1. How much will flight training cost?
- It really depends on the type of aircraft you chose to do your training in. Remember, you get what you pay for. A Cessna
training facility will quote you somewhere in the range of $12,500, whereas flying a Cirrus may cost you around $18,000. Why
so much in the price difference? Some schools only make quotes at the FAA minimums of 40 hours to complete a private license,
where the national average is actually 65 hours. Secondly, you are paying for the technology and safety that a Cirrus provides.
“Well, what if I do my training in a Cessna and then do a transition into the Cirrus”? Not a bad idea, however, a proper transition
course into a Cirrus will cost you ballpark $5,000. Add that to the $12,500 you originally spent, probably more because that quote
was one of those 40 hour quotes, and now you are up to $18,000. Might as well start in the plane you eventually want to fly and have
the comfort and safety features the whole time.
2. How do I get started?
- Usually a great place to start is with a demo or introductory flight. This is usually a short flight to introduce you to the airplane
and its operating characteristics. Although not long enough to really give you a clear idea of what a normal lesson would consist of,
you’ll be able to tell if flying is for you. This is usually evidence with a gigantic smile.
3. How difficult is the medical?
- The medical certificate required to solo isn’t difficult at all. Usually in the ballpark around $80, it consists of a basic physical to make sure you are
“fit for flight”. I’ve never seen anyone denied a medical and if you require glasses, no sweat. They’ll test your eyes and just make a remark on your medical
certificate. If you have any concerns about eligibility for a medical, contact your local Aero Medical Examination Doctor or A.M.E.
4. How soon before I solo?
- A traditional syllabus will have students soloing around 15 hours. That won’t be the case here. Most of my students don’t solo until approximately 30 hours.
The Cirrus, in my professional opinion, requires a little more attention to detail and requires a better overall understanding to solo in. This does not
mean your training will take longer, at all. It simply means that after you solo, you are that much closer to a check ride. And remember,
taking a check ride isn’t really an hour requirement as much as a function of proficiency.
1. I heard that the Cirrus is unrecoverable from a spin?
- Fact of the matter is very few manufactured GA aircraft are certified for spins. The PTS was changed years ago from spin recovery to stall/spin awareness. Meaning that pilots today are not taught how to recover but more so how to recognize and avoid a stall/spin. Cirrus actually had to put the SR-20 through spin testing for the JAA where the test pilots reported no abnormal characteristics. What Cirrus has done, however, is design and develop a wing that affords pilots superior aileron authority in lower airspeeds to help the pilot who knows not how recover from a spin more aircraft control. If anything, Cirrus has worked hard at producing a “spin resistant” aircraft and in aiding to the fact that pilots don’t know how to recover from spins.
2. Does Cessna have a better safety record than Cirrus?
- In 2008 the total amount of Cirrus’s registered in the U.S. verse the amount of Cessna 182’s in the U.S. was roughly a quarter and had roughly the same amount of mishaps. When someone makes this argument about one aircraft verse another they must understand that there are lots of variables. How long have the aircraft been in production? How many are registered? And what are the variables that lead to each mishap, meaning location, lack of knowledge, or cause? These are bountiful and don’t make this the strongest argument.
3. How sturdy is the composite fuselage of a Cirrus?
- Testing the useful life of aircraft structures is fairly new for general aviation aircraft. Older models of aircraft rely on detailed inspections to replace or repair parts of the airframe that may be cracked or show signs of fatigue. Cirrus chose to test their airframes to the extent of 12,000 flight hours and found that the airframe was capable of handling twice that time. It may also be comforting knowing that the methods that Cirrus used were more stringent than others used. The composite materials are a function of technology that is developed to make safer, more aerodynamic airframes and increase reliability. It’s that simple
4. If I learn to get my instrument rating in a glass cockpit is it true I won’t be able to fly steam gauges?
- This is like trying to compare apples and oranges. Anyone who learns to fly a steam gauge panel will be lost in a glass cockpit and vice versa. With that said, the basics should be transferable. Meaning a instrument rated pilot should be able to jump into a steam gauge or glass panel and be able to maintain altitudes, turns to heading, maintain a positive aircraft in instrument conditions. It’s the navigation, situational awareness, and systems that changes and what requires additional training.
5. Why doesn’t Cirrus design a plane with retractable gear?
- Cirrus hasn’t designed retractable gear because they feel there’s no need for it. It’s another system that is capable of failing and with the light weight, aerodynamic design drag isn’t as much of an issue. Besides, in the event of a parachute deployment they’re there and designed to aid in the impact when the aircraft settles to the ground.
Top Ten Tips when picking a Flight School:
- Learn and know the difference between a Part 141 and a Part 61 program and the upside and downside to either.
- Is the school recognized by any aircraft manufacture? If so, they’ve most likely been through a rigorous application program to meet the manufactures standards.
- Decide what your personal goals are. Maybe you’d like to have your license done in the shortest amount of time and you need a strict schedule and a classroom environment to keep motivated. Maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe your only interested in flying once a week in a very mellow environment with no time constraints or pressure to meet test dates and complete homework style assignments.
- What’s your budget? This greatly has an impact on where you may or may not train. Be Careful! Many flight schools may promise to have you finished within a particular dollar amount. Remember, flying and completing a check ride is proficiency based, not hour based. No one can guarantee at the beginning how many hours exactly it will take, and if they say they can, walk away.
- Ask to see a syllabus! .....or at least something. Demand you see some sort of schedule, some sort of game plan laid out with a clear path to success. A Part 141 school has to have these things per the FAA. However, a Part 61 instructor/school does not. Ask what the game plan is for the completion of your certificate and have a schedule planned with tasks to be completed by each lesson. Don’t accept an instructor saying, “Oh, I’ve done this soooo many times that it’s all in my head”. Seeing what your short term goals are will be motivating and alleviate the feeling of chaotic lessons where there seems to be no rhyme or reason.
- How’s the fleet? This might sound odd, but just by walking around and sitting in a plane you’ll get a vibe if it’s properly maintained and taken care of. Is it covered up with sunshades in the window? Are the pitot tubes covered? Is there oil all over the cowl? When’s the last time it was washed? Basically, is the plane a pseudo hard luck case? If the poor planes crying for help do it a favor, don’t fly it.
- Take a demo flight. And if you can, take it with who may be your possible instructor. Most flight schools offer a cheap demo or introductory flight. As important as the program you pick is the person teaching it to you. Not all personalities mesh so it’s very important to find someone you can relate to and are “compatible” with. Remember your position here in picking a school and make sure your “interviewing” your instructor. It’s not required but, have they gone through formal schooling? Do they understand the teaching process?
- Talk to other students. Are they satisfied so far with their experience? Would they have “done it differently” if they’d known better? What are their complaints with lessons, billing, availability of planes and instructors, ect.?
- Does the school have a simulator, and what types of resources are available to students? Most don’t have a simulator, however, this can be a tremendous tool in your curriculum. It’s a low stress environment to focus on things you may not be understanding and save money on recurrent training. Or, does the school have any kind of a library or teaching aids for use? Is there a PC based avionics trainer or flight simulator program?
- Don’t be fooled. It’s been my experience that many flight schools are chalk full of false promises and empty facades. Keep in mind that at the end of the day their trying to run businesses too. Do your research and look around. There’s everything from stand alone “freelance” Part 61 instructors who operate with just a tie down to academy style schools that require haircuts and uniforms. There’s defiantly a fit out there for everyone no matter what their goals or experience may be.
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