Comparing Training Aircraft
Some of the more popular aircraft used at flight schools today for the Private Pilot and Instrument Pilot courses are the Cessna 150/152, Cessna 172, Liberty XL2, Diamond DA 20, Diamond DA 40, Beech Sundowner, Piper Warrior, Piper Archer and Cirrus SR20. The Diamond DA 20, Liberty XL2 and Cessna 150/152 are small, 2-seat trainers. The Diamonds, Liberty and Cirrus airplanes have non-steerable nose wheels, so ground steering in those planes is accomplished with differential braking. The Cessna 172, Piper Warrior and Archer, Diamond DA 40, Beech Sundowner and Cirrus SR20 are 4-seat trainers with more room, power and typically better equipment. All of these airplanes are easy to fly and are safe, as long as they are well-maintained.
AAFT uses the Cessna 172. We also use the American Champion Super Decathlon for aerobatic training and tail wheel airplane training. AAFT recommends a 4-seat airplane for most courses. Even though the 2-seaters are cheaper, most are somewhat cramped and less comfortable inside and noisier as well. Because the 2-seater has less power, it climbs more slowly and cruises at a slower speed. You spend more of your training money trying to climb up to practice altitude and get to the practice area where you do your training. Because of this, you really aren’t saving much total cost on your program. Also, 2-seaters prevent students from riding along in the back seat with each other during training sessions to observe lessons and get free valuable experience. The Cessna 172 fleet that we use includes airplanes with the analog instrument panel as well as the “glass cockpit” panel. We provide approximately 10% of your flight training in the analog panel airplanes and approximately 90% of your flight training in the glass cockpit airplanes. The industry is in transition from the old to the new panels and it is important to have training and experience in both types of cockpits.
Most people will want to rent the 4-seater for trips after they complete their training. When you have done all of your training in this type of airplane, you feel more comfortable when you start taking personal trips with your family. The 4-seaters also are heavier, more stable and less susceptible to the effects of turbulence. One of the most important factors in the airplane you train in is how well maintained the airplane is. The schools who charge the highest rental rates on their planes typically provide the greatest attention to detail in keeping their planes safe to fly.