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Home > Blog > First Solo Flight

Your First Solo Flight: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Posted 03 Jun 2024

Solo Flight

In this guide, we will cover everything that you need to know about your first solo flight and how you can prepare for it.

If you truly want to experience the best of aviation, then there is no better way than to go for a solo flight.

Solo flights put you in full control of the aircraft and allow you full autonomy in every aspect of flight. Whether it is flight checks, ground inspections, manoeuvring, or route, the pilot gets to decide where they want to go and how they want to execute the flight!

While solo flights provide the ultimate flying experience, they require quite a bit of practice and logged flight hours! In this guide, we will cover everything that you need to know about your first solo flight and how you can prepare for it.

Read below to learn more!


Aviation is an experience-based field that requires quite a bit of technical knowledge about the aircraft, aerodynamics, and the particulars of flight. This is why many pilots are required to train or fly with a veteran professional who oversees every aspect of the flight with the trainee.

However, at the end of every flight training programme, pilots must showcase their training and skills by attempting a solo flight. This solo flight is extremely important because it culminates all the ground and flight training the pilot goes through at their flight school.

Once the pilot successfully demonstrates that they can fly solo and have fulfilled all of the requirements in a flight programme, they are awarded a pilot licence by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Several factors go into a solo flight. Let’s go over a few of the basics required to attempt it:

Age Requirements

As per the Civil Aviation Authority, the minimum age requirement for solo flight is 16 years old. However, for a pilot to apply for a licence, they must be at least 17 years old.


There are two parts of flight training: ground school training and flight training.

For ground school training, the pilot must show prowess in multiple disciplines ranging from aerodynamics, meteorology, navigation, principles of flight, air law, and more. These subjects are designed to teach the theoretical side of flying and are immensely important in developing intuition and an understanding of the various aspects of flight.

Flight training is where all the practical training happens! Flight training focuses on basic flight manoeuvres, take-offs and landings, emergency procedures, and navigation basics. These topics help pilots get a “feel” for the aircraft and how it operates while in flight.

Medical Requirements

To demonstrate that the pilot can fly an aircraft without hindrance due to medical reasons, the pilot must obtain a medical certificate.

There are two primary medical certificates. A Private Pilot Licence requires a Class 2 certificate, and a Commercial Pilot License requires a Class 1 certificate. Class 1 medical certificates are more thorough and have several requirements that the pilots must fulfil while a Class 2 certificate is relatively easier to obtain. A LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilot Licence) medical certificate may also be acceptable for some flying scenarios.

Instructor Approval

If you have completed most of the requirements for your licence, you may get an endorsement from your flight instructor for a solo flight. In this case, the flight instructor will endorse your logbook and confirm that you have met the requirements for the license and are ready to attempt a solo flight.

Solo-Flight Theory Exam

A pilot will be tested on their theoretical knowledge with a solo-flight theory exam. This written exam is designed to assess the pilot’s understanding of air law, various pre- and post-flight SOPs, flight safety, and navigation.

Flight Time

As per the Civil Aviation Authority, pilots must accumulate around 10 to 20 hours of flight training before they can attempt a solo flight. This requirement can vary based on individual progress and ability as officially there is no minimum flight hour requirement for a solo flight.

Solo-Flight Particulars

For you to fly solo you will have to make sure that the weather conditions are favourable for the flight. Your first solo flight must be conducted under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) which are a set of rules that dictate the right weather conditions for a flight.

In addition to this, the pilot must also demonstrate that they are familiar with the aircraft that they have chosen for their solo flight.  This means that you must have logged flight hours in the same model or type of aircraft that you want to fly.


Other than flight and ground training, there are a lot of other elements that can pose challenges for pilots attempting their first solo flight.

If you don’t resonate with any of the points below, then you are either overconfident or a veteran.

The point is solo flights can be inherently challenging and can elicit various emotional responses – but that’s completely normal and expected!

Here are some of the challenges that you might face during your solo flight and how to overcome them:


Flying solo can be nerve-wracking, and it should be! After all, you are taking over an entire aircraft, all the flight processes and procedures, as well as the flight route/plan. It is normal to feel some level of anxiety and nervousness during this time.

The easiest way to overcome this is to practice! By practising your flight and going over your flight plan with veteran pilots, you can curb your nervousness and become more aware of the aircraft during a solo flight.

However, if you are too nervous or your anxiety makes you unfit to fly, then you must report to your flight instructor for instructions on how to proceed.

Weather Problems

Some things are not in your control! Even though aviation is based on advanced technologies and predictive models, sometimes the weather just isn’t favourable for solo flights – and that’s okay.

While it can be a bummer that you planned everything (including the weather) perfectly and can’t fly on your decided day, you can always wait until you have the weather conditions dictated by the Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

Communication While In-Flight

Solo flying means that you will have to take over all the communication from the aircraft and the ATC as well! This can be quite daunting, however, if you have trained properly, then you will know the exact lingo and short-form communication to use to effectively convey your location, status, and even emergency scenarios.

The best way to perfect this skill is to go over the communication course with your instructor and practice all the scenarios before your solo flight. This way, even if you face unforeseen circumstances, you can easily combat them with your training.

Aircraft Handling and Emergency Scenarios

Emergency scenarios are rare in modern aviation because of the many safety procedures in place, however, bad things don’t need a reason to happen! But don’t worry, emergency scenarios are part of your training and all you need to do is take a deep breath, focus, and remember your training to get through.

Furthermore, handling aircraft solo can be quite different. When you are flying with a trained instructor, there are a lot of things that you don’t even think about since the instructor is there to take over things. However, during a solo flight, you will need to make sure that you have practiced flying in the aircraft of your choice and are comfortable with it in multiple scenarios.


There are two types of light aircraft that you can use for solo flights while training. The first is a traditional flex or fixed-wing light aircraft and the other is a microlight.

Flex or fixed-wing aircraft are the go-to choice for many trainees because of their agile design and performance. Flex wings are designed with a wing system that has a lightweight fabric wrapped around the wing structure that allows the wings to “flex” which gives them a unique and responsive flying experience.

Fixed wings are traditional aircraft that you might have seen at airports and movies! These aircraft have a fixed wing made from lightweight composite material. These aircraft are slightly larger than flex wings and have an enclosed cockpit (unlike a flex wing) which allows for more room for passengers and flight equipment.

Here are the benefits of flying each type of aircraft:

Benefits of Flying Microlights Solo

Fewer hours of training:

Microlights require fewer hours than traditional aircraft! Comparatively, the required training hours are much less than that required for a Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) or a Private Pilot Licence (PPL). This means that you can practice flying solo on a microlight and get accustomed to being alone in the skies. So, when you move on to larger aircraft, you will be more familiar with the experience.

Relatively Easier to Fly

Microlights have minimal instruments, so you can solely focus on your manoeuvres and navigation. This is an excellent option for beginner pilots who want to experience the skies on their own but aren’t comfortable with a fixed-wing aircraft.  

Lower speeds/Better Handling

If you want to take it slow, then a microlight is a great place to start. Flying solo requires presence of mind and if you are unsure about flying solo on larger aircraft, then a microlight will be up to your speed!

Since microlights such as the three-axis and the EuroFox are generally slower than light aircraft, they allow for a more relaxed experience, allowing the pilot to get used to the flying experience and take in the views as well.

Slow flying is very enjoyable and can be a liberating experience which is why we recommend it to every pilot looking for a smooth solo flight.  

Benefits of Flying Light Aircraft Solo

Test All your Skills

If you are top of your class and have trained for a full flying experience then a solo flight in a light aircraft will be worth it!

Flying a light aircraft involves more skills which can help pilots gain experience and even boost their confidence.

Easily Accessible

Light aircraft are the industry standard. This means that you will find them in nearly all flight schools. Most comprehensive flight schools, like Sherburn Aero Club, have a fleet of light aircraft that you can choose for your solo flight.

The Cessna Skyhawk and the Piper PA 28 aircraft are two of the most popular general aviation aircraft and are great for solo flying!

Longer Solo Flights

Light aircraft are generally more complex and have a larger fuel tank. This means you can fly them longer and get more flight hours! These aircraft are ideal for pilots who want to attempt a thorough solo flight and test their skills to the maximum.

Light aircraft also provide the full flying experience due to their speeds and manoeuvrability. They are by far the
best choice for pilots to train for solo flights. We recommend that you pick a light aircraft and stick to it until you master all its controls. This way, you can become accustomed to and comfortable with flying these types of aircraft.



Solo flights are a part of any pilot licence programme. So, you will not need to specifically obtain a licence for it. Most flight programmes culminate in a solo flight that showcases your training and proves that you are worthy of a pilot licence.

To fly aircraft, in general, you will require a general aviation licence. Light aircraft pilots need either the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL).

As mentioned above, a LAPL is easier to obtain as compared to the PPL, with the PPL requiring a total of 45 hours of training and a LAPL requiring a total of 12.

An important point to note is that you can fly light aircraft and lower category aircraft with the LAPL – but if you choose to obtain additional training for a PPL and flight ratings, then you will be able to fly more complex aircraft.


If you are a trained and professional pilot who is looking to own a private aircraft for solo flights, then you have multiple options!

By becoming a member of a flying club, like Sherburn Aero Club, you will have the option to purchase an aircraft through the club’s marketplace. Sherburn is proud to have a body of trained pilots and enthusiasts who regularly seek thrilling flying experiences through solo flights!

However, if you don’t wish to spend that much owning an aircraft for solo flights, then you have the option to buy shares of an aircraft.

If you want more freedom to fly solo whenever you want, then we recommend that you rent out an aircraft. Sherburn Aero Club rents aircraft on an hourly basis, so you will only pay for the time that you use the aircraft for your solo flight and save money instead of purchasing one!


Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

We offer dedicated private and commercial pilot training, the required experience for operating aircraft at night, as well as solo flight training. In addition to this, the club also offers simulators for various training needs and to help new pilots gain confidence before the real deal.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on solo flights and how to prepare for them.

Photo by Rui Alves on Unsplash



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