Posts: 6633
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 11:10 am

New Complex Trainers?

Tue Sep 09, 2003 10:20 am

During my extremely boring linear algebra class today, I was thinking about flying and realized something. There aren't too many new complex trainers being built.

In the US, complex trainers are needed for complex (obviously), Commercial ASEL, and CFI-ASE training (if these aren't added on ratings). Not as much flying as Private ASEL licenses, but still a significant amount. Currently we have lots of old birds out there fulfilling this role. C172RGs, C177RGs, C182RGs, PA-28R-200s, early Mooneys, even the occasional Commanche. These are all great planes, but for the most part, they're all at least 20 years old.

Due to a few reasons (insurance), companies aren't really building light retractables anymore. About the only one currently in production is the Piper PA-28R-201 Arrow. Current Mooneys and Bonanzas are way too expensive and way too much airplane for this role.

Any idea what flight schools will do in the coming years? Continue to fly old airplanes that are only getting older, each have an Arrow in their fleet, ...? Its not too drastic of a situation, but something that got me thinking...
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Tue Sep 09, 2003 10:49 am

The problem is that for some reason, Cessna is totally wimping out in their new strategy, thinking the world only wants to fly single engine fixed gear airplanes (other than the jets of course). They brought back the Skyhawk & all, why not the Cutlass? It is a fine airplane, and the Skylane RG was a real screamer, I loved it when I flew it.

This market neglect on Cessna's part I feel is giving Piper a MAJOR edge in the flight training market. I am currently flying the "new" Arrow as a CFI student, and it is a FANTASTIC airplane, better than any Cessna I've flown (other than the 310-R).
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Tue Sep 09, 2003 5:10 pm

Someone please tell me that I'm wrong, but from what I see, it seems like the American manufacturers have completely lost the plot in the light aircraft market. No new technology. No new designs. No innovation at all. It's very sad...

Even the few 'new' aircraft are just derivatives of a design that is 20-30 (or more) years old. Adding a colour moving map GPS to the panel doesn't mean a PA-28 is suddenly 'up to date'. Inside, they still all look like a Trabant with wings (that is a type of East German car from the 60's). I flew a PA-28 at the weekend, and it felt like driving a Trabant too.

As for a recommendation, I would suggest the TB-21 or others in that family. Aerospatiale/Socata make a very nice range of aircraft. The TB-21 is 'complex' to meet the requirements for commercial training. See the US site at:

I'm not against American aircraft, and I'm not anti-anything, I just can't see a single reason to buy a Piper or a Cessna. Happy to be corrected!
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Tue Sep 09, 2003 9:27 pm

trabant with wing! haha! thats funny.

i love the cutlass. it's a great plane. the arrow is really nice as well. i think cessna isn't selling them anymore because no one is willing to buy them. at NFI we have a cutlass and an arrow, and as said before they're almost 30 years old. i'd love to have a new one to replace these old maintinence hogs. then again, maybe we should allow for T-38 to be used for this role!  Big thumbs up
"...cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home."
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Wed Sep 10, 2003 12:31 am

Now thats a nice complex single!

They still manufacture it. This is really the "bourgeois" trainer as they seem fairly rare in institutions in North America. I absolutely adore the interior. Very automotive (non East-German LoL), with the click in seatbelts and the panel with a shape other than "flat". It's really a dash.

 Love  Love  Love

I want one. It looks like it might even make hooded IFR fun!  Wow!

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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Wed Sep 10, 2003 12:59 am


Yes it rocks even when youre under the hood. I enjoy every second I'm in this plane.

The gull-wing doors (like a Lotus Esprit) are very classy.

The one gripe I have is that many I have flown have an ancient 4-dial transponder. I got used to a nice push-button one before. That is probably fixed on the new models.

On your picture of the interior, it shows a standard 4-seat configuration. The ones I fly (TB-10 mostly) have a 3-position bench seat at the back.

They are still in production and being actively marketed in the USA. On their website, they have a picture of the one which was at Oshkosh a few years ago with an American/French flag design livery. Brilliant.
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Wed Sep 10, 2003 2:10 am

The TB10 is the easiest plane I've ever landed, bar none. Flys smoothly, stable in turbulent conditions, nice instrument binnacle, good comfortable seating position, great a/c for IFR and CSU prop training. And it's much nicer than any Cessna or Beech I've had the pleasure (or displeasure) to fly in.

The only gripes I have about it is that elevator (it seems a bit flimsy, and if one of those tiny nuts in the linkage rod go kaput, you can kiss your arse goodbye), the high dash (really hard to see out of on flapless landings), and the gullwing doors (look nice, but can't leave them open if there are high winds, can't leave a gap open during taxying in hot weather conditions).

RE: New Complex Trainers?

Wed Sep 10, 2003 5:44 am


I would have liked to do my commercial/CFI in a "new" Arrow. I did my training in one of three "old" (and "old" is the correct term!) Arrows. One was an Arrow III, and the others were Arrow IIs. The Arrow III was great. I didn't particularly care for the Arrow IIs. I actually got my complex sign off in a 1960-something Mooney M-20B. How's that for a complex trainer?!

But the main problem with flying "old" Arrows is that they were basically hangar queens. Always close to 100 hour. Always with something wrong. Always hard to schedule. A complex airplane needs TLC, and a bunch of hamfisted commercial students don't really give it to them. So they required a lot a maintenance. Unfortunately, a brand new complex trainer isn't going to be immune to the student's lack of aeronautical finess. I'm not quite sure what to do about that. And thus, the maintenance problems wouldn't be solved, and niether would the problem of the high cost associated with complex trainers. The school that I'm doing my CFII at does not have any complex airplanes.

I agree, though: I'd love to see Cessna do a revival of the Cutlass. That would be a great airplane. That TB10 also looks like a great airplane.

But I think if I were going to buy my own airplane, it'd probably be a fixed-gear... like a 182 or something. That way I wouldn't have to worry about anyone (myself included) landing gear up. We all laugh about gear-up landings, but it happens far more often than it should.

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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Wed Sep 10, 2003 6:33 am

Actually, the Mooney M20R Ovation only retails for 30 grand more than the arrow's base price (299,450 vs 271,600), so it's a viable alternative to the Piper in the complex trainer market. However, the mooney cruises at 190 knots rather than 140, which might make it "too hot to handle" for some pilots and insurance policies. Unfortunately, The mooney is still an old design with updated avionics and engines, nothing "ultra modern" about it.

Bottom line: the old Cessna 172RG's, 182RG's, and Arrows are still the most economical thing out there for complex training, both from a student's standpoint and flight school's standpoing for insurance reasons. A lot of new generation high performance singles, like the cirrus, are being produced with fixed gear since it's more practical/affordable from an insurance and manufacturing standpoint to just put some nice wheel pants on them than go through all the trouble of implementing retractable gear for a gain of only 5 or 10 knots. The Cirrus SR22 will get up into the 180 knot range with fixed gear(the wheel pants on those things cover so much of the tires it's almost impossible to chock them). I did my complex/high performance training in a 1978 cessna 182RG. I think it's a great looking airplane if you take the time to update the avionics, redo the interior, and give it a paint job every so oten. It's a pretty swift plane and has a respectable useful load, I thouroughly enjoy flying it.

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[Edited 2003-09-09 23:34:19]
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:16 pm

Um... that Cirrus doesn't have any landing gear.....
Twin Cessna 812 Victor, Minneapolis Center, we observe your operation in the immediate vicinity of extreme precipitation
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RE: New Complex Trainers?

Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:38 pm

I agree about the TB10 being a great aeroplane. I've flown both the PA-28 and the TB10 and the Tobago was light years ahead. I love the cockpit layout, it seems so modern, like a sportscar. It's a very stable plane to fly, very easy to land. Only it glides like a rock, thanks to it's low lift wings. The TB10 is the only single i have flown to have a max X wind capability of 25 kts.
If i ever win the lottery i'll get a new Trinidad TB20.
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Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2002 2:15 pm

RE: New Complex Trainers?

Fri Sep 12, 2003 2:05 pm

Um... that Cirrus doesn't have any landing gear.....


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