What is the best training airplane?
This is a bit like asking ‘What is the best rental car?’. There is no definitive answer because it depends on a variety of factors. However, we can look at some variables to help guide your decision.
What are your flying goals?
If you plan on buying an airplane after completing your training, it makes sense to gain experience in that model. For example, if you are set on purchasing a Cirrus for business and family travel you likely want to train in a Cirrus to maximize proficiency. If you are looking for the most affordable option Light Sport aircraft or other 2-seat models typically have the lowest operating cost and therefor the lowest rental rate.
Larger schools often have fleets of common aircraft for a reason. Since the airplanes are the same this affords scheduling flexibility and backup in case of unexpected maintenance. If there is only one training airplane you may find it difficult maintaining a consistent training schedule.
Height and Weight Restrictions
Smaller aircraft such as Light Sport Aircraft are more weight limited or may be less comfortable than larger aircraft. Before selecting training aircraft, sit in it and make sure you can fully deflect controls, have adequate clearance above your head (with headset on) and have space to manage equipment like checklists and iPad.
Cessna vs Piper vs Diamond vs ??
Again, this is like asking Ford vs Honda vs Chevrolet… The flight training process focuses on knowledge and skill regardless of the aircraft type. It is not important which aircraft you train in because once finished you will be certified to fly any single engine airplane. At that point I encourage you to continue gaining experience in a variety of aircraft as they are all a little different and will add to your skill and experience.
Round Gauges vs Glass
This is a personal preference with pros and cons to each. Glass cockpit aircraft are generally newer and usually a bit more expensive to rent than older aircraft. However, glass cockpits offer a wealth of tools to enhance your training experience. Features like terrain awareness, traffic alerts and airport information increase safety while simplifying workload management.
Discuss your goals with an instructor or school so they can help you choose a training aircraft suitable to your needs.