Private Pilot Training in Experimentals


Well-Known Member
Jul 26, 2016
Denver, Colorado
Keep getting questions from prior post about learning in EXP's, and some wanting to do what we did in building a EXP to learn to fly in..... so thought I'd give update on our experience & some advice.

In a nut shell, we designed and built an alternative engine for certified airframes with objective to lower cost and eliminate leaded fuel for legacy aircraft as the C172, 182, PA28, ect.. . Three years later we had a C172 with an aluminum V8 engine flying that exceeded our design expectations. Part of our test plans included conducting pilot training which was the typical mission of such aircraft. Last year a pilot trained and passed their FAA commercial pilot check ride in our test aircraft. After, a young woman started her flight training after high school let out and on weekends in our C172-V8. She completed all training and just passed her FAA check ride and is a newly minted pilot! The total flight training primary cost for her PP was less than $3,700 (fuel, engine reserves, CFI cost and examiner/DPE fee), which is substantially less than operating a stock C172 or renting.... and again, no leaded fuel, just 85 octane ethanol car gas which burns far cleaner and allows for modern emissions. I'll post a short info release on with more info if anyone cares to know more.

We did this to demonstrate the engine could do as good or better job than with the original C172 engine in lower cost and emissions, and not sacrifice the mission capabilities. This check ride completes our test plan and we are psyched the engine conversion performed so well. We believe this proves that small entities that think out of the box will likely be the ones providing solutions to counter GA's demise, using much of the ideas that flow to/from experiments and discussions on forums such as this, and others seeking a better solution. But this was a long and expensive trek, and we had the engineering and fabrication talent within our team that were motivated by the challenge rather than money. A luxury few have.

Point is, building an A/B to learn to fly in sounds like an adventure, but I would not suggest it for many reasons. We had a lot of issues along the way, from engine fires, inflight failure, inflight vibrations that seemed to tear the plane apart at 13K feet after spinner experienced failure and took out the prop during a Vd demo, and other problems normal to such R&D; all of which we eventually worked out and thankfully had resources to effectively mitigate risk enough to avoid a tragedy. I could not image being a student or low-time pilot when any of this happened, and doubt we would have experience same outcome. Moreover, majority of the test flying is done on the ground, and I can't think of any new pilot capable of understanding what to look for and/or mitigate the risk significantly

So, I would steer anyone away wanting to build their own plane, kit or otherwise, and using it to learn to fly. My suggestion, use a certified trainer or find a well proven simple EXP A/B that local CFI's are familiar with and wanting to teach you in. Planes like the C172 or PA28's normally used for training were designed to be forgiving, whereas EXPs not so much. We didn't build the plane to specifically learn to fly in and save money, it was just part of the test plan. Moreover, we only built the engine, not the whole flying machine, so we started with a well proven platform with a lot of known quantities. Remember, FAA long standing policy is they can not force a CFI or FAA examiner in and EXP, so you will likely have to complete training and check in a certified relic anyway.

So, to be clear, we did not build an EXP just to flight train in, and wouldn't suggest it. We did it to prove there are practical alternatives to solve many of the problems GA legacy aircraft have, and solutions won't likely come from the industry giants but motivated & capable small disruptors if FAA gives them a chance.