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Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

Posted July 21, 2009 2:48 PM by tinypilot18

The cost of a plane is usually proportional to the size of the aircraft. There are, of course, other factors. These include the technology in the plane and the aircraft's age. But when the planes have all the same features and are all the same age, size matters.

When I learned to fly, I was trying to save money. So I chose one of the smaller planes in the lot - the Cessna 152. This aircraft is actually the smallest of its type, until you get into a different class of planes called Light-Sport.

Don't Overload the Plane

Renting a plane with four seats doesn't necessarily mean that you can fly four people. So think twice if you plan to haul four, 300-pound men. Fortunately, there's a chart you need to fill out called a weight and balance sheet. It determines exactly how much the plane can hold.

If the aircraft can't hold everyone, some unlucky passenger will have to drive instead! If that's not an option, you'll need to drain the fuel tanks a bit. Remember, however, that if you're traveling a long distance, you'll have to refuel more often.

If you overload the plane, there's a chance it might not even get off the runway. There's also a chance it may have trouble climbing, have a tendency to stall or not recover from a stall, or exhibit overall poor performance. There are also a bunch of other bad scenarios.

When you rent a plane, remember the size of the person. Because I'm under 5 ft. tall and weigh around 100 lbs. (more or less), I have no problem fitting into smaller planes. My instructor, however, was a tad bit bigger than me. This made those hot summer flights interesting, to say the least. We were pretty much packed on top of each other.

Cessna Aircraft

In retrospect, renting the larger Cessna 172 (the next size up) would have probably been a lot nicer, a lot roomier, and a lot more enjoyable when I was learning to fly.

Pilots say that you always go back to the plane you trained on. From experience, I can say that's true.

I logged over 100 hours in that old Cessna 152. Even after getting my license and flying the 172, I still enjoy taking the 152 up for a spin. The 152 may be older, smaller, and basically falling apart, but it's still my favorite. I'm so used to it now that I could fly it in my sleep. I could write a book about all of the things that went wrong with that old 152, but to me it's still the best plane on the lot.

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#1

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/21/2009 4:14 PM

I would assume that distribution of weight is also very important. I know it is when riding a motorcycle and carrying gear. You want to maintain a symmetrical proportion of gear and keep it towards the center of the bike the best that you can.

Is this similar to how one loads a plane? In that, I mean, if you have four seats and the three people riding, it is important to make sure that the left-right and front-back distribution is as even as possible.

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#2
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/21/2009 4:57 PM

Yes, if all of the weight is towards the rear of the plane, one would experience such problems like a climbing tendency, difficulty recovering from a stall, etc.. while a plane with all of the weight in the front of the plane would experience the opposite problems, such as difficulty climbing or taking off. In your weight and balance chart, there are different "arm" lengths to different areas in the plane, such as the storage trunk, the back seat, the front seat, etc... which you can calculate the maximum safe amount of weight to put in each area.

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#3
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/21/2009 5:00 PM

Wow. I guess that is a lot more involved than just standing over the bike with the kickstand up to see if it leans in a given direction.

I have always had a lot of awe for pilots in terms of how much you need to know before you even start the engine.

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#4
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/21/2009 5:06 PM

Well it may seem like a lot to know, and it is something necessary to learn in ground school, but for practical purposes, if you and a buddy are just going up in a cessna for joyride, there's no real need to calculate a weight and balance chart for that flight. This becomes necessary mainly when flying with 3 or more men, or when carrying a lot of luggage; mostly used for long distance trips of some sort.

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#5
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/21/2009 5:33 PM

Haha. I agree that you slightly underestimated how much more intense a plane would be to balance than a bike.

It makes sense though. If you notice an imbalance on your motorcycle, you pull over and fix it. If a pilot notices an imbalance while flying, there aren't many opportunities to just "pull over a second so they can adjust their weight distribution."

Interesting blog. I find that it is sort of the same with cars. When you get your first vehicle, it can be a complete piece of junk, but you will learn to love it and resent getting rid of it.

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#8
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/22/2009 12:08 PM

Well, I wouldn't say underestimate as I realized the addition of a third dimension to travel had to add more parameters to consider. I just wasn't sure how involved that was.

I am also sure that changes mightily as the craft changes size, as riding a 50cc minibike is a different experience than riding a V-Star 1600cc cruiser. You have the same balance variables, I'd assume, but weight tolerances and reductions in vehicle reaction would be markedly different.

Or so I would imagine...

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#7
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/22/2009 11:54 AM

Hi you all...

Weight, balance and center of gravity location are very important issues on aircrafts, very critical to neglet. The CG must be in the within its limits on the envelop,you have a max you can go Aft and FWD, otherwise performance and safety are at stake.

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#6

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/21/2009 6:48 PM

It is apparently a very good time to buy an airplane if you are solvent.

For training or pleasure flying I am more inclined towards choosing either High Wing, or Low Wing designs.

Death rates for 152 Cessnas are lower than for Piper Tomahawks since a 152 was designed to fly itself out of a stall spin, whereas the Tomahawk was designed to force the pilot to fly it out of a similar situation.

Used to be those with 250 hours were considered at most risk, for they had just enough time to get cocky.

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#9

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/22/2009 7:35 PM

"renting the larger Cessna 172 (the next size up) would have probably been a lot nicer, a lot roomier, and a lot more enjoyable"

And you can log more touch n goes in an hour with a 172 due to higher airspeed. If the pattern is uncluttered.

Cheers

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#10

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/22/2009 10:57 PM

In the small plane category you should consider the Citabria - perhaps - the 150 model which signifies a 150 horse engine.

The difference between the Citabria and either the 'underpowered' 152 or the 172 falls upon the pilot like - well - maybe not an orgasm - but certainly a revelation. Yup , it's a tail-dragger (another hour or so of instruction required) ... but a whole NEW sky opens up to you. A poor man's Spitfire!

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#11

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/26/2009 2:13 PM

Just give me a nice look-down airplane; Piper Cub, Aeronca Champ, Breezy.

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#12

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/26/2009 3:55 PM

Still, those hot planes have an appeal. Fast and high are the way to go. All the recip engines do come apart.

Damn old Cessna 310 was for me extremely desirable.

Fast enough, and more comfortable than a hot Beech Baron.

What you really want as a professional is something that will do 250 Miles per hour.

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#16
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

08/04/2009 2:54 PM

Grumman F8F Bearcat: 465 MPH level with R2800 producing 2,300 HP. Demonstrated to Navy brass by doing 2,000 ft loop at takeoff.

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#17
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

08/04/2009 10:03 PM

Ahhh, now don't get started

AD-1 Skyraider anyone? Personally a utility fan myself - Grumman Albatross is my dream beast.

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#18
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

08/05/2009 9:36 AM

If utility is what you want, then my choices would be either a Comp Air 4 (composite) or a BushCaddy L164 (conventional).

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#19
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

08/05/2009 10:33 PM

Maybe it isn't the utility as much as the history, if I go smaller (after the lotto) I want a DeHaviland

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#13

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

07/28/2009 12:59 AM

Airplane pilots drive airplanes; hang glider pilots fly.

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#14

Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

08/03/2009 9:55 PM

How much does a cessna 152 cost approximately?

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#15
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Re: Learning to Fly: Choosing a Plane

08/04/2009 12:55 PM

Well it depends. They don't make the 152 anymore, so you'll have to get it used. Used prices can go anywhere from 16k to 75k depending on the condition of the airplane and the accessories put into it. I went searching around the internet and found this site: http://www.aviongoo.com/aviongoo/aircraft_for_sale.php?mc_id=188

hopefully this helps.

If you want to check out some of the new cessnas they have out, theres a "SkyCatcher" which is a light sport aircraft which costs about 112k; the low wing "Corvalis" which can range anywhere from 550k to 635k. Theres also the traditional "Skyhawk" which will run you anywhere from 266k to 297k.

www.cessna.com

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