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Y2K trainers

New aircraft for the new millennium

If you learned to fly in the past 70 years, there’s a decent chance the airplane you flew was designed during the Eisenhower administration.

These designs have stood the test of time and updated versions are still in production—for good reason. The laws of aerodynamics haven’t changed, the cost of certifying new designs is high, the market for general aviation trainers is small, and manufacturers have incorporated improvements such as glass cockpits and new engines into legacy airframe designs. But increasingly, newer airframe designs are making their way into the fleets of flight schools around the country. If you’re looking for this millennium’s model, check out these aircraft that have come to market since the year 2000. (Click on images to see captions and slideshow.)

Part 23 Airplanes

Most small aircraft are certified according to airworthiness standards laid out in Part 23 of the federal aviation regulations.

CIRRUS SR22

2001: The airplane with the parachute
The Cirrus SR22 is an evolution of the SR20, which is more commonly used for training but barely missed this list with an entry into service in 1999. With a revolutionary whole-airframe parachute, all composite construction, and glass cockpit digital instrumentation, the SR line took the general aviation world by storm. A luxury aesthetic and commitment to passenger comfort helped elevate the SR22 to the world’s best-selling single-engine piston aircraft for two decades running.

DIAMOND DA42

2004 (Europe); 2005 (United States): Twin with a glider heritage

Like the two-seat DA20 and four-seat DA40 before it, the Diamond DA42 has a composite airframe, bubble canopy, control sticks, and T-tail, features suggestive of the manufacturer’s origins producing motorgliders. Also called the Twin Star, the DA42 is powered by two 168-horsepower diesel engines produced by sister company Austro Engines, so it runs on jet fuel instead of avgas.

TECNAM P2006T

2009 (Europe); 2010 (United States): Little twin, big aspirations

This twin trainer was one of the last designs of prolific aircraft designer and Tecnam Aircraft founder Luigi Pascale. At a maximum takeoff weight of 2,712 pounds, it’s lighter than other twin-engine aircraft; the two 100-horsepower Rotax engines consume a combined 9 gallons per hour of avgas or mogas, making the P2006T an efficient training option.

TECNAM P-MENTOR

2022 (Europe); FAA certification pending

Tecnam’s purpose-built trainer is equipped with an IFR panel, Rotax engine, and leather interior. It also has a gear handle even though the airplane has fixed gear—that’s so students can get in the habit of raising and lowering the landing gear early on. Tecnam envisages pilots earning all the certificates and ratings they’ll need on the way to a career between the P-Mentor and P2006T. Tecnam’s four-seat P2010 and light sport P92, P2002, and P2008 all also may be used in flight training and were introduced in the 2000s.

Light Sport Aircraft

Remos G3/GX

In 2004, the FAA created a new category of aircraft designed to be simple and easy to fly. These aircraft are currently limited to two seats and a takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds, but the FAA has proposed a dramatic expansion of the light sport aircraft rules that could take effect by 2025.

FLIGHT DESIGN CT SERIES

2005: Defining LSAs

Flight Design, manufacturer of a CT (Composite Technology) series of ultralights, came out of the gate with a light sport version almost as soon as the LSA category was introduced. The two-seater is of composite construction and features a whole-airframe parachute.

REMOS G3/GX

2006: Fun to fly

Another early entrant to the light sport arena was the Remos G3, with gull-wing doors, a ballistic parachute, and wings that can be removed for trailering. The two-seat composite airplane embodies the simplicity and fun of the LSA category.

VAN’S RV–12

2009: Beyond homebuilts

Van’s Aircraft dominates the kit airplane market with versatile singles ranging from one to four seats. But experimental amateur-built aircraft may not be rented out for training, so Van’s models couldn’t be found at flight schools until the debut of the special light sport aircraft RV–12. Also available as a kit, the RV–12 is simple and sporty, with a Rotax engine and responsive handling characteristic of a Van’s.

CUBCRAFTERS CARBON CUB SS

2010: Backcountry ode to the Super Cub

CubCrafters branched out from Piper Super Cub modifications to its own certified Super Cub spinoff in 2004 with the Top Cub. The Carbon Cub SS brings a 180-horsepower engine to an LSA, and, with carbon fiber construction and a high-lift airfoil, it climbs fast and lands short, characteristics suited to backcountry excursions and training.

ICON A5

2016: Luxury amphib

This amphibious airplane gives off personal watercraft vibes, by design. Tapping into the power sports market, Icon aims its marketing at adventurous nonpilots, with a network of approved training providers who can teach new customers to fly in an A5. The angle of attack indicator is central to an automotive-style instrument panel, and a spin-resistant design makes for docile handling.

VASHON RANGER

2018: Utilitarian trainer

The Vashon Ranger has big tires, rugged construction, and a spacious (for light sport) baggage area for exploring the backcountry, but it’s also economical and can stand up to the demands of flight training. Produced by an outgrowth of Dynon Avionics, a popular choice for experimental and light sport aircraft, the high-wing two-seater has a Dynon panel.

Helicopters

Guimbal Cabri G2GUIMBAL CABRI G2

2007 (Europe); 2015 (United States): French lessons

This two-seater from Hélicoptères Guimbal looks like a scaled-down Eurocopter, with a shrouded tail rotor and large vertical stabilizer. A three-blade, fully articulating rotor turns to the left, which means autorotations require left pedal instead of right.

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Sarah Deener

Sarah Deener

Senior Director of Publications
Senior Director of Publications Sarah Deener is an instrument-rated commercial pilot and has worked for AOPA since 2009.

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