Rusty Pilot: Time to move to Cirrus from Cessna? Advice please.

Good Morning.

I am an instrument-rated (not current) PVT-SEL. 813 hours: Age 71. First flight lessons were at age 57.

Experience= about 250 hrs on a C-172. 250 hrs in a PA-28 (Cherokee archer). 270 hrs in C-182.) 500 of those hours are after in earned the instrument rating.

I have not flown since July 2015. Because I am a “linear learner,” I have re-enrolled in training as a “brand new” student pilot - starting for class #1, including ground school. This request (pleasantly) surprised the chief pilot instructor at the school since a lot of rusty pilots seem to want to accelerate and get back in the air alone.

I am now fully retired and can start over and take my time - and fly anytime during the day.

It has been suggested to me that I should consider learning in a Cirrus sr-20. I have never flown glass cockpit before. I like the feel and technology of the Cirrus.

Any advice? Cautions? Encouragement?

Many thanks for any responses?


San Antonio, TX

Good morning Edward and Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and Welcome to COPA!!

  1. Please feel free to Join COPA! There is so much information on the paid side that you be reading for days. Not many of us monitor the guest section so you will get less replies. We have many members that are not owners!

  2. Great question! There are many schools of thought on this which range from “Learn in a 172 or PA28 because they are more forgiving and less expensive” to “Learn in the plane you plan to fly”

My advice would be to take your training in the SR-20 (which I assume is available for training) but I highly recommend that you use a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP) for your training.

In San Antonio there is:

Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot

Casey Ratliff

Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot

Jerry Clayton

Good Luck!!

Edward -

Welcome to the COPA site. Please join so that you can access the member’s section. The non-member threads are probably only a few percent of the content. The search function alone is worth joining. There is not one topic in general aviation that hasn’t been covered well.

You will probably “fly” through your retraining and get up in the air soon. I agree with the idea of eventually moving forward in a Cirrus. The Cirruses are great planes to train in if you have a CSIP with you, but they are not typical “trainer planes.”

If you want to relearn the basics of stick and rudder, flight planning, etc. then first spend 5-10 hours with your CSIP (Cirrus instructor) in a simpler aircraft like a steam gauge Cessna. There are then LOADS of things you need to learn about the Cirrus specifically that might be a distraction to your early retraining. This is just my opinion, of course, but it is based on my own progression.

Around age 40, I took flight lessons but stopped after 30-40 hours because of a combination of my own auditory processing issues and crappy David Clark headsets. I was very uncomfortable on the radio and I did not feel like I would ever improve. I restarted my PPL training at age 50 in Cessnas, using ANR headsets, then bought a SR20 at about 3/4th through the PPL training, then finished it in my SR20 and then went back to both steam gauge Cessnas and my SR20 for the IFR ticket. I flew the SR20 for 10 years and then bought a SR22.

The SR20 is more plane than most GA pilots will ever need. It is safe, economical and well behaved. West coast fliers really need an SR22 for its extra power at altitude.

Merry Christmas!

First, let me also reiterate what the other responders have said; seriously consider joining COPA. The amount of available information is astounding and will be valuable no matter what you choose to fly.

Second, I applaud your retaking the basic PP curriculum. Understanding the material completely will make you a better and safer pilot. If you can, consider reinforcing some of the didactic material with actual flight training. For example, it’s one thing to learn enough aerodynamics from a book to pass a test, and another to see in the air what happens, for example, if you bank 30+ degrees without simultaneously increasing angle of attack or power or both. It drives home the dull vector diagrams in the book and will make you truly understand the forces involved. If you can find an airplane with an angle of attack indicator so much the better.

If you are going to go back to IFR flying it isn’t a bad idea to go through the instrument classes as well. IFR flying is about procedures and you really need to understand them.

As far as the airplane is concerned, don’t worry about the glass cockpit. Especially since you haven’t flown for 5 years you will not have that much to unlearn, and I think you will find glass pretty intuitive fairly quickly. Use an instructor who is completely familiar with the Cirrus. That means a CSIP. Using a typical flight school instructor who has little experience with the Cirrus, and sometimes limited experience with any airplane, is a big mistake. Spend the first 4-5 hours just doing basic flying; maneuvers and landings. Get comfortable with the feel of the machine. Forget that it even has an autopilot. Learn to hand fly it, and get comfortable with how it feels on the controls. It is different from a 172 or Cherokee.

Once you are comfortable with the basics (and I think as an already moderately experienced pilot that will not take terribly long), then get going with understanding the avionics. That will be the biggest challenge with the transition. And here to an instructor totally familiar with the plane is invaluable. Purchase the Cirrus iFOM and read through it carefully as well.

You are going about returning to flying the right way. Good luck on your venture.


I learned in an SR20. Both PPL and IR; it is a great and stable platform.

However, the SR20 is not as forgiving on final as a C172 or Piper Archer if you are sloppy on the approach. This is fundamentally is because the SR20 is significantly more aerodynamic. So you have less tools (drag) to fix mistakes.

Second and more important; how are you planning to use the plane? If you plan to bring a significant other along on the flight; pick the plane that makes them most comfortable. If solo; pick the one you like the most.

Third, join COPA. Even if you end up in another brand, you will get your money worth by the sheer amount of information you learn on here.


I stopped flying, after about 300 hours, for 15 years. When I started again, I did about 20 hours of transition training in a SR20. My CSIP and I took our time, there was no hurry. I then did my IFR in the same SR20, also taking our time. It’s a great platform and, although my wife hated flying in 172s, Archers, and my AG5B, she is very comfortable in the Cirrus. This means that she is more open to flying, which means I get to fly more. :slight_smile:

The biggest takeaway you will leave with when transitioning from 800 hours in the planes you mentioned is how freaking easy a Cirrus is to fly as compared to the others. I had about 135 hours in a Cessna 150 and Cessna 182 before buying my SR22 and I simply just couldn’t believe it. It was so much easier to fly and land that thing than the 150 and 182. Took 2 maybe 3 attempts and I don’t think another CFI has touched the stick on landing since those first couple. I don’t know what they did or how they did it, but Cirrus did something right in this regard.

I am glad I went the route that I did to get my license as I think I am a better stick and rudder pilot because of it, but it for sure would have been easier for me to start day 1 in a Cirrus vs. the 150.

Good Afternoon and Merry Christmas:

My sincerest thanks to all who have responded to my post. This confirms my intention to “step up” to a Cirrus for returning to flying. Hopefully, I can arrange to get get started this next week. Being in South Texas we have good weather at least 2 or 3 days per week, even in “winter.”

Thank you for the encouragement, and the advice. When I say that I am starting over from “lesson #1” that includes the very first in-flight lessons, as if I had never been in the left seat before. I’m sure it will go faster then when I got my PVT but I informed the chief pilot I want to go through each and every maneuver for which any new student must demonstrate competence.

I’ll see you around the COPA forums.


Hi, Edward!

Congratulations on getting back into the air. [Y] And, welcome to COPA! Many of us don’t monitor the guest portion of the forum. And, although you’ve already gotten some excellent responses IMO, there’s much more info on the member side of things.

First, I’m 71, as well! And, although I’m not a CSIP, I am an active CFI/II, have owned a Cirrus SR-22 for ~17 years, and fly quite a bit. I live in Gilbert, AZ and teach out of Chandler (KCHD) in a variety of ASELs. And, I’m not looking at providing instruction for you - just responding to your post. [;)]

Like Jerry, I think getting back into the aviation scene by reviewing the fundamentals shows sound thinking on your part. Plus, I suspect you’ll find it to be fun … and reassuring! While undoubtedly you’ll run across some things that you either didn’t know, have forgotten, or perhaps didn’t fully comprehend during your previous training, I think you’ll discover that you recall/know much more than you might expect. And, in terms of prior flight training, you have some significant advantages. IMO the fact that you’ve flown/trained in several different types of aircraft (including both high- and low-wing configurations) promotes flexibility in a pilot. And, that’s a very good thing!

Allow me to offer a couple of additional comments/thoughts about your reentry into this wonderful world of flying machines:

  • I’d give strong consideration to getting current once again in an airframe that you have flown previously. Rather than dive into something new at this point, just get comfortable and reassure yourself (through your linear training approach) that you’ve “still got it”. You already have a great deal of experience! Your PPL and instrument rating are proof of that. Take advantage of that experience by doing rust removal in a familiar airframe.
  • Once you are once again current and competent (but not necessarily IFR current) and if you’re still interested in flying a Cirrus SR-2X (i.e., a -20 or -22), then look at some transition training. COPA is a big proponent of using CSIPs and while I’ve never bothered (or spent the $$) to become a CSIP myself, there are some very good reasons for using one! CSIPs have to go through a factory program ensuring they teach using a standardized syllabus. The advantages of this cannot be emphasized enough. It’s not that the Cirrus airframe is difficult to fly - it’s not from my POV as an instructor and pilot/owner. But, it is a high-performance aircraft with a low drag profile. Energy management (particularly during approach/landing) is quite important. And, that’s a topic that doesn’t receive much emphasis when flying training aircraft like C-172s and simpler PA28s. Plus, SR-2Xs have newer avionics that most training planes. And, CSIPs are required to be familiar with those systems.
    Personally, I really like the Cirrus aircraft; I have a 2002 SR-22. (The early versions were “half glass” and didn’t have a PFD, only an MFD.) My wife and I have flown all over the country in it. This summer, we took it to the Bahamas for six weeks. In February 2020, I’m taking a small group down to Baja (Mexico) to do some whale-watching. My point is only that I enjoy going places, and Cirrus’ SR series are wonderful planes for doing just that!

If you have questions, I suggest joining COPA. There’s an incredible wealth of aviation experience immediately available to any member.



You’re in for a very pleasant surprise! The modern panel is simply better in every way, and it’s easier. A recent SR is an easier airplane to fly, especially on instruments. If that’s what you’re planning to fly after training I think it’s what you want to train in. Every year there are fewer and fewer steam gauge airplanes flying and, as a result, more initial training happening in glass cockpits and it’s working fine. Have fun!

Most of what you already know will be useful, but the Cirrus will bring a few unique issues. I think the biggest of these is to condition yourself to put the 'chute where it belongs in your procedures. When you trained you were taught to look for a good place to land with an engine failure and you’ll need to relearn this decision tree. Also, landing a slicker airplane requires more precision but nothing superhuman. Fly the right speeds and eliminate the type specific risk when landing.

Merry Christmas Edward,

I’m here in San Antonio too and did all of my private pilot and instrument training in a Cirrus. Learning and training in the Cirrus from the get-go worked great for me. I’d be happy to talk to you and share my experience. Casey Ratliff also has a flight simulator in his flight school which can be great to familiarize yourself with the glass avionics before you go up into the air burning aviation fuel.

Edward Merry Christmas to you and your family and welcome aboard. Lots of very experienced advice already but I really want to continue to encourage you to get back in the saddle as I did after about 3000 hours since the age of 17 and quit flying in 1994 for a lot of reasons. At 64 and not current for 17 years I did about the same thing you are going through but in that period of time the Cirrus had been born. I was Single engine, Multi and Inst. rated but way way out of date and essentially decided to start over because of all the changes in general aviation, regs., airspace, on and on in that period. I sat in a Cirrus owned by a friend and was hooked. The CAPS system (Chute) was very appealing to me and the sophistication of the avionics with the multitude of safety features was both appealing, yet a bit overwhelming. Lots of buttonology to learn. So, if you are more comfortable getting current again with your program in something other than a Cirrus, by all means do it. But, I cannot echo others enough, become a COPA member and like me in 2011, you will spend days buried in the COPA forum topics and will learn so much it will really help no matter what you choose to fly. But, once current you will not find a more capable traveling airplane in this class and you too will become a member of the Cirrus family. You will never look back and will smile every time you put your Cirrus back in the hangar and head home. And - again - get with one of the CSIPs you have been referred to as soon as you can. You will thank all of us for this sage advice !!

Merry Christmas, Edward.

I think you are an unusual pilot, cautious and realistic- why, I hardly recognize you!

Whichever way you go, I think you are setting yourself up for a really fun retirement.

And I’d bet a small sum you’ll wind up flying an SR20 to the next Migration in Florida.

Fly safe, and have fun!


Our stories are very similar, with slight age difference and my lay off was 30+ years from military to GA. First, congrats on joining COPA, secondly thnk about what you want to fly at the end of your transition journey. In my case, halfway through my re-instrument, I bought an SR22 that fit my mission. that’s over 15 years ago and my Cirrus and COPA have made my wife and my lives so much richer.


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