A “hothouse flower” is a new and tender plant growing in a strictly controlled environment. Agricultural greenhouses protect new, fragile plants from the wind and weather to ensure survival and promote early growth. Young tender plants are then carefully “hardened” to thrive in the actual outdoor weather conditions. We need the same early care in flying, but we also need the incremental “hardening” in pilots to ensure their future safety in the real aviation world.
Modern, accelerated flight training protects pilots but unfortunately does not provide the required “hardening” of pilots to deal with the real world of wind, weather (and ATC stress). Consequently, most pilot applicants are still “hothouse flowers” when they get to the flight test, limited to blue skies and no wind. Testing is challenged by waiting for the “perfect blue sky day” for testing. Initial restrictive minimums make sense on solo to ensure safety; 5K crosswind and clear blue skies. But to become a real pilot every aviator needs “hardening” to handle more wind and weather. (Ever wonder why those beautiful plants you buy at the supermarket die quickly when you bring them home?)
FAA CFR 61.93 is where the real-world “pilot hardening” of new pilots is *required* to take place. This reg. *requires* crosswind training, turbulence training, pilotage as well as short /soft TOL and simulated IMC. Realistic viz and ceilings become essential to accumulate the required solo cross-country requirements in most of the US (and private-level solo is the real solo most pilots ever get). To become safe pilots, an inner set of personal minimums are necessary that are tested on every flight evaluation. Real solo flight time is so valuable for developing personal confidence and command authority; time to put on those “big person” pants.
Adaptation to realistic weather conditions (and real solo flight) is increasingly rare in modern flight training; instead, we create weak pilots. “Blue sky flight training” is the norm with little wind and weather included in the syllabus. To be honest, many new flight instructors are similarly uncomfortable in real weather conditions creating a repeating cycle and weakening aviation safety. We need to “expand the envelope” (safely) across our flight training industry. We need more weather training because the real world is ultimately not the forgiving “blue sky” environment of “hot house flight training!”
If you wonder why we have increasing difficulty scheduling flight tests, this modern timidity is a major conspirator, competing with airplane and examiner availability. Finding the “perfect day” that lines up with availability is nearly impossible (I usually test in Upstate NY). Training beyond the basic test minimums (70% is a “pass”) builds safer pilots equipped to deal with the future challenges of wind and weather. Fly safely (and confidently) out there. Build your skills carefully with some effective dual outside your comfort zone ; and don’t forget to have fun 🙏
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