Too Scared to Solo?

While a first solo is always a challenge, for 64-year-old Mark Ballett it seems more than that, even after 42 hours in a C42 - in fact, it feels like a circuit too far. What should he do? Give up, or keep at it? Conquer his fear, or accept it's just not for him?


This is how it is. I am fascinated by flying and all things that fly and always wanted to learn to fly. In fact, I passed a Royal Navy flying grading in a Chipmunk aged 18, without soloing, as it was too windy at the time. Now aged 64 I’m trying again. My problem is that whilst I can fly the plane – my super instructor, Alex, keeps telling me this - I’m scared of going up in the air on my own. Surely, planes need an instructor in them to operate properly?


Now, Alex told me I was ready to solo after 20 hours, but things didn’t work out. Alex didn’t have enough instructor hours to just let me solo; we had to fly to another aerodrome, with a much shorter runway than I was used to, and then I had to go up with another instructor. Sadly, I got lost in the circuit, pointed too much to the left on take-off, and landed a bit to flat, so he quite understandably said ‘no’. But the experience phased me and I contemplated stopping.


Trouble is, I am compelled to do it, but don’t really want to always have to fly with trusty Alex, or someone else when he retires – he’s currently in his mid-twenties! My very wise daughter, Ruth, says not to worry about it, just keep going and do it when I am ready but WHO takes 50 plus hours to solo? I am a man after all, I can barely show my face in the club house as it is – only a little tongue in cheek, that, and not sure there is a clubhouse, as such - I also realise that the longer it goes on – me relying on Alex, like I do – the harder it will be for me to break the habit.


I’m writing this because I like QuizAero and what it is doing, and I don’t know anyone else learning to fly. Am I alone in my apprehension/fear? Are old folk just more cautious? Is it just plain cowardice? If so, where is Dorothy when you need her?

I am a pretty determined person, but this is a major challenge for me. Perhaps that is a good thing: it is no small thing to be given free rein to gyrate a flying machine beneath the clouds and above other people’s heads – yes, I know, at least 500 ft above them.


Look, I’m trying to be optimistic. In fact, I have just bought a secondhand set of David Clark H10-30’s because I think sharing headsets may not be a ‘thing’ in the new world order we find, once GA starts-up again. Also, I’m planning a cross-country trip to Cornwall, from Headcorn, with Alex at my side, of course.


Wish me luck and if you have any words of wisdom – apart from ‘just get on with it’ - or you have been through a similar experience as you conquered your own demons learning to fly, please get in touch.


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QuizAero adds: Many thanks to Mark Ballett for sharing his training experience with us. Please share your comments for Mark in the section below.

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