Top 5 Aircraft when Learning to Fly

Top 5 Aircraft when intially learning to fly and hour building towards your commercial license:

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When starting to fly the usual thought is that you don’t have much choice on what to fly. This is true to an extent as most flying schools/clubs have a very limited selection but this doesn’t mean that you must settle for only those aircraft.
As I have progressed through my flying career I have obtained over 30 different type ratings and at any point I’ll be current on at least 6 different aircraft which is really difficult but the ultimate question is, “Has this made you a better pilot?”
The simple answer is YES.

The types of aircraft I will be covering are all based on my personal experience and what I think will develop your skills as a pilot.
The Top 5 Aircraft are:

– Cessna 150
– Cessna 172
– Cessna 182
– Piper Cherokee/Warrior/Archer
– Piper Arrow

To round this article off I will cover Flight Simulators and how they can help you train to become a pilot and make you a better pilot.


Cessna 150:

The Cessna 150 is an amazing little aircraft. It is as old as the hills but it is built as strong as an ox and it is a beautiful aircraft when learning to fly. The reasons I have picked the Cessna 150 over the Cessna 152 are:

– The C150 has 40 degrees of flaps which makes for amazing short field performance. This can also lead to violent tip-stalling qualities which sounds negative but as an experienced instructor, a student really needs to be able to handle extreme situations in order to come

out of flight school as a competent and safe pilot.

-It only has 100hp which forces the student to learn how to deal with a low powered aircraft and truly fly the plane where he/she wants needs to. Contrary to popular belief, flying an aircraft with low hp is harder then flying a high performance aircraft.


The Cessna 150 has lost popularity as a training aircraft sadly due to the dwindling numbers of these aircraft available in an airworthy condition. The C150 is also, at the end of the day, a Cessna aircraft and anything with that prestigious name is expensive to maintain.

If you find find a flight school still maintaining and operating one of these beautiful aircraft, you can be sure to pick up a few “hands-on” flying tips from the instructors who fly

Commercial License c172

Cessna 172:

The next step up, which allows you the luxury of more performance and space but is still easy to fly while you are learning, is the Cessna 172. At first sight the Cessna 172 is definitely a pretty aircraft with nice curvy lines that seem to harmoniously come together at the front end, cowling the 160HP engine.

Pictured here is This Side Up Aviation’s Founding Director, Lawrence Robinson, after completing his Commercial license for the 2nd time. The first time was in South Africa on a Piper Aztec. In general the controls and feel of the aircraft are like a refined version of the Cessna 150 and it almost feels like you are flying royalty. The Cessna 172 is the princess of the skies and gracefully does any maneuver you want her to with very subtle and slight inputs. That doesn’t meant that the Cessna 172 is a slouch. If you bring her back to Va you can throw her around the sky and she will gracefully accept any punishment you dish out with no consequence.

The best part of the Cessna 172 is that you will learn to trust and rely on this aircraft. Even when you are nervous, stressed out and making mistakes, especially during your flight test, she will take one for the team and bring it back for you.

Cessna182 on Beach

Cessna 182:

If the C172 is the princess of the skies, the Cessna 182 is the Queen.

Pictured here is the Cessna 182 having landed on a beach near the Northern Peninsula of New Zealand. This trip was with a student who wanted to learn how to land on a beach.

This brings me to my next point, Utility.

The Cessna 182 has to be one of the best all-round machines to fly. It has a grunty 240HP 6 cylinder engine (This one does) and can cruise at 130knts quite easily. As a long distance cross country machine the Cessna 182 is fantastic and even with four people on board, everyone has plenty of space to move around and it feels like an old-school Cadillac.

The Cessna 182 also has an amazing wing design and flap setup which makes it ideal for short field work. The Cessna 182 gets in and out of bush strips with no issues whatsoever even with it’s hefty payload.

The Cessna 182 comprises power, utility and complexity that makes it a beautiful plane to step up to from the Cessna 172.


Piper Cherokee/Warrior/Archer:


The Piper PA28 series are amazing aircraft when learning to fly. The most noticeable difference between these aircraft and the classic Cessna aircraft is their low wing design.

The Piper Warrior, pictured here, offers you a new perspective on flying as the visibility is completely different and it has a very stable and on-rails feel. Learning to fly one of these 160hp trainers is a very gratifying and enjoyable experience. This is definitely one of the most forgiving aircraft and even if you slow it up too much on landing, end up slamming it on the ground she will be fine and bring you back safely.

One of the other defining aspects of this PA28 series is the fuel valve. It is either selected to the left or right tank. I cannot stress how important this is as a student. It builds in the habit of checking your fuel status, pressure and tank selection which the Cessna’s don’t really require. Piper’s PA28 series have a very commercial feel to them and this carries across to their multi-engine aircraft too. This will be of huge benefit especially when hunting for that first job that most likely has a Seneca, Cherokee 6 or something similar.

The PA28 series are really well rounded aircraft and very popular in flight schools and  commercial operations. The PA28 is definitely a must have in your pilot logbook.


Piper Arrow:

We have already touched on the Piper PA28 series but because the Piper Arrow is a retractable undercarriage, Constant speed Prop and complex variant, I believe it requires it’s own section.

The Piper Arrow has quite a few restrictions due to it’s lack of power which is exactly why it is a great platform to learn on. It has complex controls which will give you a great introduction when moving onto bigger aircraft such as twin-engine aircraft.

The Piper Arrow is quite a heavy aircraft and will definitely require a calculation before you take off from a hot and high airfield or you will end up in a sticky situation. This reason alone probably the best reason to learn to fly the Piper Arrow because it will teach you responsibility and respect when using any aircraft. When you eventually become a commercial pilot and eventually move into the airlines, this attitude and habit of checking everything will be invaluable to you and will keep you flying safely all the way into retirement.

It’s amazing how your initial training will affect your entire career so it is very import to get a good base of experience.


Flight Simulator:

This may not seen like an aircraft but Flight Simulators are one of the best way to learn to fly; or at least learn the basics of flight. This isn’t even the best part of Flight Simulators, they can be used as procedural study tools and guess what… They can cost $0 per hour because you can fly it at home!

Flight Simulators come in all shapes and forms and create no risk for yourself or an aircraft. There are of course different variants:

Home Simulators – Microsoft Flight Simulator X, X-Plane, Prepar3D & Aerofly

Commercial Simulators – FRASCA & X-Plane Commercial

Full Motion – These are useless used by Airlines and are definitely not in the budget for most home users or flight students.

One of the most popular ways to experience flight without actually flying is through Virtual Reality. This allows people the experience of “Real Flight” whenever they want even when there are thunderstorms outside. The only downside to VR is having to payout for a very good system to run it but the HUGE upside is that over a few years you will have saved money compared to flying a real aircraft.

If you’d like to see a really great example of a Full Flight Simulator Setup that you can buy, have a look at this link.

Watch this Awesome Flight Simulator Video of a commercial Simulator