Preparation for Solo Flight

Now that you can control the airplane on the ground and in the air, it’s time to prepare to fly on your own. The day you first fly solo will be one of the most memorable days of your flying career. Getting to that day is a culmination of lots of work and practice. Once you’ve started working on pattern work, it’s time to make sure you have all the prerequisites in place for solo flight:

  1. Training in all required maneuvers
  2. Completion of a pre-solo knowledge test
  3. Student pilot certificate (new in 2016)
  4. 3rd class medical
  5. In addition, AACIT rules require a pre-solo phase check.

Required maneuevers

14 CFR 61.87(d) lays out the required maneuvers… A student pilot who is receiving training for a single-engine airplane rating or privileges must receive and log flight training for the following maneuvers and procedures:

(1) Proper flight preparation procedures, including preflight planning and preparation, powerplant operation, and aircraft systems;
(2) Taxiing or surface operations, including runups;
(3) Takeoffs and landings, including normal and crosswind;
(4) Straight and level flight, and turns in both directions;
(5) Climbs and climbing turns;
(6) Airport traffic patterns, including entry and departure procedures;
(7) Collision avoidance, windshear avoidance, and wake turbulence avoidance;
(8) Descents, with and without turns, using high and low drag configurations;
(9) Flight at various airspeeds from cruise to slow flight;
(10) Stall entries from various flight attitudes and power combinations with recovery initiated at the first indication of a stall, and recovery from a full stall;
(11) Emergency procedures and equipment malfunctions;
(12) Ground reference maneuvers;
(13) Approaches to a landing area with simulated engine malfunctions;
(14) Slips to a landing; and
(15) Go-arounds.

In addition to these required items, students should

  • be comfortable with radio communication with ATC
  • familiar with basic weather briefings and
  • understand the local practice area boundaries and common reporting points.

Pre-solo Knowledge Test

The pre-solo knowledge test checks that you know basic rules and procedures prior to flying solo. For many students, working on this test is their first real introduction to aviation regulations. The pre-solo knowledge test  I use covers more than the minimum required by 61.87(b). (it’s based upon a recommended test from AOPA). The test is open book, but students should know their airplanes basic speeds by memory. The test is supplied as a word document, so that you can easily edit and save most of the test; I recommend doing any necessary diagrams near the end.

Medical Certificate

See more info on getting your medical certificate.

Pre-solo Phase Check

Many flight training programs, FBOs, and clubs, including AACIT, require phase checks. A phase check is performed by a flight instructor, other than the primary instructor. This check by another instructors helps ensure that students are indeed prepared for their next step in training, such as solo flight. It also gives a student experience flying with someone other than their instructor, as they must do during their checkride. The phase check instructor will ask the student to perform a variety of maneuvers and ensure they are performed safely.


  • Pattern work
  • Soft field takeoff
  • Crosswind takeoffs
  • Short field takeoff
  • Fly to Brackett (POC) – go to another airport and learn about pilotage, airspace, and parallel runways
  • Go to Chino (CNO)
  • Go to Cable (CCB)
  • Bounce (and recovery)
  • Balloon (and recovery)
  • Go around
  • Not landing exercise (optional)
  • Normal landing
  • Unassisted landing
  • Un-coached landing
  • Get medical certificate
  • Complete and discuss pre-solo knowledge test
  • Crosswind landings
  • Light gun signals
  • Simulated engine out landing and emergency procedures
  • Simulated off airport landing
  • Slips/no flap landings
  • Pre-solo phase check
  • Soft field landings
  • Short field landings

Topics and concepts

Using peripheral vision to judge height and alignment when you can’t see forward
Seeing your glide path and adjusting with power and flaps
No radio operations/light gun signals
Wake turbulence and avoidance
Emergency procedures
Operations at different airports
Non-tower operations
Avoiding the “death grip” on the yoke; think pencil, not baseball bat
Operations at airports with multiple runways

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