Should I train in a modern or vintage LSA aircraft?

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Should I train in a modern or vintage LSA aircraft?

A friend of the blog, Dave L., emailed recently asking about completing his Light Sport (LSA) training in a legacy aircraft, in this case a post-war Aeronca Champ, versus a modern LSA trainer.

He had taken some lesson in a Sport Cruiser and was leaning towards the Champ for all the right reasons and my response echoed his sentiment. He is looking for maximum stick and rudder skills and as a bonus he has a very experienced CFI to teach him; a perfect combination.

He also appropriately stated his mission, which is pleasure flying with an occasional 300miler thrown in. No problem in the Champ.


taylorcraftBased on his situation, he’s on the right track. I wondered if others had the same question and I felt like some additional details might be helpful.

The first and most obvious question is which kind of LSA do you plan to fly post-training.
If you plan to rent the airplane you trained in then it makes perfect sense to use that machine, new or old.
If you are planning to train one aircraft type and fly the other, that is where it can be interesting.

I would argue that the difference between a CTLS and a Luscombe is substantial.  If you trained in the Luscombe and jumped in a CT you would be legal,  but a modern Rotax is a lot different from a 4 cylinder Continental. Likewise the avionics onboard many of today’s LSA trainers will stump anyone not properly checked out. The point is they both have their nuances. You obviously would need a tailwheel endorsement if you reversed this scenario so that will provide the training you’ll need if you started in a modern aircraft and then selected to fly a classic LSA.

Opinion only

If I had the option and I were unsure what I’d fly after getting my primary training; I would train in the old taildragger. A key point from Dave’s question was, “if given the choice.” The fact is most people won’t be able to choose based on the training available in their area. If that’s the case, no problem; get your Sport Pilot license and have fun.

Why do I recommend training in 60-year-old airplane?

These airplanes will teach force you to:

  • Fly by the horizon (no fancy EFIS to video-game your way around the sky)
  • Fly coordinated
  • Use the rudder pedals
  • No over-rely on brakes
  • Use proper take offs techniques (incl xwinds)
  • Use proper landings techniques (incl xwinds)
  • Prop start an airplane (if applicable)

As a bonus you’ll be tailwheel endorsed, opening up thousands of great used airplanes to choose from.

What it won’t teach you:

  • The gadgets (EFIS, moving map GPS, modern radios)
  • The nuances of the Rotax
  • The subtleties of taxiing a castering nose wheel aircraft (equipped on many new LSAs)
  • The modern LSA control responses will generally be quicker which could require getting used to coming off flying a J-3 Cub.

Now there is nothing wrong with the ultra modern Sport Pilot trainers out there. They are amazingly efficient and most have great flight controls and fantastic visibility – all excellent traits. My point is, I believe the old airplane will make you work harder and in the end force you to have better fundamental stick and rudder skills. This foundation will make your checkout in the local Sport Cruiser or CT a cinch; not so much if you try it the other way around.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a thorough tailwheel endorsement later and reap all the benefits, which is how I did it back during my primary days.

I don’t harbor this opinion because I’m over the hill and hate change or new technology, I’m not that old and I’m kind of a geek. This is my opinion based on years of teaching in conventional trainers and old taildraggers.

So if you have a choice, vote vintage for you primary training needs.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please comment below.
by Brent

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