Welcome to Florida Pilot Center,  where learning is fun and adventurous.

Beautifully  Engineered Airplanes

What a great invention! 

As Chief Pilot many people ask me my opinion of the airplanes I have spent thousands of hours flying.  Based on my experience in each specific aircraft that I have had the opportunity to fly over the last three decades I share some of my opinions here.

During my time flying these airplanes, I carefully observed each ship's handling and flight characteristics while performing and executing numerous tactical flight maneuvers  teaching and flying.  So this is a comment seen through the eyes of a teacher describing the world of flight in hand crafted, complex, expensive but wonderful flying aircraft.

But first, this important note: I wish to give praise and thanks to all the extraordinary aerodynamists, engineers and engine manufacturers, who have crafted and sculpted such marvelous machines into magnificent flying carpets. Without these dedicated people, we would not enjoy the gift of flight.  So, hats off to the few, gifted and brilliant folks that were so courageous in passing on their gifts to the General Aviation populous.

Piper: Sentinels of the Aero space Industry

Lock Haven to Lakeland to Vero Beach

Archer/Cherokee

The Piper Cherokee was born 50 years ago in Vero Beach and is an "American Icon". The PA-28 evolved into the Archer which is still in production. I have flown in them for thousands of hours and really enjoy their docile maneuverability and smooth ride. It will provide many great attributes to a buyer or renter and still be economical to fly. Kudos to the Piper employees.  With its new all Glass cockpit, it will be in the flying market place for many more years. 

Arrow

For professional academies and universities, this airplane is a diamond.  Under FAA rules, aspiring instructor pilots must provide a complex aircraft for the flight test.  And this Piper wins hands down almost every time. The United States has become the Gold standard for flight training the last 4 decades and this is the aircraft that helped cement that title on the international scene.  Many countries around the World are currently buying this jewel to fulfill their need to train competent pilots in the most realistic flight environment. Long live this Stalwart of invention.  I have put in over a thousand hours teaching in them.  The plane would be on my "short list" if I were shopping for an airplane today.

Aztec

Can I describe the Aztec as like a Mercedes SUV?  Maybe so. After flying Aztecs for over 1,000 hours I can tell you this is one tough indian.  Not only is it a good, solid, rugged and reliable machine, it can lift a sizable load and carry it along at 170 knots. Too bad Piper stopped producing this model. Like the DC-3, these Piper Aztec models will be around for a very long time. They are speedy M1 tanks on steroids.  And can take abuse from ham fisted pilots.  They call it an Aztec for a reason.  Its an airplane for any season.

Chieftain

Piper built a factory in Lakeland, Florida just to make this special airplane. I flew on-demand charter and scheduled freight at night in this charmer, logging over 1000 hours as PIC. I flew this plane in some of the most brutal winter icing conditions imaginable around the Great lakes. Its a "World Heavy Weight Champion" for light twin airplanes.  It is stable, fast and a rock solid performer that pleases passengers as much as pilots. It will pick up 1800 pounds of freight legally, (2500 pounds illegally) and fly at 180 knots all day long. Easy to fly on two engines and easier on one engine, its a joy to hand fly.  The big, powerful piston engines will suck you back into the seat on takeoff.  Today, many charter operators love this work horse for flying all over the Bahama islands; and why not?  Its safe, rugged and dependable to operate.  It is a well behaved airplane and has no bad habits or vices. Beware though, keep it locked up. Thieves will steal them for contraband running.

 

Seminole

A bold concept in design. The magician--engineers pulled an airplane not a rabbit out of the hat.   The seminole has dominated the training market since the day the first one rolled off the production line.  It was built to fulfill the need for a light multi-engine trainer and has done just that.  It is economical, dependable, light but very strong, fun airplane to fly. I  have spent several thousand hours teaching in the PA-44-180 and enjoyed every minute. The Seminole is easy to hand fly and has a great safety record with all the schools, academies and universities that fly it.  The cockpit is tight and there is not much room in the back seats but there is room for an additional two hundred pounds in the aft baggage compartment.  At 75% power, she flies along at 155kts and has good handling qualities at higher altitudes, too.  A gem of a trainer.  Piper scored a touchdown with this creation.  If I had the money, I'd buy one for my wife and another one for myself. Kudos for the Seminole. The engines are Lycoming's best and most reliable O-360's with 180hp per side.  A perfect marriage made in heaven. You will see these airplanes around for a long, long, time.  Its an honest airplane that brings smiles to the pilots that fly them.  There is no better multi-engine trainer in the world.  And its produced here in Vero Beach Florida.

Seneca

The Piper plant in Vero Beach still makes this model.  That should tell us something important about its specific niche and market value. I  had the opportunity to captain this airplane around the New England states and can testify to the charm it cast on paying customers.  The interior is quite roomy and comfy despite looking somewhat small from the outside. It is very easy to hand fly. You will see this airplane all over the Caribbean and Bahamas.  Piper hit a home run with this baby.  A comparison in the auto industry would be to call it a Ford Bronco/Explorer of airplanes.  And Flight examiners favor this airplane for giving initial multi-engine exams to new multi-engine Pilots.  It is the gateway and stepping stone to flying speedier aircraft for aspiring young pilots.  

Tomahawk

What a pearl! I think it is a real red ruby of an airplane even after 30 + years of teaching.  Fun, easy to fly and ruggedly built. This has to be one of  my all time favorites to fly on a weekly basis.  Why? I never get tired of its ease of handling in flight or on the ground.  Its an honest and sincere airplane that is very easy to land in crosswinds. I can think of few other airplanes that provide such panoramic views which is extremely important if you are teaching in it. Many new Pilots cut their teeth on this Piper model and went on to fly for the airlines in big Boeing ships, like 747s.  I still fly in this machine and can swear to its great flying qualities. With its 1750 pound max gross weight, it gives a smoother ride than most all Light Sport Airplanes. And burns only 6gph at normal cruise. Note: as an instrument training platform, it builds the most confidence in Pilots.  If  you can command this vessel in heavy IFR weather then you will become a Master Pilot at flying faster and bigger airplanes and jets one day.

Beechcraft -- Big, Bold & Beautiful
 
Bonanza

I flew the A-36 models training pilots for Japan Airlines.  It is a lot of airplane for a new student pilot.  We performed soft field takeoffs over 50 ft obstacles. Crazy? Well the PTS says it can be a requested flight maneuver for pilot certification. And we executed the maneuver like a sushi chef cutting up slices of salmon. Occasionally we suffered a few band-aided fingers but it is a stately aircraft. It is also an airplane for serious cross country endeavors. A solid performer with predictable performance and a pleasure to fly too.  Just don't bend a wingtip or rudder, replacement costs are like ordering something from the space shuttle program. Perhaps this is why its been a Doctors airplane.  I am still grateful and thankful for the opportunity for teaching new Pilots in the A-36.  Its a Cadillac of SUV's.

King Air

Companies like to charter and own these flying limos.  And why not?  They are fast, comfortable, all weather capable machines that carry up to 10 or more passengers.  I flew the King Air  for J.A.L. in Napa California and can attest to these mighty strong airplanes taking abuse but still flying safely.  They are an honest Pilots airplane when you fly them by the numbers in the POH.  The turbine engines are extremely reliable and easy to manage in flight. You could fly into and out of short runways with the powerful Pratt engines. Typically we flew cross countries around FL 240 at cruised at better than 220kts.  Not a jet but you could top most weather and get a very smooth quiet ride. The autopilot did most of the work. And on the ground, this airplane looks good too. The King Air is still in production.  Long live the King Air.

Cessna: Calm, Collected, cautious
 
Cessna 152

Flying these is like being in an old Volkswagen Beetle. They have been around a long time.  They were made for the masses. The interior is narrow and you will sit tightly shoulder to shoulder, so it is a bit uncomfortable.  I must have put more than 2500 hrs of PIC time on-board them. Climb performance is marginal in warm weather and with that wing above you its hard to see around and above. If you are taller than 5' ft 9", better to find another airplane to rent or own.  Is it old fashion and out dated, perhaps; but some folks still like owning one. With 100hp, speed is not good and neither is the payload.  But it is a stable platform that has provided many new pilots the thrill of aviation.  Its a 7 out of 10 on handling and renter satisfaction.

Cessna 172

Oh, what can be said about this reliable airplane?  Its the Chevy Nova of aircraft. With more than 43,000 built it is the most successful mass produced light aircraft in history. The first production models were delivered in 1956. In the last decade, Cessna has spruced these airplanes up with a more powerful 180hp engine and glass cockpits. You will find 100's of rental schools offering them to the public. They are fairly easy to handle and easy to ingress or egress the cockpit. Cessna has a good support network to help service any airplane that needs it. Parts are easy to get. They are simple but rugged airplanes. A good utilitarian aircraft to own.

Mitshubishi: Heavy Industry

The speedy Lead Sled.  What can be said of an aircraft with a twisted past?  Yes, many a Pilot have crashed them.  But if you get good instruction and respect the airplane, it will reward you with blinding speed.  When I flew these MU-2's, I felt like the religious monks in Thailand who take care of powerful Tigers with no cages. The tigers, like the airplane, can eat you very quickly, so it pays to respect them and know your limitations. Stay proficient and well trained when piloting this fast bird. And keep the engine systems well maintained. It is a joy to hand fly down at low altitudes but you will want a good functioning autopilot up at higher altitudes.

Cirrus  SR 20:  Sleek,  Fast  and  Plush

A  great flying machine that rewards the Pilot with grace and superb handling.This aircraft should be in any fleet at all flight training and rental facilities. The Cirrus SR20 is a  piston engine composite airplane that has four seats. The SR20 is noted for being the first production general aviation aircraft equipped with a parachute designed to lower the aircraft safely to the ground after loss of control or structural failure. It’s the plane that put Cirrus on the map and transformed an industry. The SR20 is the perfect dual-role airplane: easily manageable for the newer pilot and perfectly suitable for business use.

Light Sport: Frugal but Friendly

A New Generation. LSA  in general have developed into sophisticated little airplanes.  Most come with a 100hp Rotax engines which makes economic ownership a possibility. These engines burn either 100LL or auto fuel which is nice. One drawback to the Rotax engine is that you must hand prop the engine through numerous turns to circulate the oil before you climb on-board to fire it up. Most Light Sport planes now come with sexy "glass displays" for instruments (which isn't always the best choice for new students.) They can fly at 105kts and burn 5gph. The down side is that there is little to no room for bags or luggage. You will need a headset to fly them. One FAA rule LSA buyers should be aware of is this: When an LSA manufacturer closes its doors, that LSA can not be used in a flight school rental business, because the status of the airplane turns to experimental.

Pipersport/Sportcruiser

This airplane is nimble, quick and fun to fly.  But you better launch your flight at sunrise because by 10AM the low wing loading means the warming earth's thermal turbulence can make it an uncomfortable flying platform. I admire its sexy lines and cool looking one piece canopy. After spending much time as a test pilot for many of these Pipersports I can honestly say the airplane is a fun ship to fly and the craftsmanship is good for what you pay. I taught in these for over two years and noted that the lateral stability (pitch axis) is somewhat twitchy while flying it. So, on a one to ten basis of flying and ownership qualities, I give this bird a 6.5 with 10 being perfect.

Remos

A carbon crafted beauty that is quick, agile but controlled in its handling qualities.  It has a good payload, but is a tight fit to climb on board. The Remos features the same 100hp rotax engine used by many LSA airplanes. It will take the average pilot some considerable time to learn how to land this plane properly without banging the gear. The stalls are benign and climb performance is quite good on takeoff. The German craftsmanship can be seen up close during a preflight walk around. Meticulous and cleanly designed despite the ugly struts. But its fun to fly it and not as twitchy as some LSAs. Overall handling qualities,  I  rate it a 7.5 out of 10,  which is generous for an LSA.

AT-4

Sold previously under the brand name Gobosh (Go Big or Stay Home), this LSA ranked eighteenth in light sport market share by September 2011, with 23 aircraft, according to data compiled by light sport guru Dan Johnson.  Aero AT states they will also support the existing fleet of about 28 Gobosh aircraft. It is a rugged and well built aircraft but has payload limitations. If you are over a certain height (about 5' 9") it would be better to shop around to rent something else. I flew the Gobosh several hundred hours and can say that it handles quite nicely with no bad behavior.  It is an LSA, so don't expect a smooth ride in light turbulence. Don't attempt a flight in moderate turbulence. Again, it is equipped with the Rotax 100hp engine and performance was typical for a LSA airplane. Overall I would rate this plane a 6 out of 10 on its flying qualities and what it has to offer the renter.

Experience the joy of flying.

 

 

PURE  FLYING

KVRB, Our Home Airport

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