it was that caused the problem. Too many instructors could care less if they are rejected and all they want is the air under their butts for the next job.

In your case do what A1 says and find out why they're leaving. Have the chief flight instructor or some other neutral party call and find out. We had a student in our school that quit because he was tired of moving to different instructors. The only instructor left this student didn't want to fly with. Apparently he overheard the instructor making some unprofessional comments. I called the student and asked why he wasn't flying then told him to give this guy a chance and we regretted his (instructors) comments. The student ended up liking the instructor and now has his PP-ASEL. This instructor shows all of the traits, keeps them motivated, cares about them and he has passion for what he does. He energizes his students with his own enthusiasm.

Anyway, off the soapbox, just by expressing your concern here I would bet you're a good instructor who cares and you may be running into a bad streak of drop outs. But, do yourself and your students a favor and try to find out.

Good luck.
When I started at a 141 school, There were about 25-30 people. When I left in '99 There was about 10 people I started with.
i think theres something wrong with you. i was an instructor for nearly 8 months, had over 500 students, none of whom ever dropped out. they all got thier ratings and send me fan mail on a regular basis.

Latest resources