Flight School Training in a Cirrus vs. Traditional Trainer

I’ve heard two different schools of thought on this subject, that go like this:

  1. “Don’t flight train in an advanced aircraft like the Cirrus. Stick to the basics and just get your license in a simpler aircraft like a DA20 or a 172 with steam gauges. The Cirrus is a great airplane but more complicated, which can trip you up on your check-ride. After you have your license and feel like you are ready, move up to a Cirrus SR20 or 22. It will make you a better pilot to advance progressively and to fly different aircraft.”

  2. “Train with what you are going to fly in. If you want to fly in a Cirrus, try and find a Cirrus to train in. It may take you extra hours to get your private in a Cirrus, versus another airplane, and it may cost much more per hour, but it is money well spent as you will be very experienced in that aircraft.”

There is a flight school that rents a Cirrus SR20 for $255 per hour, and their flight instruction rate is $79 per hour (it kind of irks me that they charge $59 per hour for non-Cirrus instruction). The plane is a 2014 and very nice. This compares to, for example, another flight school that rents a modern DA-20 at $120 per hour and the instruction rate is just $40 per hour.

So the cost is more than double. Is that money well spent? Or is it better to start flight training in more of a traditional “trainer” aircraft before moving up to a Cirrus?

Congratulations on what will be a great experience either way.

Earlier this year, I completd my private and instrument training in G2/G3 Cirrus SR 20’s. I initially started (first 10 hours) in an older 172, and honestly found the glass panel in the Cirrus easier. I took lessons in both planes and schools for a week or so, and then made my choice to focus on the Cirrus. I just enjoyed flying the Cirrus more, and it supported my plans for cross country flying in the future. Just my experience and unique, since you are not aren’t considering a fourty year old 172. It may be more about choosing the school and instructor you want to work with. Listening to Liveatc.com, while driving to and from lessons, helped me build confidence with radio calls. Thanks for joining GA, and enjoy.

SR20 - $255 + $79=$334/hr

DA20 - $120 + $40=$160/hr

For the same money you can fly twice as many hours in DA20. I would pick DA20 for initial training.

For the reasons I explained in my “FEEDBACK FROM DISCOVERY FLIGHT IN 2014 SR20” post I would not train on a Cirrus, regardless of cost.

The main reason is the Cirrus is a plane best flown by itself (A/P) as its “side yoke spring design” removes too much “feel” from the aircraft. You would not train to be a race-car driver on a car that has power steering that removes the feeling of the road from you (how the tires are doing). For long Mercedes cars, as opposed to BMW, suffered of that feeling (going fast on mountain roads I would personally turn the music off, open the windows and listen to the “tires” to tell me how close I would be from loosing contact, or a “stall”).

I find the spring design dangerous and that probably explains why some inexperienced pilots got into accidents: they did not see a loss of control coming. Another reason is obvious: spin training should be required and you obviously will never get that in a Cirrus (unless they let you pull the chute and wreck the aircraft every time :slight_smile: I concur it’s rare to spin a plane but the stats show we do still do it no matter how good we think we are at handling any situation. To make the matter worst, the SR does have “gentle” stall characteristics as well (split-airfoil) which obviously you want if your plane cannot spin but I would rather train on a plane that “meanly” stalls because you want to identify and fix the situation quickly instead of asking yourself: “am I really stalling?”) The AF447 accident showed the most incomprehensible fact that two pilots would stall a plane for several minutes without “knowing it” (maybe the plane “felt right” to them if they had decided all instrument indications were bogus?). That’s why I am against “gentle behaviors”, even worst, I am against removing me the airflow feel when I would need it the most unless you actually make me a plane that cannot stall nor spin: if you do make such a plane then I am totally for all the springs you want, I could do my cardio work while flying and let the A/P work the rest of the time).

A good old (or new) spin-certified and light 2-seater will teach all the basics you need and teach you not to be scared of stalls or spins, will teach you how to land in gusts or otherwise teach you to do a lot of maneuvers that could be more “hairy” in heavier aircraft, let alone more unforgiving in aircraft like the SR.

My two cents.

If you search forums, you will find two different schools of thought on this subject also [;)]

My personal opinion is that flying a traditional trainer gives you more insights to what the airplane actually does, the seat of pants feelings. In contrast, Cirrus is almost to easy to fly and land and all the fancy glass is useless for primary training.

The best way though is in a taildragger.

If you want to fly a Cirrus, you will need an instrument rating sooner then later and that’s the time to make the transition.

"The main reason is the Cirrus is a plane best flown by itself (A/P) as its “side yoke spring design” removes too much “feel” from the aircraft"

I honestly still have no idea what this means. The airplane does not do steep turns, chandelle’s, stalls, power off landings, or normal landings “by itself”. It is done, correctly, by feel.

I also fly a 1946 Piper Cub. There is no purer airplane to fly by feel. Yet, I don’t experience any difference in the feel between our Cub and the Cirrus I fly, in terms of using the feeling in my butt, hands and arms; the sound of the airflow; and the G’s on my core, to fly either plane.

Contrary opinion – Purdue, West Michigan, US Air Force Academy, French Air Force, Saudi Air Force, The Flight Academy, and numerous Cirrus owners all conduct primary training in Cirrus SR2X aircraft.

Deciding on primary training depends on several factors – budget, time, instructor, and mission. Budget will be more per hour, but the Cirrus integrated flight training syllabus exposes newbie pilots to the system while gaining experience, so there is a trade-off to consider. Time will take longer for a more sophisticated airplane, so there is a duration trade-off to consider.

But mission may dominate. Are you planning to fly the plane you learn, which is my situation with 3,500 hours in a Cirrus after 65 hours in a Piper Warrior? Are you planning to fly multiple aircraft for different missions? If so, then you need to plan on basic skills with transition training for different aircraft models. If not, then pick the aircraft you love flying and get both your private and instrument rating. If you change your mind after several years, acknowledge that you will need some additional transition training – for example, if I were to fly a Cirrus with a full glass cockpit, then I would require a transition training syllabus to relearn my avionics habits, let alone if I were to switch to a step-up airplane! [;)]

Having this debate, please realize that your discipline and decison-making will have a greater influence on your safety than choice of training aircraft.


Greg I’d say emphasize the instructor choice over the airplane. There are basically 2 types of instructors out there; some instruct simply to build time and stay in the air until they get their “real” aviation job, while the best are professional instructors who love to teach and become really good at it. Trust your own impressions as well as the advice of others and get the best instructor.

As for the plane, for a long time the choice has been between steam gauges and glass. Glass takes more time to get to the PPL generally, but most plan to ultimately fly glass so it’s a good investment. The caveat is that you’ll get your PPL but won’t be ready to fly steam gauges, which may never be an issue for you. If you plan to ultimately fly a Cirrus it’s hard to beat starting out in one. I didn’t, as I wanted to learn to fly steam gauges first, and the transition isn’t that daunting. But you’ll probably solo in 12 hours or so in a C172 with dials, while it will likely take twice that in the Cirrus. Remember that the characteristics that make a trainer easy to learn in make for a poor travel machine, and vice versa. Learning to land a Cirrus is more complex that say a 172, but if you ultimately want to fly the Cirrus you’re gonna learn how sooner or later.

Now lets talk about cost! While the rack rate matters, you can make some choices that will help mitigate the cost whichever airplane you choose. If you fly frequently, say 2 to 3 lessons a week, you won’t waste time brushing off the rust and will progress in fewer flight hours overall. If you buckle down and get your ground and written done first you won’t waste flight time talking about stuff you can master on the ground. If you get the school to allow you to play with the panel on the ramp with ground power you can really take your time learning the knobology, again allowing you to concentrate your flight time on flying. Finally, if any local pilots flying the same equipment will allow you to tag along on their flights you will learn a lot at no charge even though they aren’t instructing you. Hearing radio procedures again and again, seeing the panel in use, experiencing the process, etc. will give you a leg up.

Good luck and have fun!

Rick doesn’t your data show pilots who start in a cirrus have better overall accident rate at say 100 hours total time vs a 500 hr total time pilot with 10 hours in type? Just hypothetically.

Rick, I totally agree. I had 56 hours in a glass 172, got my ppl and bought an SR22 with glass. The transition was very comfortable and I feel the 22 is much easier to fly. I am hoping to take the instrument ck ride October 1st. I highly suggest training in the plane you want to end up flying. Brian

I trained in a Cirrus and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it. Knowing what I know now, I would have done it in a taildragger like a cub or champ. Makes you a better pilot and it is cheap. I spent about 2.5-3 times as much doing it in my SR22.

I’m training a young lady in a DA-20 right now, and ya know what? Ton of fun, and hard to argue with 138 kts cruise on 6 gph. And oh yea - we do grass.

As an instructor, I strongly agree with Rick’s comment. Sure, if budget and time aren’t limiting factors, go for the Cirrus. However, you can get a lot more flying experience for fewer dollars by learning in a less sophisticated aircraft … even if it does fly more slowly and has a collection of scrapes and scratches. As a PPL student, you aren’t going to fly too far from your home 'drome. (The minimum distance for your solo cross-country is only 150 nm.) For students renting by the hour, FBOs usually identify “practice areas” that aren’t too far away so that the student & instructor can quickly get there and work on that day’s tasks.

If your future plans involve a Cirrus, GREAT! It’s an incredible travelling machine. And, my wife and I have flown our SR-22 all over the place! However, please be aware that the vast majority of pilots don’t spend their entire flying “career” flying only the aircraft that they used for training. They change models; they change manufacturers. And, moving from plane-to-plane involves “transition training” anyway. So, I don’t put as much value on “learning in the plane that you expect to fly” as some other folks.

My $0.02,


PS - Regardless of what you ultimately decide to do, keep us posted on your progress! [:D]

Ahhhh. Soft-field work that really means something! [H]


Cracks me up every time. [:P]

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses. I have about 32 hours so far, I started in a DA-20 with steam gauges before I switched to training in a 182-G1000. But now I am looking at a Cirrus in my future and after considering everyone’s advice, I am going to finish my certificate in the SR20. It isn’t the most economical way to get your certificate, but flying different airplanes has been fun and interesting, and I believe flying in the plane you will end up in has its advantages. Though in the end as everyone says, it isn’t about the plane. Thanks again.

Take Joes saged advice and at some point get a tail dragger rating. You don’t really know how to fly until u fly one of those. Many bypass this as arcane but it’s the best skill set in aviation. Cirrus is easy to ignore the peddles and be a lazy pilot until u need a solid slip or cross wind help. All aspects of flying improve. I waited 500h and could have save a few nose wheel fairings with skills learned …

The ONLY reason why I’d start in a C-152, DA-20 or Cub - is that you will be a more complete pilot afterwards. Also most rentals and club airplanes are 50 year old and you should feel safe flying conventional instruments. Other than the glass cockpit the Cirrus is just a PLANE, just as easy to fly as a Skyhawk or Warrior, harder to taxi though but only for the first week …
I never understood the problems (some!) pilots have with the controls. The electric trim is quick and very effective and i love the control feel. Very direct and precise and i never had ANY problems doing airwork in my 22. Actually Stalls, Chandelles and Lazy Eights (have to do those often for my little daughter ;-)) are fun. I’d save some money, learn the basics in a Cessna (and do some spins) and then I’d switch to the Cirrus. If you want to have your own Cirrus - you will never want to go back anyway (except to a taildragger maybe or an aerobatic plane). With the Cirrus learning the Avionics inside out is critical, all the rest is - just the same, more or less.

(In what way, please, is landing a Cirrus harder than landing a Cessna? I would say the Cirrus is just an airplane and you land it just like all the other ones. Okay, speed control is a little more critical, but any good instructor will put emphasize on precise speed control in a 172 aswell. In crosswinds the Cirrus is easier to land than most other planes i have flown (and i have flown almost all of them including the kitplanes).


Just a personal opinion. Probably a combination of the yoke, the high wing and docile handling of a C172 make it easy. The Cirrus requires a good flare held for a bit longer until the student really masters speeds I think. I’ll let the Cirrus instructors chime in, and the schools that buy the wheel pants.