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Easiest Planes to Fly For Anyone (With a Pilot License)

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Easiest Planes to Fly For Anyone (With a Pilot License)

What makes a plane easy to fly?

Before we get into our list of the easiest planes to fly, it is only fair to point out that the concept of ease of flying is inherently subjective. Yes, there are certain characteristics that most pilots will look for and most designers will incorporate on an aircraft that is easy to fly, but there is no universal checklist. We are all different and our perceptions of the relative ease of flying a given aircraft will vary.

When hunting for a plane that you will personally find easy to fly, a good starting point is aircraft that have historically been used as basic flight trainers. Although flight instructors don’t want trainer aircraft to be so easy to fly that the plane virtually flies itself and the student learns nothing, if a manufacturer is marketing their aircraft as a trainer, there is a natural focus on making the craft’s handling manageable for a beginner. This is good news for a pilot who is looking for a simple aircraft.

With this in mind, to create our list of the easiest planes to fly, we focused mainly on single engine basic trainer aircraft although we did throw a few others in the mix. We narrowed down the options by looking for planes that met the following criteria:

  • Stability
  • Ease of handling
  • High degree of error forgiveness
  • Numerous positive reviews and recommendations by fellow pilots.

Easiest planes to fly

Each category of aircraft has its easier to fly and harder to fly models. Since our focus today is on aircraft that are easy for anyone with a pilot’s license to fly, we will stick with small, single engine GA aircraft.

Naturally you will see quite a few varieties of Cessnas and Pipers on the list since they are known for their trainer aircraft, but you may also come across some planes you hadn’t considered. Let’s see what makes the cut for being one of the easiest planes to fly.

Beechcraft Skipper

Beechcraft Skipper

The Beechcraft Skipper was a well-built low-wing, t-tail trainer aircraft that turned out to be almost too easy to fly. Once you have your license, you may appreciate the ease of flying a Skipper, but flight instructors complained that for student pilots, the easy landings and minimal adverse yaw of this aircraft didn’t provide enough training opportunities. Since the whole intent of the Skipper line was to serve as basic trainers, this shut down production quickly and only 312 planes were built.

Pilots who get their hands on a Beech Skipper appreciate the outstanding side visibility along with the improved forward visibility during climb thanks to a sloped nose design.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,675 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,100 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 30 gal
  • Range: 412 nm
  • Top speed: 143 kts
  • Cruising speed: 119 kts
  • Stall speed: 47 kts
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,280 ft
  • Climb rate: 720 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 12,900 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,313 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming 0-235-L2C, 115 hp

Champion Citabria 7ECA

Champion Citabria 7ECA

While you may be less familiar with the Champion Citabria than you are with Cessnas or Pipers, the Citabria has some unique specs that will convince you it is beginner friendly.

Most planes that are used as trainers were built specifically with primary flight training in mind, but Champion had a broader vision with the Citabria. This plane is also designed and marketed as an acrobatic trainer. As such, the plane meets the more rigorous force loading standards and can handle extremes from +5G to -2G. That’s much more forgiving than a normal aircraft.

The heavier weight handles wind well, and the spring gear design is forgiving of hard student pilot landings.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,750 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,120 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 36 gal
  • Range: 685 mi
  • Top speed: 120 mph
  • Cruising speed: 115 mph
  • Stall speed: 52 mph
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,050 ft.
  • Climb rate: 740 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 11,500 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 885 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming O-235-K2C, 118 hp

Piper Cherokee Cruiser 140 PA-28-140

The low wing Cherokee 140 handles wind well with a stability that allows you to fly easily in situations where other aircraft may be grounded. Get it trimmed properly, and the Cherokee can be flown using aileron control alone. Its short wing design makes taxiing and parking simple. You will also appreciate the ease of landing – a landing so easy in fact, that some flight instructors complain it is too simple for a training craft.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 2 (optional 4 place conversion)
  • Gross weight: 2,150 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,250 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 50 gal
  • Range: 800 mi
  • Top speed: 144 mph
  • Cruising speed: 135 mph
  • Stall speed: 54 mph
  • Takeoff distance: 780 ft run
  • Climb rate: 690 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 14,900 ft
  • Landing distance: 535 ft run
  • Engine: Lycoming O-320-E2A, 140 hp (can be modified to produce 150 hp with prop kit)

Cessna 150/152

Cessna 150/152

The Cessna 150 and 152 with their tricycle gear configuration are so easy to land that Cessna’s marketing team gave them the nickname “Land-O-Matic.” In the air, a slightly pronounced stall gives the pilot time to see, feel, and correct an impending stall prior to actually entering a stall. The 150/152 series of aircraft is the third most popular model ranked only behind the Piper Cherokee and the Cessna 172.

Specifications (150/152)

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,500-1,600 lbs / 1,670 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,122 lb /1,081 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 26-42 gal / 26 gal
  • Range: 420-548 nm / 370-415 nm
  • Top speed: 109 kts
  • Cruising speed: 82 kn / 107 kn
  • Stall speed: 42 kn /43 kn
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,385 ft / 1,190 ft
  • Climb rate: 670-740 fpm / 715 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 12,650-15,300 ft / 14,700 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,075 ft / 1,160 ft
  • Engine: Continental O-200-A, 100 hp / Lycoming 0-235-LC2 flat-4, 110 hp

Cessna 172S Skyhawk

Cessna 172

Every student pilot knows that the Skyhawk is a quintessential trainer and is one of the most popular planes in the world for a reason. As the most produced model of aircraft, odds are that you will fly a 172 at some point in your piloting life. Familiarity breeds ease, so once you learn your way around a Skyhawk, this trainer will become one of your go-to planes for relaxing, easy flights.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 4
  • Gross weight: 2,550 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,663 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 56 gal
  • Range: 638 nm
  • Top speed: 126 kt
  • Cruising speed: 124 kt
  • Stall speed: 53 kcas
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,440 ft
  • Climb rate: 730 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 14,000 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,630 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming IO-360-L2A, 180 hp

Diamond DA20 Katana

Diamond DA20 Katana

Many easy-to-fly trainer aircraft have been around since the first half of the last century. The Katana from Austria is one of the newest entries and was first produced in 1994. The Katana is designed to allow the ailerons to maintain effectiveness even after the wing roots have begun to stall. Its 11:1 glide ratio is also positively received.

Flight instructors love the composite design and the ease of incorporating a glass cockpit. Reduced wingspan, a tricycle gear configuration plus easy handling, responsive controls and excellent cockpit visibility make it a student pilot favorite as well.

Specifications (DA20 C1):

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,764 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,180 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 24 gal
  • Range: 525 nm
  • Top speed: 164 kn
  • Cruising speed: 130 kn
  • Stall speed: 36 kn
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,640 ft
  • Climb rate: 830 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 13,100 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,360 ft
  • Engine: Continental IO-240-B32B, 125 hp

Ercoupe 415-C

Ercoupe 415-C

A beginner’s aircraft doesn’t get any easier or better than the Ercoupe. In fact, this is one of the first planes other pilots will recommend when you ask for easy-to-fly options. The Ercoupe was designed specifically with safety and ease of flying in mind. It is said to be nearly fool proof and to keep pilots out of trouble. A trailing link tricycle landing gear set-up smooths out and softens landings while a limit on the elevator-up travel reduces your stall potential, keeping you safer while in flight. The Ercoupe was built with a unique car-style on the ground steering setup. Rather than using rudder pedals, the pilot simply steers with the yoke like you would a car’s steering wheel.

The low price tag will put a smile on your face, and if you go with the 415-C model, its light max gross weight allows you to fly under the light sport aircraft category.

As a side note, if you are just starting out on your search for a plane that is easy to fly, watching an overview of the Ercoupe design features is a great idea. It highlights some of the key design choices that make an aircraft easier to fly. Once you understand and appreciate these features on the Ercoupe, you will have a better idea of what to look for in other planes.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,260 lbs
  • Empty weight: 855 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 24 gal
  • Top speed: 144 mph
  • Cruising speed: 114 mph
  • Stall speed: 48 mph
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,950 ft
  • Climb rate: 560 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 11,000 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,750 ft
  • Engine: Continental C-85, 85 hp

Luscombe 8F

Luscombe 8F

The Luscombe 8F is a light sport aircraft with a reputation for being agile and responsive in the air thanks to smooth controls. While some pilots complain that they are hard to land, others completely disagree and say that the landing is straight forward. Either way, the supreme in-air handling makes it worth adding this plane to your short list of potentially easy to fly aircraft that you want to test out.

Specifications (2008 Luscombe Silvaire 8F)

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,320 lbs
  • Empty weight: 880 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 30 gal
  • Range:
  • Top speed: 128 mph
  • Cruising speed: 120 mph
  • Stall speed: 48 mph
  • Takeoff distance: 600 ft
  • Climb rate: 900 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 17,000 ft
  • Landing distance: 500 ft
  • Engine: Continental C-90, 90 hp

Piper Super Cub PA-18-150

Piper Super Cub PA-18-150

The Super Cub is a bush plane at its best and easiest to fly. This aircraft handles beautifully with quick, agile responsiveness that lets you take off and land in all sorts of terrain. Built from 1949 through the early 1980s, the Super Cub was based on the original Piper Cub with a redesigned airframe. Its combination of ruggedness, handling and power makes it a favorite of pilots who want to easily explore remote areas where short field and soft field takeoff and landing capabilities are a must.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,750 lbs.
  • Empty weight: 930 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 36 gallons
  • Range: 400 nm
  • Top speed: 130 mph
  • Cruising speed: 115 mph
  • Stall speed: 43 mph
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 500 ft
  • Climb rate: 960 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 19,000 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 885 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming 0-320-A2A, 150 hp

Piper Pacer PA-20

Piper Pacer PA-20

One of the star trainer aircraft of the early 1950s was the visually appealing Piper Pacer. This particular tail wheel configuration is a good option for pilots wanting to get into taildraggers. It may take a few flights to get used to the ground handling characteristics, but once you get in the air, the Pacer is easy to fly and has responsive controls. The Pacer also excels on short field takeoffs and landings, so this coupled with its short-wing configuration make it another bush pilot favorite.

Specifications (for 1952 PA-20-135):

  • Seats: 4
  • Gross weight: 1,950 lbs.
  • Empty weight: 1,020 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 36 gal.
  • Range: 470 nm
  • Top speed: 137 ktas
  • Cruising speed: 110 ktas
  • Stall speed: 42 kts
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,600 ft
  • Climb rate: 725 fpm.
  • Service ceiling: 15,500 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,280 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming O-290-D2, 135 hp

Piper Tri-Pacer PA-22-160

The Piper Tri-Pacer also receives high marks for simplicity and ease of flight. It was built in the mid-1950s as a successor to the Pacer. On the Tri-Pacer, the tail wheel was removed in favor of the nose wheel. This tricycle gear configuration is known for improved ground handling, though it tends to get lower marks for aesthetics. Other than that, the Tri-Pacer design was kept nearly identical to the successful Pacer, and it is one of the most straightforward and economical planes to start out in.

Specifications

  • Seats: 4
  • Gross weight: 2,000 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,110 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 36 gal
  • Range: 500 mi
  • Top speed: 141 mph
  • Cruising speed: 134 mph
  • Stall speed: 49 mph
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,035 ft
  • Climb rate: 800 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 16,500 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,280 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming O-320-B, 160 hp

Piper Colt PA-22-108

The Piper Colt was a popular trainer aircraft introduced in the early 1960s. In many ways, it is very similar to the Tri-Pacer, just a little smaller with a smaller engine and two fewer seats. While the Colt had a short two-year production span, over 2,000 planes were produced, and many are still flying today. Since the Colt was designed for and geared toward flying schools and clubs, it has ease of flying for the beginner pilot in mind.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,650 lbs.
  • Empty weight: 940 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 36 gal.
  • Range: 648 nm
  • Top speed: 120 mph
  • Cruising speed: 108 mph
  • Stall speed: 54 mph
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,570 feet
  • Climb rate: 610 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 feet
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,250 feet
  • Engine: Lycoming, 108 hp

Grumman Cheetah AA-5A

Grumman Cheetah AA-5A

The fun of a Grumman Cheetah is its canopy design which gives the pilot impressive visibility. This sweet, sporty plane floats down the runway on landings, and when airborne, the handling is gloriously smooth, often being compared to as a racecar. If you go with a Cheetah, you will enjoy the cruising speed, although you should be warned that the climb rate may feel a bit sluggish.

Specifications:

  • Seats: 4
  • Gross weight: 2,200 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,286 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 51 gal
  • Range: 657 nm
  • Top speed: 136 kts
  • Cruising speed: 128 kts
  • Stall speed: 53 kts
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,600 ft
  • Climb rate: 660 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 12,650 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,100 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming 0-320-E2G, 150 hp

Piper Tomahawk II PA-38-112

The Tomahawk was built with a rectangular style wing that generates a generous amount of lift and impressive climb rate. No sluggish controls here – this aircraft is known for its snappy and responsive performance, making it a go-to favorite for personal use. The low-wing configuration gives excellent overhead visibility, and if you go for the Tomahawk II vs the original, you will also appreciate the improved ground clearance and soft field performance courtesy of larger 6” tires.

Specifications

  • Seats: 2
  • Gross weight: 1,670 lbs
  • Empty weight: 1,128 lbs
  • Fuel capacity: 30 gal
  • Range: 539 mi
  • Top speed: 126 mph
  • Cruising speed: 115 mph
  • Stall speed: 5 mph
  • Takeoff distance (50’): 1,460 ft
  • Climb rate: 718 fpm
  • Service ceiling: 13,000 ft
  • Landing distance (50’): 1,544 ft
  • Engine: Lycoming 0-235-L2C, 112 hp

Take-Aways

Yes, we want to challenge ourselves and work on improving our piloting skills, but sometimes it feels nice to just go up and enjoy a relaxing flight in an easy-to-fly aircraft. For days like that, any of the planes on this list will fit the bill.

Note from the Editor

We received a comment from a reader of our blog that we thought worthy of sharing. It brings up some rather good points.

You neglect to point out the disconnect between safety and simplicity. "Easy" doesn't mean "safe." In fact, some planes that are "Easy to FLY in," are also "easy to DIE in."

This would include, arguably (based on accident statistics), the SuperCub, the Luscombe, and possibly the notoriously underpowered Colt. Above all, the Ercoupe. Yes. The ERCOUPE.

In your article, you say of the Ercoupe 415-C :

"A beginner’s aircraft doesn’t get any easier or better than the Ercoupe. In fact, this is one of the first planes other pilots will recommend when you ask for easy-to-fly options. The Ercoupe was designed specifically with safety and ease of flying in mind. It is said to be nearly foolproof and to keep pilots out of trouble. ..."

Unfortunately, though the Ercoupe was DESIGNED for safety, it was a defective design, resulting in an UN-safe aircraft. As the NTSB learned in various studies, and as other aviation safety experts have confirmed, the Ercoupe, among planes in its class (old 2-seaters), is among the most accident-prone, and deadliest -- ironically largely due to its "safety" features!

See:

It's a dangerous thing to simply tout a "simple" plane as inherently a good choice for a pilot. SIMPLE airplanes are not always SAFE -- and vice-versa.

~ RH, certified instructor

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  • PilotMall.com Editor