Most instructors these days, when pressed to give an ideal number of hours for a new student to solo, will say it’s 10 hours in the airplane. So, all things being equal, can you do that in a week? Sure. Redbird’s “One Week Ready to Solo” campaign, now four days in at Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, sets out to prove that.
Redbird has arranged for nine sim sessions and nine flight lessons, along with other activities, for three students who began with zero flight time. Come Saturday, it’s likely they’ll be close, if not ready, to being capable of taking off and landing by themselves in the Redhawk 172s they’re training in. These are regular people — a motorcycle engineer, an advertising manager and a former Navy corpsman — and they’ve been committed to their goal from day one.
Whether they’ll be qualified for all the other things required for a real pre-solo signoff is beyond the scope of this program, but the main point is that flight training can be accessible to all walks of life. It also should show that success is more likely when the student is motivated and has the proper support – good instructors, a quality program, and the right equipment. Speaking of which, Redbird will drive home the point that sims are great for learning, especially when doing intensive flight training in a short time period. They provide a quiet, stress-free environment for students to practice a number of procedures and can help reduce flight hours considerably. The program also provides a very public acid test of Redbird’s GIFT/TRACEtechnology for computerized self-study and autonomous evaluation by the simulators. We’ll see if that further reduces the amount of time spent with instructors.
All of this will be filmed, practically in real time, and edited into a five-part series that Jerry Gregoire said will be pitched to a cable channel. That’s pretty high-profile promotion. Now the big question: Will this encourage more people to become pilots? Not in great numbers, I’d guess. All the obstacles to flying are still there. It can never be fast enough, easy enough or cheap enough for everyone. In reality, most people can’t take a week off from life to learn to solo an airplane, much less take several more weeks off to complete a private pilot program.
But it could educate those who are wholly uninformed about how it really works. There are lots of people out there who find airplanes cool but believe it takes years or a million dollars to learn how to fly one. I wish it was more common knowledge that a typical student pilot, who works full time, can solo in a few weeks by committing to two ground and two flight lessons per week — if they study, have a decent CFI and good materials and equipment. That same student can get the private ticket in a few months by continuing on that way.
Hopefully, Redbird’s three students enjoy their week of aviation immersion and get some takeaways more valuable than getting to solo in a week. I’d like them to go home knowing that GA is made up of people from all walks of life, many regular people like themselves who fly 172s. I hope they’re better informed about light aircraft and understand that knowing how to fly takes more time on the ground than in the air. I hope they consider going on to learn more and fly more, and maybe even become pilots who can show others how this stuff really works.