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-   -   West London Flying Schools - Aircraft Age (https://www.pprune.org/private-flying/539193-west-london-flying-schools-aircraft-age.html)

Falcons11 5th May 2014 19:02

West London Flying Schools - Aircraft Age
Hi all,

I am going to start training for my PPL (a path I know many members here have trodden and so I hope can impart their knowledge).

I am looking into flying schools around West London, so probably those based at:
  • Fairoaks
  • Denham
  • White Waltham

I could not see anyone at the TfL Flying Club (on this Sunny Sunday!!), so I saw:

  • West London Aero Club
  • Pilot School
  • Synergy

What really struck me is that the age of the aircraft looked almost as old as me.
Are there any schools with newer airframes?

The engines and other parts might be less than 30 years old, but when you are spending that much on something you would have rather feel like you are getting your money's worth. Sure these planes are airworthy, but in same way you would rather not drive a Datsun Sunny from the 70s or 80s, I rather not fly a PA28 from then.

BTW, I am quite tall so could not really fit in a C-152, was looking at either a PA28 or C-172. It appears most PA28s are 161 Warrior IIs. They've been making Warrior IIIs (confusingly also PA28-161) since the mid-90s, so some of those will soon be 20 years old!

marioair 5th May 2014 21:23

The rules of almost any other consumer market seem to get suspended when it comes to flying!

I guess schools see it like this - how many prospective students would have to walk away before the cost of a newer a/c would be worthwhile investing in? Quite a few I think

Or looking at it the other way, how much extra per hour would you be willing to pay, to learn in something that's newer or even worse, has gadgets in it that you can't use in your PPL syllabus.

Having said that, the biggest mistake I think is when it comes to trial/sight seeing flights where a persons expectations are much higher in terms of quality.

It's really depressing that I can't see how PPL schools or rental firms would ever feel motivated to invest in newer fleets. This is because the post PPL market seems very split between those that fly for fun but are price sensitive, so will go for cost over age of aircraft and then those that can afford to fly more often who then get a share anyway. So the poor flying club doesn't have a market big enough either way to warrant a better fleet.

arn3696 5th May 2014 21:46

Do you really think a 1975 PA28 flies differently from a 2000 model?! They have the same instruments with the exception of a different layout and a GPS which you should not need at that stage anyway. All aircraft are checked every 50/100/150 hours and annually for commercial operation with the engines inspected at TBO regardless of airframe age.

Oh and I did my commercial licence at a school that had a fleet of 1980s Senecas.

dublinpilot 5th May 2014 21:58

There certainly will be places where you can learn on very new aircraft.

However expect them to be a lot more expensive (a factor or 2 or 3 depending on the aircraft type) because they have to cover the capital cost of the aircraft. With the older ones that's maybe 20-40K. With a new one that's 200k-500k depending on the type.

Baikonour 5th May 2014 22:05

It's not a question of airworthiness but of a tired and old image of this leisure activity shown to prospective newcomers.

Especially this:
> the biggest mistake I think is when it comes to trial/sight seeing flights where a persons expectations are much higher in terms of quality.

One school I had a trial flight with had a row of aircraft which was still there when we came back, so presumably a choice of which to take us up in. They chose to take us up in what looked like the oldest and tattiest one that was there.
To make things more interesting, the battery was flat so we were started with a starter pack. Hey ho, welcome to flying!

Of course, that has no impact on the flight or on how the aircraft flies, but when you are (or maybe you are not?) trying to attract newcomers ... it's surely a sad state of affairs?

Is it a rite we all have to go through before we can enter the hallowed halls of 'those who have suffered before us' ?

And then we wonder why some many PPLers drop out after the first solo - or during the first year after getting their license.

The economic reality for schools is what it is, but to excuse the status quo by saying 'it is good enough for you, trust me' and seemingly accepting it as a desired state of affairs is surely a bit shortsighted?


RTN11 5th May 2014 23:54

There are several reasons why this is the case.

To start with all the money to develop better engines moved to jets and turbo props in the 70s and 80s, and all the good people went with it. So there really hasn't been a lot of development in piston engines since then.

The newer aircraft on the market are things like the PS28, or sportscrusier. These use more modern materials to keep the weight down, but they just aren't as robust, and have a lot of undercarriages collapse.

Maintenance on aircraft is very different to cars, so a 30-40 year old PA28 is going to be in far better condition than a car of the same age.

You're best bet for a new aircraft is to find a school with either a PS28, or possibly a cirrus SR20, but these will be nowhere near as robust, have quite poor engines, and don't really make very good training aircraft at all.

I don't see why it's confusing that the warrior 2 and warrior 3 have the same name, it's no different to cars. They're making the 7th ford fiesta now, but it's still got the same name.

Corsican 6th May 2014 12:43

Hi there,

I learnt at The Pilot Centre at Denham (great instructors) and still rent from there. The C152's are indeed quite dated and whilst I noticed this in perhaps my first flight, it tends to be less noticeable in the sense that you are learning to fly... and there is quite a bit of information to be processing both visually outside the aircraft as well as the scans checking what the instruments are telling you.

I did not really notice after a while although did request a different plane when I took my first passenger up.

I am 6 foot and fit ok into the C152 although it can be quite cosy with an instructor during winter when wearing jackets.

The PA28's and C172 at TPC are roomier although all look a little tired. Having said this, there is a PA-28 just arrived on the fleet last week (I think G-KCIN) which has some nice new leather seats and a nice control panel. These planes are primarily used for either PPL (more expensive, so a choice to be made) or for IMC training which means that you have two COM and two NAV's plus DME and ADF (this will all make sense when you are doing the nav part of the PPL).

In any event, you can always get a nicer plane once you have your PPL! I am certainly dreaming/hoping to find one soon. However, as mentioned above, the state of the plane becomes less noticeable when you are learning to fly (as long as it is airworthy) as there is quite a lot to take on board. At the end of the day, when you do your first solo landing, you will still be happy, even if the plane is older than you are! ;)

Good luck in your flying either way!

Falcons11 6th May 2014 21:14

Hi all,

Thanks for your replies, most appreciated.

Firstly I realise that the hourly rate will jump, although it does not have to be astronomical for a 20-year old aircraft from the 90s.

A warrior III would be nice or a newer 172

> The rules of almost any other consumer market seem to get suspended when it comes to flying!

> [whole post]

I agree with you both!

> Do you really think a 1975 PA28 flies differently from a 2000 model?!

Cabin and Seats in better condition, probably less rattle and better seals.


I understand what you are saying, but I think you miss the point just a new version of the same model would be preferential to flying an actual aircraft this old. It does not have to be a newer design, same design if needs been, just less kept together with tape and string.


Can you tell me more about your experience with TPC, I see you have praised them in other threads as well.
I am over 6 foot, though not fat, but my knees were pretty cramped against the controls and throttle on the 152 I sat in.

I guess what I am saying is that even if I have to learn in a basic aircraft, even driving schools buy new Vauxhall Corsa's for you to learn in, rather than 30 year old ones.

Now a NEW plane might be too expensive to offer as a training a/c, but a 15-20 year plane would add maybe 20-30 to the price.

Even paying 5 more for new seats and canopy would make the experience feel like money well spent, rather than a rip-off.

Remember when you look to the States, they charge less in USD than we pay in GBP! So that is worse than the old adage, "What you pay in pounds you pay in dollars"

[I have no idea if there is supposed to be a "quote" button but I could not spot one, and it appears my first few posts are being moderated or something]

mary meagher 6th May 2014 22:50

Falcons11, old buddy, what you need to check out is the maintenance....are the oleos properly balanced, is the engine dripping oil? Are the wings clean and free from bugs? Is the propeller nicked and scarred from stone damage? It needs to be clean as well, to be efficient.

AND IS THE CANOPY clean and clear? Its hard to do a good lookout with a dirty or foggy canopy. All this is not cosmetic, it is vital, and if the battery won't start the engine, go someplace else. The age of the aircraft is not the important thing; the classic trainers have been tried and tested, hopefully those defective in performance are no longer hanging about. (I never did trust a Tomahawk!) I am also suspicious of new designs....usually somebody's bright idea which has fetched up against the cost of development, with the consequence you are very very close to your instructor because the seating is to put it mildly, skimpy, and the whole airframe a bit insubstantial.

And why pay big bucks for an untested design that your students will only test to destruction with heavy landings, rough handling, and the occasional pitch down that causes the nosewheel to dance the shimmy shimmy. Where do you find the reliable engineers for the new untested types?

Falcons11 6th May 2014 23:30

OK, same old airframe, but newer seats and covers, newer canopy, newer harnesses, newer controls.

A few k of cost, but a much improved customer experience.
These planes look the same as when I was a kid and my dad took me flying 20 years ago and they were not new then either!!

I am convinced there is a middle ground between BIG BUCKS (your phrase) and TIRED LOOKING AIRFRAMES & INTERIORS (my phrase)

[if this slightly repeats what I said to others, then I apologise, but I cannot see my replies realtime as I am a newbie to the site]

The500man 7th May 2014 00:57

Flying Time at Shoreham have a fleet of DA40's. There are/were glass C172's at Goodwood advertised a while back. There are probably other places but you may have to travel if it's that important to you to fly something new and shiny.

My advice is find an instructor that's been flying since the dawn of time and fly in whatever heap he/she directs you to.

I agree with Mary. Expensive new aircraft often seem to come with unexpected features; like exploding batteries!

500ft 7th May 2014 02:28

I think to use cars as an analogy for light ga aircraft is slightly flawed. A better analogy is houses, new ones are not necessarily better than older ones. Newer ones may have better ergonomics or insulation and be more efficient. Older ones might be built solid with materials or construction techniques that it would not be cost effective to use nowadays. Some people prefer newer, some prefer older. There will be designs that stand the test of time. Of the certified aircraft I have flown in my entire 160 hours my 2 favorites were built in 1958 and 1960.
The big thing is condition, like houses a 15 year old poorly maintained house can be far more tatty than one 80 years old.

In terms of tatty aircraft at schools. That is a difficult one. Appearance is important and does reflect the pride the owners take in their aircraft but training aircraft do work hard with inexperienced pilots. Tatty aircraft may suggest financial shortcuts but not necessarily. When I was training sometimes one aircraft may have been just back from a refurb and look really nice while another looked quite tatty as it was next in line. I knew they were all well maintained. The refurbed one looked much newer despite them both being about the same age. The old tatty one could easily be the nicer flyer.

If you are willing to pay a premium, I think perhaps you should consider trying to find a better condition aircraft rather than seeking out the newer air frames. But remember the owner is going to be a whole lot more upset if you damage that nice aircraft. If you are going to break the nose wheel off something may as well be an old 152, plenty more where that came from.:D

Heston 7th May 2014 06:27

Next time you go on holiday to Spain are you going to ask the travel agent or holiday company how old the aircraft are that they use?

A and C 7th May 2014 09:16

You gets what you pays for.
A few years back I was approached to lease one of my very clean C152's to a flying club south of London, when I went to talk contracts to them it all revolved around money and eventually we could come to no agreement.

I did take a look at the fleet that they were leasing and I was not prepared or could afford to compete on price with a company that was leasing aircraft that were in such an appalling state. Just how they have the neck to offer aircraft with tatty paint, torn seats, Stone Age avionics, some inop and engine cowlings held on with unapproved fasteners I could not understand.

However having met a few customers of flying clubs various I can only conclude that they are happy to fly under maintained death traps if it saves them a quid or two.

mary meagher 7th May 2014 09:17

500ft Kiwi, spot on! Two memories rise to the surface.

Because I started flying at the advanced age of 50 (just last year! ((not))) I had a really hard time getting the knack of landing. Which is sort of important. If you can't get the last bit right.....

So visiting family in Maryland, I booked a lesson at an airstrip near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The strip ran N/S. The prevailing wind was E/W.
The instructor owned the Cessna 152, a relatively new and shiny one.

If I had trouble approaching into wind, imagine the problem learning to land in a crosswind! Every time I got near the ground, the instructor took over. Understandable in the circumstance, but didn't do a lot for my confidence.

So Kiwi, I remember at High Wycombe, when before even leaving the apron, I managed to overprime the engine. Serious smoke arose around us, the instructor grabbed the extinguisher (does everyone reading this know where the fire extinguisher is located?) and asked me to go into the office. I walked quickly but calmly into the office of the Wycombe Scare Centre, and announced "We have an engine fire."

It was like stirring up an ants nest, everyone started running this way and that. The fire was put out. The instructor and I continued the lesson in another Cessna 152. And when I was telling about it later in the bar, Dave Richardson said "Don't worry about setting fire to a 152, Mary, there's plenty more where that came from!"

Baikonour 7th May 2014 09:40

Heston wrote

Next time you go on holiday to Spain are you going to ask the travel agent or holiday company how old the aircraft are that they use?
Another inappropriate analogy, I think, for the main reason that I (apart from never travelling mass tourism to Spain!) travel with a commercial airliner to get from A to B. Which is not why I choose to engage in GA. Apart from that, I do actually tend to look at the plaque in the door frame as I enter - although it is too late by then.

Regardless, if you cast a small eye on airlines' advertisements, you will often see that they refer to terms such as 'the most recent fleet', 'best lie-flat bed available' and similar. Not for nothing that airlines queue up to be the first to fly new aircraft and, indeed that they adjust their prices for new aircraft - and people are willing to pay it!

A and C wrote

However having met a few customers of flying clubs various I can only conclude that they are happy to fly under maintained death traps if it saves them a quid or two.
Quite. But not everyone - as this thread shows. Schools should try to cater for all - not just the lowest common denominator.

500ft wrote

If you are willing to pay a premium, I think perhaps you should consider trying to find a better condition aircraft rather than seeking out the newer air frames.
Agree. Age may not be the issue. Assuming they are all flightworthy and well maintained, we really are talking outer (and inner) appearances. And, of course, new avionics.

The same PPLers who may end up wanting to fly a glass cockpit after getting their license would probably benefit from - and be willing to pay for - doing (part of?) their training on a glass cockpit...

"Don't worry about setting fire to a 152, Mary, there's plenty more where that came from!"
Now there's a solution to the problem... ;)


Falcons11 7th May 2014 20:02

How about this
Yes, Ideally, if there was a choice I think I would:

  1. Actually vet the instructor to ensure I get one who is awesome and I gel with
  2. Find an a/c that had recently had a refit

It is exactly like flying Y in an old plane with old seats and entertainment (remember when the music was piped into your ears via strange 'phones?) vs flying Y in a 747/ 767 which was just been through refit.

Flying in the 787 might carry a premium (just for the exploding battery fun factor).

sea oxen 7th May 2014 23:07


I can echo Corsican's comments about TPC. You'd be hard-pressed to find a finer bunch of people.

A 152 is a tight fit if you are over 6', yes. I found the biggest impediment was getting my feet on the right levers on the ground. But my instructor was also 6'2" and he had no trouble. So it was me, not my legs.

I suggest you listen, though, to the counsel of pilots around you - I am not one of them, having stopped training because I simply don't have time. But when I did? I'd have jumped in anything airworthy.

When you say 'awesome' - are you certain that you want that? Would that rule out your landing being crap being described so? I'd prefer an instructor questioning my sanity after some of the things I did. Your instructor should be someone you learn from and aim to please, not someone you like on Facebook.


Howard Long 7th May 2014 23:25

Is this about aircraft age, or about cosmetic appearance?

xrayalpha 8th May 2014 08:42


Age or cosmetic appearance? The two are linked.

If you were buying a house, would you rather one that looked clean and tidy or one that was filled with junk and filthy? Any professional will tell you that clean and tidy adds value to houses and cars for sale: it is what the buyer wants.

So clean and tidy aircraft work too: so if old, clean and tidy and get tatty bits fixed.

The customer doesn't know about good maintenance, but they know about clean and tidy!

Deep down, if not clean and tidy, they suspect poor maintenance. They have nothing else to make a judgement on.

On the surface, knowing what I find simply when cleaning aircraft and cars - yes, I have told people thinking of buying an aircraft to offer to clean it for the owner, since they will learn a lot from that! - that dirty/poor cosmetics mean lack of top grade maintenance.

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