Keep it coming Dart, good reading. I used to be a CFII myself and always wondered why they came up with the sportpilot license. It took my part time students between 15 to 25 hours to solo. The fulltimers did it in between 5 to 10 hours. Add the required cross country and solo hours and you are pushing the 40hr mark for the PPL. Most of my part time students got their PPL between 70 to a 100 hrs. Again the full timers did it mostly around 40-60 hr mark. I guess if you're a quick learner and have the cash to take three or four lessons a week you can do it in 20 hours.
That is an interesting observation there BigC. I did my first solo in 12 hours, had my restricted in 40 and full pilots licence in 52 hours. Actually got quite bored after I first solo'd because I had to do a block of 10 hours of touch and goes...but the cross country flights were da bomb!
When someone asks me about learning to fly I always tell them to make sure they buy hours in blocks because in the long run that works out cheaper and their learning is much more efficient than doing an hour here and an hour in 6 weeks time!
For me I used sims for a couple things;
1. Learning my pre-flight checks and cockpit familiarisation. The less time spent on the ground meant the more time spent in the air cause lets face it, you pay as soon as the engine starts until it stops (ignoring the engine stopping in the air of course:) ).
2. Airfield familiarisation. In NZ I was quite lucky to have access to some VERY accurate terrain! If I was flying somewhere Id never flown before Id have a look at the approaches using the sim (which If fly to using my navigation charts).
Actually...thats it really.
What amazed me when I started to fly was how much harder it was to land in a flight sim!