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What Planes Are the Easiest to Fly?

written by: Nirjharini•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 6/30/2011

Each airplane has its own peculiarities in flying characteristics which make the handling requirements varied for each design and model. However, some common features have been identified through statistics, which reduce the cockpit workload and make the flying experience pleasant for everyone.

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    Factors That Affect the Ease of Handling a Plane

    The easiest plane to fly can be decided by considering the various factors which affect the comfort level of a pilot while handling the flying machine. These factors are broadly classified into two categories: aircraft features and pilot attributes.

    There are some standard functional features of the plane which determine the comfort level in the cockpit. The most important feature among these is the control harmony, which essentially implies the amount of effort required to move each flying control with respect to the other controls and its subsequent effect on the state of the aircraft. Control harmony ensures that the resultant changes in the aircraft behavior holds a natural relationship with the pilot input as is the case in handling the wheel of a automobile.

    Cockpit visibility is another significant aspect that keeps the pilot at ease. The larger the field of view for the pilot, the easier time a pilot has in maneuvering the machine. Especially in critical situations like take offs and landings, having a better view of the runway and the adjoining ground makes it easier for the pilot to get airborne or touch down on the surface.

    For rookie pilots, the elements of safety built into the airplanes are significant in making their job easier. Some planes are extremely difficult to stall due to their wing characteristics and may even have automatic anti-stall features, which are a tremendous relief for all those learning the art of aviation. In certain types of wing fuselage combinations, the stall is gradual, making it easier for the student to go through the stall and have the wits to initiate recovery actions as required.

    Quick throttle response helps the pilot to get out of tricky situations, which is more prominent in smaller and lighter airplanes. Clearance of the propeller from the ground is another consideration that affects the pilot’s ability to easily steer and taxi the aircraft while on the ground. An easy to handle plane must essentially have adequate height to prevent ground hits on bumpy taxi paths.

    Tall pilots are more comfortable in low seated designs as they can still maintain a clear view of the surroundings. For the same configurations, shorter pilots might find it extremely difficult to align with the runway on approach or initiate flare at the required height before touching down. The combination of all these factors decides the final ease with which the plane can be flown by a pilot.

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    Universally Accepted Easiest Flying Machines

    The easiest aircraft to handle are often the ones that are used for training new pilots both in civil as well as military aviation. Some of the most popular trainer aircraft across the world include the Cessna 172, Cessna 152, Piper Warrior, DA20 and the Liberty XL2. All of these models have features which make their handling and control extremely user friendly so as to facilitate the training. These machines are quite forgiving in their stall and spin characteristics, providing automatic recovery in most of the cases.

    Cessna 152/ 172

    Cessna - 172 

    The different variants of Cessna have trained more pilots than any other aircraft in the world since 1959. The Cessna 152 is a two seated small plane that is extremely easy to land, earning it the nickname of “Land-O-Matic". Its 100 HP engine provides great response at critical junctures. With a takeoff distance of 775 feet and a landing roll requirement of less than 450 feet, this machine can easily be operated from confined landing strips. The subsequent four seated version called Cessna 172 is equipped with 160 HP engine for the additional all up weight. This model has the best general handling qualities among all small planes in the world, primarily due to its light controls that make complex maneuvers relatively easy to perform.

    Piper Warrior

    Piper Warrior 

    Various models of Piper have served the aviation training industry for the last five decades. The Piper Warrior, also popularly known as the Cherokee, has some of the most impressive safety features, which are responsible for its global acceptability. The longer wingspan with a tapered chord implies that even if the inboard wings stall, the outboard portion with the aileron controls will continue to function. All these will ultimately result in a controlled stall which occurs at very low speeds, making it easy to recover. The dihedral wings, coupled with special stabilizers ensure a high degree of roll stability, which simply means that perfectly balanced turns can be carried out even with the hands off the controls.

    DA20

    DA 20 Formation 

    The Diamond Aircrafts’ DA20 has two basic variants, namely the Katana and the Eclipse, both of which have been extensively used for training military aviators by the US Air Force. The Continental IO-240-B, 125 HP engine is suited well for its stated maximum of a weight of 605 pounds, providing sufficient reserve of power for all kinds of aerobatic and general maneuvers. This plane has a built in tendency of going nose down at the point of stall which makes the recovery almost automatic. The low landing speed of 55 Knots provides adequate reaction time, making it easy for most pilots to apply corrections during landing.

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    Advanced Features for Ease

    Apart from the individual flying characteristics of the planes, there are certain additional features which assist the pilot in handling the machine in today’s congested air space. In contemporary terms, the easiest plane to fly is the one that has the most advanced avionics for navigation, instrument patterns and positioning on the final approach. Some of the more sophisticated planes even have the ability to land on auto pilot in absolute zero visibilty conditions, making the job of the pilot much easier.

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    References

    Flight Training (AOPA), " Planes You Can Fly", http://flighttraining.aopa.org/learntofly/planes/index.html

    Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), " WINGS- Pilot Proficiency Program", https://www.faasafety.gov/WINGS/pppinfo/

    Image: Cessna 172 by Intersofia under public domain

    Image: Piper Cherokee by Ahunt under public domain

    Image: Flying Colors by Projektor under public domain