New pilots often have a sense that they will leave their fledgling state in accordance with a pre-written schedule. In reality, the process of graduating from dual to solo flight is not so easy.
So how do new pilots know when they have what it takes to fly solo? More importantly, how do they know when they can do this with the utmost safety?
Regulation in the past vs. now
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) discusses the lack of regulation around determining when pilots have what they need to fly solo. In essence, there is no set schedule or goal for solo flying. In the past, the goal was for pilots to have what they needed to fly solo after 8 hours of dual training.
However, these days, the air traffic is much higher and the technology has a greater level of complexity. Thus, it takes more time for pilots to learn everything they need to and feel more comfortable with setting off on their own.
Methods of gauging
Essentially, pilot instructors will gauge whether a new pilot is ready for solo flight based on how they behave in dual flight situations and on how ready they seem to feel. In short, they will watch to see if a student can act on their own to make corrections and seems comfortable making decisions without teacher oversight.
But of course, this method of measurement depends entirely on the teacher’s idea of what “ready” looks like. It lacks scientific precision and thus has a wide margin of error. It could serve as one of the many reasons why small plane pilots seem to have a much higher rate of crashes than commercial airlines.