What qualities make a plane a good "learner" plane?

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WhiskeyHammer

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What qualities make a plane a good "learner" aircraft?

Off the top of my head, I imagine it's something like large control surfaces , relatively high inherent stability like with high wings, tricycle landing gear, a low stall speed, and an excess of power.

Large control surfaces to retain control at low speeds
High wing to make the plane resistant to over correction.
Tricycle landing gear to help smooth take off and landings.
Low stall speed for a wider safety margin on take off and landings.
A relatively beefy engine for a wider safety margin in general.

So basically a stol plane with tricycle landing gear. You'll get some not great cruise and top speed numbers but climb and handling should be A+.

Am I forgetting anything, or misinterpreting something?
 

Victor Bravo

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What qualities make a plane a good "learner" aircraft?
Depends on what you are trying to learn and how you are trying to learn it.

If you want or need the quickest and easiest path to flying an engine-powered airplane by yourself just for fun, then the primary "quality" you are looking for in an airplane is that it has a sticker saying "Cessna 150" and/or "Commuter" on the side of the fuselage.

If you are trying to learn how to be the best possible pilot with the best possible skills, and you want to have the most emotional flying experience, then you are looking for a glider training school or glider club.

If you want to learn how to fly because you want to use an airplane to go hunting, fishing, camping... or you are buying a cabin out in the middle of nowhere and want to be able to fly there, then find a flight school that teaches in the Piper J-3 "Cub", or the Aeronca 7AC "Champ".
 

Dana

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Large control surfaces to retain control at low speeds
High wing to make the plane resistant to over correction.
Tricycle landing gear to help smooth take off and landings.
Low stall speed for a wider safety margin on take off and landings.
A relatively beefy engine for a wider safety margin in general.
Don't need "large control surfaces", just well designed.

High wing, low wing, neither is more "resistant to over correction".

Tailwheel landing gear makes better pilots, you learn what your feet are for.

Low stall speed, good to a point but less tolerant of wind.

Big engine, it could be argued that a big engine can pull you out of trouble whereas a smaller engine makes you learn to work with what you have.


You can make a trainer easy to fly... or make it just difficult enough to make you learn to fly it instead of being a passenger.

A Cub is easier to fly than, say, a Cessna 172 or Cherokee, but the Cub is much more difficult to fly well... which makes a better pilot.

My recommendation is for a light plane (LSA or LSA compliant classic) with minimal instrumentation.
 

PMD

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A lot of good advice, IMHO. I think the best trainers in my short half century of flying were the American Aviation Yankees (NOT the AA-1A/B/C) for those moving on to heavy iron. I think a Citabria is also an excellent choice for those who will be flying slowmobiles. While I LIKE C-150s and Pa-28s, they really only suit those who will be doing the spam can crawl.
 

BJC

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What qualities make a plane a good "learner" aircraft?
A tailwheel airplane that requires use of rudder to coordinate turns, a sharp stall so you can learn how to recognize an impending stall and learn not to be intimidated by them, spins readily, lands slow enough that you must learn how to land in a crosswind, low power so you learn to fly the wing, lack of forward visibility in the three-point attitude so you learn how to go straight and judge AGL by peripheral vison, no radios to distract your learning how to fly (radio procedures and navigation can come after you learn how to operate the airplane.)

And learn how to prop an airplane.

It should have the proper smell, too, a mix of leaked av gas, leather, sweat, and a hint of butyrate dope.


BJC
 

Turd Ferguson

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Like the guy that came in the FBO one day asking about flying lessons. I showed him the trainer fleet and when done he pointed to a KingAir C-90 and said "Can I learn to fly in something like that?"

And I said: "Sure ! ! That's a great learner airplane ! ! Let's get started ! ! "
 

jedi

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"What qualities make a plane a good "learner" aircraft? "

I am sure there will be many that disagree but my answer is the now illegal two place ultralight of the 80's. Not a specific odel but one of the several popular good designs.

The overriding quality is it needs to be affordable. Check.

Next it should require mastery of the skills needed to operate a wide variety of the future aircraft the student will likely fly. It should make the student errors obvious but not dangerous. Have noticable adverse yaw. Require proper rudder useage in the air and on the ground (landing). Enough power to operate safely but not so much as to not require good judgement and planning. It should demonstrate failure modes with safety, require a through preflight inspection, and impress the student that the possibility of engine failure and other irregular operations is real. Check.

If the student does screw up it should be easy to repair and pose little risk of injury to the pilot. Check for most or better than the majority of faster more powerful trainers.

It should teach the student to be able to handle wind and turbulence and know the limits. Check.

Lastly, it should allow the student to concentrate on aircraft control without the distractions of radio/ATC proceedures, glass cockpit computers, GPS, and autopilots. Check.
 

cvairwerks

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The better a/c to learn in, is also dependent on what the final intent is. Unlimited Acro...forget the 150/172/tramahawk route and look for Cubs, Champs, Citabria type instruction. Going for the burger run or regionals, then the generic spam can route. Define the intent and then you can better determine the path that fits.
 

Riggerrob

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What about spin characteristics?
It should buffet plenty before stalling, then recover with relaxed back pressure.
It should need crossed controls to force it to spin. Then the airplane should recover on its own if the student pilot simply releases the controls.
 

PMD

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What about spin characteristics?
It should buffet plenty before stalling, then recover with relaxed back pressure.
It should need crossed controls to force it to spin. Then the airplane should recover on its own if the student pilot simply releases the controls.
And there's the whole Pa38 story once again. I agree that every training airplane should be spinnable, and every student should learn to fly into and out of a fully developed spin, but if all spin training was a matter of simply release the controls, the student is totally ill prepared for a spin recovery in an airplane that does not have such docile characteristics. Thus, Piper built the Traumahawk - and with good reason. The Pa38 teaches students that spins can result in very unusual attitudes and require CORRECT and fully applied recovery inputs. Put a spam can driver in one and just watch the look on his or her face when the windscreen is FULL of terra firma images in a hurry. Note: I managed to say all of that without once mentioning 737 Max drivers diving into the ground because they couldn't fly an airplane.

(on edit) note that the license factories never seemed to warm up to the Pa38 - but this is probably more due to the early ADs and "life limit" on airframe components because of newer certification standards and requirements.
 

Riggerrob

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Generous landing gear stroke
No wheel pants to easy pre-flight inspections. Clear inspection panels at all the major control joints, etc.
And tough landing gear that can absorb the inevitable students' hard landings.
Landing gear should be bolted to the airframe to allow quick replacement.
How about crush blocks at all major structural junctions, so that a hard landing would crush these blocks first, before bending landing gear legs. These crush blocks should be exposed and have easy-to-read wear limitation indicators. e.g. if the block is worn badly enough that you can see red, then the airplane is grounded. Ideally, these crush blocks should be wired to the instrument panel to flash visual and audio warnings in the event of excess wear.
How do you link tire pressure sensors and brake wear indicators to the instrument panel?
Provide wire-less links to the dispatch desk and maintenance department so that a failed component is identified when a plane lands, instead of surprising the next student during pre-flight. ... On second thought, march the next student out to the damaged airplane and score them on whether or not they notice the defect during pre-flight inspections. Just ensure that an air-worthy airplane is parked nearby so that his/her lesson is not cancelled.
Speaking of crush blocks, the fuselage should be built like a crop-duster (e.g. steel roll cage and forward crumple zone with air bags) to reduce injuries during crashes. ... er ... hard landings.
Speaking of repairs, all controls, engine compartment, etc. should have clear inspection panels and large hatches that hinge open. Visual, external fuel and oil gauges backed by instruments in the cockpit. Permanently attach dip-sticks to fuel caps.
Speaking of fuel tanks, they should only be in the wings to reduce the risk of burn injuries after a crash.
 
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Tiger Tim

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This seems counterintuitive but it needs to be hard enough to fly that you actually learn something. I’ve flown an easy trainer: small economical power plant, stable, big control surfaces, in fact big everything. It was a delight to fly but I couldn’t imagine anyone actually learning anything in it.
 

Riggerrob

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Definitely need a glass cockpit, because that is what most will fly once they earn their license, but install two panels in each airplane and allow the instructor to "simplify" student instrument displays during the first few flights.
The glass panel should include the (instructor) option of displaying images of traditional "steam gauges."

The instructor should also be able to change the size of displays (e.g. a huge turn-and-slip indicator) depending upon today's lesson. None of the instruments "disappear" when de-graded, they just get smaller. Their position remains the same to encourage good scanning habits.
Alternately, you could brighten the most important instrument for this lesson or even make it "flash" if a student ignores it for too long.
 
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PMD

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Definitely need a glass cockpit, because that is what most will fly once they earn their license, but install two panels in each airplane and allow the instructor to "simplify" student instrument displays during the first few flights.
The glass panel should also include the option of displaying images of traditional "steam gauges."
The instructor should also be able to change the size of displays(e.g. a huge turn-and-slip indicator) depending upon today's lesson. None of the instruments "disappear" when de-graded, they just get smaller.
That is WAY too good a comment to just give a thumbs up to. You definitely win the interwebs today.

BTW: does such a screen exist now? If not, please call one of the newer entrants into this space in certified panels and pitch them. This is IMHO a BRILLIANT solution to a real problem.
 

Riggerrob

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As for those of you who prefer tail-wheels, make the trainer quick to convert from nose-wheel to tail-wheel.
Bolt main landing gear legs to a large diameter torque tube under the center-of-gravity. When it is time to convert to tail-wheel, the big strong apprentice mechanic lifts the tail while another mechanic swings the main wheels from 17 degrees aft to 17 degrees forward of the C. of G. Then the apprentice lowers the tail-wheel to the ground. Most schools leave the tail-wheel permanently installed.
Finally, the forward mechanic shortens the nose-wheel strut just far enough that it does not interfere with a tail-wheel lesson.
The design challenge is in not shortening the nose-wheel strut so far that it ceases to protect the propeller???????
 

Aesquire

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I don't think it matters if your imagined goal is Acrobatics or Driving a Flying Bus.

A trainer that has some adverse yaw, enough, but barely, power, and tough easily repaired landing gear seems proper.

I think spin training is important, but that does not have to be with the "perfect trainer", which you may think should recover automatically if the student goes catatonic. You can Argue a Lot on that point.

I'll point out that the Paraglider ratings on the AIRCRAFT refer to a series of tests that show IF the glider will automatically recover from various Unusual Failures, most unique to the breed. And the skill level required to recover it Not automatically. And the tendency to Fail ( change shape to a not happy wing shape ) with inattention or clumsy over reaction. And...

The specifics don't apply here, if your C-152 has a Frontal Collapse, the crushed aluminum won't return to shape, no matter what the pilot does. And it's a Very Unusual if not unheard of failure for a C-152.

But the rating for skill ladder/steps is inherited from Hang Gliding, where a new pilot of course wants to fly the best new gear if they can afford it. But that carbon framed competition glider may/will respond too quickly in some ways and too slowly in others, for an inexperienced pilot. ( twitchy in pitch perhaps & lots more muscle in roll ) Heck, even talented experienced pilots often don't choose a full competition machine for recreational flight.

Trainers have A Purpose.

That they can indeed be fun flyers is true too. I love the Citabria, because I learned a lot in one, true, but it's a nice plane to fly, also. And I've enjoyed great flights in slow gliders in marginal lift.

And...Slow. The slower you hit the ground, the slower it Requires reaction, the better.

And, with fly by wire, you can take the EXCELLENT instrument panel ideas above, and apply them to the plane. "Lesson 12, we are configured to spin, and you will have a different feel, so..."
 
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