Choosing a Flight School - Follow up

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A while back, I posted a question about finding a good flight school
and got some great advice. I flew at two schools, both close to my
home, and with two different instructors (obviously). The only
common variable was the plane: a C172XP. I was confident either
instructor would have been good for me, but I left the flights both
times without feeling too revved up to start the path down getting
my PPL. I had suspicions it was because of the plane -- it struck
me as quite narrow and cramped with somewhat limited visibility,
though I suspect I was biased after having read Philip's review of
the DA40. But I couldn't find a school that taught using Diamond's
close by (a bit too lazy on my Google search, I suppose), and I
eventually got busy with other things.

The other day, I came across a school that teaches using nothing but
Diamonds, and has a state-of-the-art facility down in Long Beach. I
just went for a discovery flight today, and boy what a difference!
I loved the aircraft -- the visibility was spectacular, and it
really enhanced my enjoyment of flying. While I haven't yet fully
decided to pursue my PPL, I'm now leaning hard in that direction.

I guess the only downside, as I see it, to learning in a Diamond is
that probably very few facilities around the country rent them? If
I'm back east visiting family in NJ or friends in NYC, and want to
go out for a flight, what are the odds of finding a DA40 for rent?
I suppose I'd be certified to fly a C172 once I have my PPL, but I
wouldn't feel fully comfortable in one unless I've had a good amount
of training in type. And how would I stay current in it, if I never
fly them at home? Am I over-estimating the difference in flying the
two planes?

Sorry for the long-winded question, and thanks in advance for any

Justin Toner

-- Justin Toner, March 6, 2010


Glad that you like the Diamonds. You're not going to be able to find DA40s to rent all that easily, but I doubt that you'll find the C172 a huge challenge. The airspeeds are very similar to the DA40. You don't have to be an expert in type to fly an airplane safely. You have to be an expert in type to fly an airplane right up to its book limits (e.g., land that C172 on a 1600' runway surrounded by trees).

-- Philip Greenspun, March 6, 2010

The FBO where I have my plane on line used to have both DA40s and Cessna 172SPs. For some reason, they only have the Cessnas now.

I think many flight schools use the DA40, however. I have flown both, but I have much more time in Cessnas. I don't think the difference between flying the two planes is that much, but the "sight picture" when landing is a bit different between the DA40 and the 172.

When you rent an airplane, the FBO will typically have you do a checkout in the aircraft together with a written exam about some aircraft-specific items (like what the V-speeds are, for example).

I think you could learn in either the Cessna 172 or the DA40 and easily transition back and forth. You could either find a flight school with both aircraft available, or just take a lesson or two in the other aircraft after you get your PPL. You don't need a type rating for these types of aircraft, so you can fly either one (and lots of others) with your PPL.

You should be able to easily rent the DA40, but the Cessna 172 is the most popular aircraft, so it will always be avaiable.

By the way, I think you said you flew in a 172XP. You might check out a newer 172SP with G1000. The 172s starting in 2008 have the Garmin GFC700 autopilot, which is great.

Both the DA40 and Cessna 172 are excellent training aircraft. I think the most important decision is to find the right instructor for you.


-- Todd Ramming, March 6, 2010

You know, they were SPs, my mistake. Both had G1000 cockpits. So I guess that would certainly carry over.

Thanks, Justin

-- Justin Toner, March 6, 2010

Best in Flight ( in Morristown, NJ has one 2004 DA40 with G1000 and two DA20s. I got my PPL in this school and they do rent the planes (DA40 ~$180/hr wet, including 7% sales tax). Even with PPL, you will need to fly few hours with their CFI before renting the plane.

Good luck,


-- Andrew Ruskulis, September 23, 2010

Thanks Andrew. I actually grew up 20min from Morristown, and found these guys after doing a Google search. Can't wait to see my hometown from the air!


-- Justin Toner, September 27, 2010