This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
When you first start flying, you want to make sure that your plane is easy to operate and safe to train with, but what is the best trainer aircraft?
Whether your goal is to become a professional aviator or simply pilot as a hobbyist, we all have to start somewhere, which is why you need a good trainer aircraft to begin your journey to the sky. And with so many great trainer planes out there, you have got some options to consider when picking out the best beginner aircraft.
The best trainer aircraft for beginners are the Cessna 172 (Skyhawk), Piper PA-28 Cherokee, Cessna 150 & 152, Diamond DA40, Cirrus SR20, Piper J-3 Cub, American Champion Citabria, and the Diamond DA42.
Ever since the Wright Brothers had their first flight, humans have been obsessed with getting inside of a cockpit so that they can experience the thrill of flying for themselves. With the aviation industry continuing to expand, there are plenty of eager pilots looking to get their wings so that they can pursue a career in the sky. However, there are plenty of people out there that want to pilot an aircraft because they are fascinated by flying. Regardless of what your intentions are, you need to pick the right beginner aircraft for your flight training. Naturally, when you first start out, you need to get behind an aircraft that is easy, reliable, and safe. Luckily, there are some great trainer planes for you to consider. To help you pick the right aircraft for your flight training, we are going to take a closer look at the best beginner planes in more detail.
After extensively researching aircraft and aviation, I have been able to gather enough information to determine the best trainer planes for new pilots. My research has indicated that there are multiple beginner planes that are suitable for flight training and you should weigh out the specs of each option to find the best one for you.
Cessna 172 (Skyhawk)
When it comes to beginner planes, there is really no better option than the Cessna 172. This is the ultimate trainer aircraft and it has been the starting point for many great pilots.
The Cessna 172, which is commonly referred to as the ‘Skyhawk’, is often the go-to for a lot of intro pilots and it is hands down the most popular beginner plane used at flight schools. This beginner aircraft is highly praised by the aviation community due to it being incredibly easy to fly and land.
Despite being first introduced in 1952, the Cessna 172’s popularity has not ceased by any means. The demand for this aircraft is as high as it ever has been and with aviation continuing to increase in popularity as a hobby, we don’t see the Cessna 172 going anywhere anytime soon. Since its initial manufacturing date, Cessna has sold more than 44,000 Skyhawk units, which makes this the most produced plane in aviation history.
This single-engine aircraft has been so successful because it was specifically designed for students. Cessna wanted to build a plane that was meant to do one thing - train new pilots. Naturally, a plane that was designed with this intention would be easy to fly. However, over the years, even with planes becoming more high-tech, the Cessna 172 continued to prove itself as being the ultimate trainer aircraft.
When you get inside the cockpit of a Cessna 172, you will feel a sense of ease as opposed to intimidation. The aircraft has excellent ground clearance supported by a tricycle landing system which was designed to make takeoff and landing as easy as possible - mitigating the biggest risks of flying. The visibility that you have from the cockpit will give you a perfect view of the sky and the stability that you have in the air makes the plane easy to control.
In addition, the Cessna 172 is equipped with 4-seats, which opens up the possibility of bringing friends along for the ride, if your intentions with piloting are for hobby and sport as opposed to a career. All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Cessna 172, as this is every beginner pilot’s favorite plane.
Piper PA-28 Cherokee
One of the most iconic names in the world of aviation is Piper. As one of the most successful aircraft manufacturers in history, Piper has left its mark on the world of planes. Although this aircraft company may have an expansive selection of top-notch planes, the Piper PA-28 Cherokee is going to be the way to go for all beginners aspiring to get their wings.
The Piper is considered by many flight enthusiasts as being next in line behind the Cessna 172 for starter aircraft. This plane is easy to fly and offers new pilots smooth handling and landing - given that it is also equipped with the fixed tricycle landing gear. Landing the Piper PA-28 Cherokee is about as easy as you could hope for and this is one of the key characteristics that makes this aircraft stand out.
Flight schools across the country continue to utilize the Piper PA-28 Cherokee when training intro pilots and depending on who you ask, some people even prefer this plane over the Cessna 172. The low wing design is a plus for some pilots and a minus for others, as you will have a better view of everything above the cockpit but less visibility of the ground.
The Piper PA-28 Cherokee is part of the PA-28 family. The PA-28s have a very similar design across the board, as they are unpressurized, single-engine, and piston-powered, but seating can vary depending on the model that you get. These beginner planes are available as 2-seaters as well as 4-seaters.
While the Piper PA-28 Cherokee was designed for flight training, it was also intended to be used as an air taxi, as well as by hobbyists and flight enthusiasts. This dynamic range makes the Piper PA-28 Cherokee a more versatile plane than the Cessna 172.
Cessna 150 & 152
The Cessna 150 & 152 are not far off from the 172. These planes have very similar characteristics to one another and depending on your flying style, you may find that one is better suited to your tastes than the other.
Both the Cessna 150 & 152 are hardly distinguishable from one another. You will find that they handle extremely well and are perfect beginner aircraft for any intro pilot. Unlike the Cessna 172, the 150 and 152 are a bit smaller - with 2 seats instead of 4. In addition, the Cessna 152 has a bit more power in its engine than the 150.
The Cessna 150 was first introduced in the 1950s and it was manufactured until 1977 when Cessna launched the 152. For the next 20 years, the Cessna 152 was produced and sold until manufacturing was halted in 1985. With that being said, the Cessna 150 & 152 are still very popular planes and are considered to be among the best beginner aircraft ever made.
One characteristic that makes the Cessna 150 & 152 more attractive for flight trainees is that these planes are actually smaller than the 172. Some people feel more comfortable when flying a small plane for the first time, which is why, depending on who you ask, the Cessna 150 & 152 are the best beginner aircraft.
The cruising speed of these planes is also a bit slower than the 172, which is another nice characteristic for beginners. In addition, the Cessna 150 & 152 have a better fuel range compared to the 172, which is great for hobby pilots who like to fly without breaking the bank on gas.
Diamond Aircraft Industries is an Austrian manufacturer that is praised for its sleek designs and high-performance planes. The Diamond DA40 is the best of what the company has to offer intro pilots that are looking to get their wings.
This plane’s genius design and handling abilities make it very easy and safe to fly, which is why it is commonly used at flight schools. The Diamond DA40 is a light, single-engine aircraft that can reach an impressive speed of 140 knots. This makes it a great aircraft for anyone who wants to take the training wheels off after their introduction to flying.
The cockpit also offers excellent visibility so that you have a perfect view of your flight path. However, for situations where visibility is poor, you can make use of the built-in Garmin G1000 to ensure that you are aware of your surroundings.
Unlike the Cessna and Piper planes that we mentioned, the Diamond DA40 was only introduced in 1997. Given that this aircraft is quite modern, you can expect there to be features and characteristics that outweigh the other beginner planes that we have covered. With that being said, the additional features do also make this aircraft a bit more complex. For beginner pilots, sometimes all you need are the basics without any technical gear, which is why Diamond DA40 may be more plane than what some trainees need.
The Cirrus SR20 is a great plane for just about any beginner pilot. Cirrus is an American aircraft manufacturer that is recognized as an elite company within the industry. The Cirrus SR20 is one of the most dynamic planes that you can buy as a beginner, given that the manufacturer designed this to be a dual-purpose aircraft.
Whether you are a trainee in flight school or need a plane for business purposes, the Cirrus SR20 is the perfect aircraft for both. This piston-engine aircraft is among the most common planes that you will see at flight schools, as they are easy to fly and manage. Many pilots start their flight careers with the Cirrus SR20 and with the assistance of the advanced technology built into the aircraft, flying is more intuitive than ever.
The avionics of the Cirrus SR20 make this a more technical aircraft to pilot but once you learn the ropes of the flight system, you will be glad that you chose the Cirrus SR20 over a lot of the other beginner planes available. One of the key safety features that Cirrus installed into the SR20 is a parachute for the entire aircraft that can be deployed if you experience a mid-air collision or lose control of the plane.
That said, as I mentioned, the Cirrus SR20 is not just a trainer plane, it is a dual-purpose aircraft. The versatility of this plane makes it a very attractive option for anyone who wants to fly for reasons other than training. If you are considering purchasing a beginner plane, you will find that the Cirrus SR20 is not only going to be a great option for learning how to fly but also for casual use down the line.
Piper J-3 Cub
The Piper J-3 Club is one of the most old-school trainer aircraft around. Pilots have been earning their wings with the Piper J-3 Club since 1938 and they continue to do so to this day. This is an aircraft that has truly stood the test of time and its reliable controls make it perfect for most pilots who are just starting out.
This is one of Piper’s best-selling planes and it was first introduced just before The Second World War - with production continuing briefly afterward. Despite manufacturing ending in 1947, the Piper J-3 Club is still around and some flight schools have this aircraft available for training.
The Piper J-3 Club has a tail wheel instead of the tricycle landing gear that you see on the PA-28 series. This offers a different feel for landing and take-off, which may not be as favorable to some pilots, as it can be more challenging. With that being said, this is a plus for pilots that want to hone their piloting skills given that a tail wheel encourages you to be more careful when landing the aircraft.
The Piper J-3 Cub is a 2-seater aircraft that is perfect for training and a lot of pilots enjoy how easy this plane is to control. When you get inside of the Piper J-3 Cub, you will be amazed by how well the plane can be maneuvered at incredibly low speeds, which opens up an entirely different range for flying that you cannot achieve with any of our other listed beginner aircraft.
Although this Piper plane may be an older plane, it is still an excellent starting point for any pilot. The controls are intuitive, maneuverability is superb, and the tail wheel will present challenges for new aviators to overcome that will be beneficial to their careers down the line.
American Champion Citabria
The American Champion Citabria is another tail-wheel plane with similar specs to the Piper J-3 Cub. If you are looking specifically for a tail wheel plane, it is going to be hard to decide between this one and the J-3 Cub.
This aircraft features a reciprocating engine and is equipped with two seats. One of the main focuses of this aircraft is for it to be used as a trainer plane. Overall, the Citabria is an excellent light aircraft for anyone interested in getting a pilot’s license to become a professional aviator.
A lot of great pilots will tell you that it is better to start off with a tail-wheel plane like the American Champion Citabria. You should expect it to be tougher to fly compared to an aircraft equipped with tricycle landing gear. However, the challenges that you overcome when training with the American Champion Citabria are going to pay off.
This plane will make you a better pilot and it will encourage you to become more familiar with traditional style flying where you actually have to pilot the aircraft. There will not be nearly as much tech built-in but this is also another plus for some beginners.
The American Champion Citabria was first introduced in 1964 but it is still considered by many aviators as being one of the best starter planes that you can fly. In addition to flight training, the manufacturer also built this plane to be used for utility purposes. This makes it a great aircraft for a variety of different flying styles, which is why a lot of hobbyists own the American Champion Citabria.
The Diamond DA42 is rarely the first choice for beginner pilots at flight schools but it is still a great plane to consider operating when starting out. This DA42 is more complex compared to all of the other aircraft that we cover, but its features and capabilities also make it the most dynamic.
This is a high-performance aircraft made by reputable plane manufacturer Diamond. Since its introduction back in 2002, the Diamond DA42 has been a crowd favorite among many flying enthusiasts and beginner pilots. This propeller-driven airplane features 4 seats and handles like a dream in the air.
However, what really makes the Diamond DA42 such a great beginner aircraft is how many safety features it has. This Diamond plane is equipped with a backup engine. This means that if you were to run into an issue with your primary motor while in the air, you would be covered. This safety feature alone makes the Diamond DA42 a standout aircraft compared to most other beginner planes out there.
Once you start flying, you will be amazed by how well the aircraft responds and how stable it feels. This plane is certainly equipped with more state-of-the-art equipment compared to traditional starter planes like the Cessnas and Pipers but you will be glad you decided to learn on a plane like the Diamond DA42 once you understand the flight system.
Lastly, this is a plane that will be much more enjoyable once you are finished with flight training. If you plan on purchasing an aircraft as a hobbyist, the Diamond DA42 is a plane that you can take with you on adventures. Unlike every other plane that we mention, the DA42 has the fuel capacity and performance to handle a trip across the entire North Atlantic.