# Why does flight training usually start with (unsafe?) propeller planes and not with (safer?) jets?

I live in the UK and would like to learn flying jets, but most courses seem to start with propeller planes. Not sure if this might be a misconception about the safety of different aircraft types, but I remember having read or heard somewhere that small propeller planes are, well, less safe than jets; maybe because they are more fragile and less powerful than jets when it comes to bad weather and are also difficult to recover from dangerous situations... not sure and cannot find the reference for now.

But also doing a quick search for popular aircraft types, the propellers like Cessna seem to have huge numbers of crashes/incidents compared to jet engine aircraft.

So the question is - why are propeller planes favored in training e.g. for the Private Pilot License? Is it simply because they are cheaper and wouldn't be such a huge loss of they crash?

Are there any alternatives where I could start with a jet engine?

• Why should a prop plane be less safe than a jet? Aug 25, 2014 at 14:03
• Wouldn't you expect that whichever type of plane is used most by inexperienced pilots would have the most crashes/incidents?
– Gabe
Aug 25, 2014 at 16:35
• Don't know about the “recover from dangerous situation” bit but bad weather is something you can mostly avoid. Many accidents result from inexperienced pilots flying anyway because they want to get somewhere but if you are in training, you would simply not get in the air when it's dangerous (and your instructor should certainly be wary of that). Aug 26, 2014 at 7:40
• ICAO regulations require you to have a valid pilot license and an instrument rating (and thus plenty of previous experience) before starting a type rating on any jet. It is therefore not only illogical but also illegal for a school to offer initial pilot training on jets. Sep 3, 2014 at 20:32
• @Radu094 regulations can be changed, though of course bureaucracies tend to be very slow to do so. And the better the reason to change them, the slower they tend to be. Sep 8, 2014 at 15:46

Light Propeller Aircraft, if flown within their design limits, are just as safe as jets. If you do a proper and thorough daily inspection, you are far less likely to suffer any form of mechanical failure in the air. In saying this, the majority of all crashes, be it in a Jet Powered Airliner or a Propeller Driven Light Aircraft are caused due to pilot error.

You start out learning in a light single as:

1. They are lighter, and slower and can usually take the beating handed out by inexperienced pilots, this being:

• Hard landings
• Slipping onto the runway
• Just hammering the day lights out of the engine.
2. Jet Aircraft are extremely expensive, and generally fairly heavy. Inexperienced pilots generally pay AU$80,000 for a Commercial Pilot License (In Australia) which qualifies you to fly single engine aircraft not over 5,700kg under the VFR by day. This is an absolute, level entry qualification looking for a job (most people will find that they at least also need a night VFR rating or a MECIR), so to add the cost of doing training in a jet on top of that, even if it is just for PPL, will be massive. 3. Jet Aircraft will be insured to be flown by pilots who have an amount of total experience and experience on aircraft/engine type. So, again, unless you're willing to pay the massive excess and premiums to be put on the insurance, you're going to have to fly a prop. Now, you have identified that a lot of crashes are light singles (i.e. Cessna). This is because generally, these aircraft are not flown with the same discipline as a Jet Aircraft. Also, the pilots flying them are generally lower hour pilots who do not have as much experience (again, this is a generalisation, not an exact figure of the total community). As for starting in a Jet, I honestly doubt that there is any flight school on the planet that will allow you to start training in a Jet (Even Fighter Jet pilots start out flying tiny little single engine aircraft). • In the USAF and US Navy JPATS program the express wish in the specification was for a jet-propelled entry trainer. The idea was to train beginners on jets to avoid teaching concepts like rudder input on take-off to counteract prop torque. In the end, a modified PC-9 turboprop was selected. However, it does compensate for torque by computer control, so it flies almost like a jet. Aug 25, 2014 at 13:41 • @PeterKämpf - Really? - Australia still uses the old CT-4 to do basic training, and then moves onto Pilatus PC9's. Aug 25, 2014 at 13:43 • @PeterKämpf: Interesting. The US military also operates a few types of prop aircraft, so I suppose if they had done this, they would have had to split trainees into "prop" or "jet" groups at the very beginning of training. Aug 25, 2014 at 15:34 • @NateEldredge not necessarily; currently they train everyone on prop and "convert" most people to jet later. Surely the reverse would also work - start everyone as jet and "convert" to prop as necessary? Aug 26, 2014 at 11:25 • In the event of a botched takeoff or landing (with an inexperienced pilot more likely to cause an accident), I would think the slower, less massive prop plane would cause less collateral damage as well. F = MVV and all. – user3305 Aug 27, 2014 at 3:49 In the hands of an inexperienced pilot, a jet is definitely the unsafer choice. Due to the general higher speeds, there is less time to recover from errors and they require more anticipation to be ahead of the game. Small errors will grow into large errors in relatively short time. In slower aircraft there is more time to correct. In addition, jet and turbine engines have slower response times than piston engines, which is important when you need to abort a landing for example. The fact that there are more accident and incidents with propeller aircraft is telling little about the inherent safety of these aircraft, instead it says something about the relative inexperienced pilots that often operate them. Small propeller aircraft have more incidents and accidents, because they can be flown by single pilot and that pilot is often not very experienced (PPL requires only 40 hours in US and 45 in Europe), while anything transport category requires two pilots and the pilot in command has to have ATPL and for that they need to have 1500 hours experience (yearly limit is 1000 hours). Note that transport category propeller aircraft like ATR-42/72 or Dash-8 don't have significantly higher accident rate compared to transport jets. If flown by experienced pilots, a single engine plane is slightly less safe, because if the engine quits it has to do emergency landing and it may not always be possible over rough terrain. On the other hand though, propeller planes are slower (propellers are efficient at slow speeds, jets only at high speeds) and easier to handle because jet engines react slowly to power changes. And smaller aircraft has less inertia, so it reacts to control inputs more readily too. Therefore you want to start with a small propeller aircraft in which mistakes can be more easily fixed, build up some experience with the general behaviour and only then progress to the faster and larger jets that require gentler handling and more thinking in advance. • I seem to remember (and don't have time to look it up right now to verify) reading a statistic where piston multi-engine aircraft were actually involved in more fatal accidents than piston single-engine aircraft after an engine failure. Mainly because of improper procedures... Are you sure about the single engine plane being "slightly less safe", or is this just conjecture (and trust me, it makes sense to mee, but I'm not sure that it's true). Dec 10, 2014 at 6:01 • He did say, "If flown by experienced pilots," which you might interpret as "someone well-trained and experienced enough not to make errors in the procedures that are more difficult in a multi-engine aircraft." But I think it's a very good point that multi-engine aircraft appear require more skill to fly than single-engine aircraft at the same level of safety. (Or so I have heard, as well.) – cjs May 2, 2019 at 1:38 • @Lnafziger you're right. In a twin, a somewhat common cause of a crash is (or used to be) to shut down the working engine after an engine problem. May 2, 2019 at 6:27 • @Hobbes, indeed. For a recent example see TransAsia flight 235. Even more common cause is failure to maintain speed above$v_{mca}$, or sufficient margin above it for turning. Still just a tiny fraction of engine shutdowns in flight ends with an accident. May 2, 2019 at 18:44 Small piston airplanes are "cheap" (as airplanes go) to operate and jets are an order of magnitude more expensive. For example, you can find small piston trainers on the order of \$100/hour to operate whereas a jet is often well north of \\$1000/hr to operate. If your wallet can accept this, this is just one barrier to starting training in a jet.

Small piston training airplanes are everywhere. Go down to your nearest airport and you'll probably find a few. Jet airplanes for training for the most part just do not exist. The vast majority of jet training happens in simulators, and these simulator courses are really only designed to provide type ratings and possibly ATP ratings, not primary training. This means you'll probably have to buy or lease a jet. This will be very expensive. This is your biggest barrier to starting training in a jet.

If you own or rent a jet, you want to insure it.  I sincerely doubt you'll find anyone willing to underwrite hull loss insurance on a jet used for primary training of an unrated pilot. Perhaps you could find coverage for a premium equal to the full replacement cost of the jet, but that really isn't practical. This is a barrier to training, but if you can afford to do this you might not care that you can't find insurance.

Speaking of type ratings, it is very likely you are going to need one of those to operate the jet, this will complicate your training and checkride because type ratings are tested to ATP standards, which means you will be required to fly to a higher standard with tighter tolerances than you would otherwise be requires at this stage of your training. You'll also be crippled without an instrument rating because you can't fly the jet above 18,000 feet (USA) without one.

Speaking of checkrides, you'll need to find an examiner that is typed in the jet you are using and who can conduct the checkride. Easier said than done. A typical jet isn't really suited to the private checkride either. The required cross country navigating with a map and the required diversion would be a lot of work in a very fast and complex airplane for a brand new pilot.

Before you can go on a checkride, you need training. You need a CFI who is typed in the jet and that CFI is going to be more expensive than the CFI you would be using in the piston airplane. Probably much more expensive. You will probably also need to spend much more time with the instructor than you would in the piston airplane because the jet moves much faster and you will be flying to ATP standards instead of private pilot standards. More practice == more money.

If you want to be in a jet ASAP and you can afford to own one and insure it, your best bet is to just do the private in a piston airplane then do an instrument rating in a piston airplane, do your multi-engine rating in a piston airplane, and then get a type rating in the jet to transition into flying the jet. You'll probably also need to hire a typed pilot to fly with you (for insurance costs) until you build a significant amount of time in the jet. If you didn't buy a jet capable of single pilot ops, then you'll need to hire a pilot because the plane requires two pilots anyway, but the entirety of my post assumes you picked a single pilot capable jet.

There are a lot of good answers here already that cover some of the most important answers: the extreme cost difference, jet engines respond slower, very low availability of training equipment and flight instructors, inability to (legally) fly the jet at the altitude it's designed to fly at (since you need an instrument rating to enter Class A airspace, which is everything above 18,000 ft in the U.S.,) etc.

However, another important thing to note is that you can practice maneuvers in a small, single-engine aircraft that simply aren't practical to practice in most jets. In a PA-28, it's no big deal to practice stalls and stall recovery (which is a required skill for a private pilot certificate.) Practicing stalls in a Learjet, let alone a 737, is quite another story. Same for 60 degree banks, slow flight, etc. These are things that all pilots need to practice, but which just aren't practical (or safe) to practice in most jets.

As for jets being 'safer,' as others have said, the safety record of light aircraft is more related to the average skill level of the pilots usually flying them versus the average skill level of the pilots usually flying jets. An airline pilot will have thousands of hours of flight time. Many accidents in small, single-engine aircraft, on the other hand, are from low-hour pilots and even student pilots. A student pilot flying a jet will be decidedly unsafe. Student pilots are much safer when flying small, light, and (relatively) slow aircraft that are also not nearly as complicated to operate. The light aircraft are much more forgiving to the mistakes that student pilots make than jets will be.

• Look at the ATP practical test standards (PTS) and you'll find most of the maneuvers you list to be part of the ATP checkride. Steep turns (45°), straight ahead and turning stalls (to the stick shaker) and recovery with minimal altitude loss are all part of the ATP checkride, type ride and recurrent training. Yes, that is typically done in a sim, but could easily be done in the real airplane. In sim training slow flight is also covered in a jet (slow enough that the stick shaker is active but fast enough that the pusher doesn't activate). Aug 25, 2014 at 18:50
• True, but would you not agree that those are much more serious conditions in a jet than in something like a Cherokee? Requiring an ATP to practice something is quite different than requiring it from someone who's never flown an aircraft before. I suppose I should have clarified that it isn't practical for a student pilot, though, rather than just that it isn't practical. Aug 25, 2014 at 18:56
• Not really. The only real difference in the jet is that you'll be doing to ATP standards and the maneuvers will be performed in IMC (no visual reference outside), which is not the goal of primary training. A steep turn is a steep turn. Once you know the airspeed for entry for your airplane and understand the need to add power to maintain altitude, it doesn't really matter what airplane you are in. Aug 25, 2014 at 19:00
• ATP checkrides are often done in light singles and twins, and occasionally sims. Doesn't happen in real world large airplanes simply because it's too expensive to use them for something that can be done MUCH cheaper another way. Aug 26, 2014 at 13:02

I've heard it claimed that small Cessnas are favoured by flight schools in part because they exhibit so many of the classic small-plane flaws in their handling. And, while it's relatively easy to get into trouble in a Cessna, it's also relatively easy to get out of it again, as it is specifically designed to recover cleanly from unusual flying attitudes if the pilot applies the correct techniques.

That means that the new pilot is introduced to these flaws, and the correct way to handle them, in the relative safety of having an instructor sitting next to them with duplicate controls, being at moderate altitude and generally not moving very fast. It also introduces an element of "if you can fly this, you can fly anything" - though that isn't literally true, as multi-engine aircraft, retractable gear and instrument flying are significant enhancements to difficulty as well as performance.

To use an automotive analogy, you shouldn't start a learner driver out in a 300hp sports car with an automatic or semi-automatic transmission, nor even in a 10-litre diesel-powered articulated lorry, even if he aspires to drive such a thing one day. It's much more likely that he'll be driving an 80hp hatchback with a manual transmission (at least in Europe), because that's what's affordable and has got plenty of performance for ordinary driving.

The real point is that the small, piston-engined aircraft is a good place to establish the basic skills, which are then built on if the pilot decides to move up to more capable aircraft later.

• There's also the benefit of lower maintenance costs for Cessnas & Pipers for the flight schools. Apr 16, 2018 at 20:40
• Gee, I don't know. What are these supposed "flaws" that your classic flight-school Cessnas (152, 172) exhibit? Feb 15, 2021 at 20:45
• @quietflyer The propwash impinges noticeably on the tail, so you have to adjust the rudder position based on speed and power changes in order to maintain coordinated flight. If you get into a stall while uncoordinated, a spin may result. The aircraft as a whole is slow and draggy, and can't climb to high altitudes (nor very quickly in general). Handling it in a crosswind takeoff or landing is tricky due to the low speed at those phases of flight. There is usually no autopilot, so you have to hand-fly it. All great for teaching, less so for owning. Feb 16, 2021 at 10:38

A big part of learning to fly is learning to "stay ahead of the airplane". Know what the airplane will NATURALLY do on its own, versus what you WANT it to do. Things happen a lot quicker in a jet, so a slower prop is a better place to learn this skill. One thing that pilots must learn is emergency procedures such as engine failure, and in a prop plane you have more time to make a safe decision about a forced landing.

• This is mostly true, except that the last part isn't true from cruising altitude. You can glide much longer and much farther from 30,000-40,000 ft at 400+ knots than you can from a few thousand feet at 100 knots. From the same altitude, though, you would have somewhat more time (but still probably less distance) in a light aircraft. Of course, your options for non-lethal places to land are greater with the light aircraft. Also, the odds of both engines failing at cruise on an airliner are much smaller than an engine failure in a light single-engine aircraft. Dec 12, 2014 at 5:08
• But you need to be IFR rated to fly above 18,000 feet, yes? And on O2. Apr 16, 2018 at 20:37
• @CrossRoads Either oxygen or a pressurised cabin, above about 14,000 ft. The latter option also adds complexity to the aircraft, and failure modes which must be trained for. Jan 11, 2019 at 15:45
• I think there are time limits also, would have to look them up. Jan 11, 2019 at 15:50

I have been a pilot for 10 years you learn on a prop plane mostly because of the speed. The faster your going the faster you need to think and react to not get "behind the plane" I would also have to say that in my opinion prop planes are safer less to wrong slower and fly at a lower altitude. And in addition to that in case you crash it less cost for flight school to replace

There are probably more incidents with propeller aircraft for a few reasons. First jet pilots in the USA will have more experience (I concur with other posts that experience is a primary factor in this case). Certainly, propeller aircraft have limitations when compared to jet aircraft (less power). However, kept within their capabilities, propeller training aircraft are very safe. I would expect any pilot to agree that a small Cessna will more readily glide than jet aircraft. This learning to take off and land in a prop helps the student pilot get a feel for flying- a feel for the fluid force of air over the wings, nose, and tail.

One must remember that learning to fly is not just like learning to play a video game. A trainee pilot is expected to understand the aerodynamic behaviour of an aeroplane practically. The coordination of human reactions to the aerodynamic characteristics of the trainer aircraft is important, therefore good trainer aircraft are much sought after (that is why we had some legendary trainer aircraft like DH Tigermoth for example). Furthermore, at low subsonic speeds aircraft truly fulfill all the traits of a heavier than air classical aerodynamics. A propeller-driven slow-flying aircraft is definitely better, cheaper, more forgiving to a new pilot's mistakes. A pilot with initial training on a propeller-driven aircraft can easily graduate into flying jets.

To learn to run, you must learn to walk.

You do not simply hop into a jet aircraft much less a multi-engine one. In fact, most US military pilots started out in single engine prop based aircraft, The T-34 Mentor and T-28 Trojan. These have now replaced by the T-6 Texan and T-37 Tweet.

Prop planes are better to learn in and tend to be significantly more forgiving than Jets. One of the primary reasons is that with Piston powered Props (Turboprops behave more like jets) you have a more linear response when making throttle adjustments. This is important when performing maneuvers, especially during a landing where you may be forced to wave off suddenly and need to immediately apply throttle to abandon the maneuver. They also tend to be significantly less complex, allowing a pilot to focus on actually learning to fly rather than having to be overly concerned with nuances such as "hot starts", "Flameouts", compressor surge, and throttle lag (as initially mentioned).

Additionally, single jet planes are nowhere near ubiquitous as single prop planes, meaning finding a single jet to do training in is pretty difficult without owning one. In flight training you're limited by your certifications. Most GA (General Aviation) jet aircraft tend to be dual engine, requiring a multi-engine certification. Additionally you can't really fly Jet aircraft at their performance altitudes without being sufficiently licensed to do so.

The main issue I take with your question is the insinuation of prop planes being inherently unsafe. They're not, and to imply such is dishonest at best. Where you may see GA Single Engine Props being more accidents has to do with an effect we call "Survivorship Bias" where statistics incorrectly lead to a conclusion that is misled and misinformed. This goes back to the days of old warfighting aviation where they examined war birds that came back and noted their damage. Naturally one would want to armour up the places that got shot up the most, but what a person considering that is simply not being aware of, is that the plane had returned safely with that damage. A significant discovery, that those obviously damaged places did not need armour and upon examining planes that didn't return, other more vital places should be armoured instead.

Jet pilots simply have more time in the aircraft. They have to. You start out in a prop aircraft to learn the fundamentals, and work your way up, eventually learning IFR operations and Multi-engine certifications to get into a Jet. You get more experience. Jets are an extremely poor choice for beginners as they are prone to overcorrection and subject to poor flight judgement in an inexperienced pilots hands. Things happen fast, there's a lot to be learned with judgement and speed. It's not for beginners.

The majority of GA Accidents involve single engine props because most pilots are learning on them and tend to be generally less experienced. Not because jets are inherently safer. In fact, jets are inherently more likely to have serious, expensive problems; many of which are not recoverable in the air. Maintenance is also significantly more costly.

• The T-37 has been retired for several years. The T-41 was for screening, not training. Air Force UPT pilots start out in the Primary (not "intermediate") trainer in the (turbine) T-6 or, in the past, the twin jet T-37, with as little as about a dozen hours in the screening airplane. And plenty of them learned to fly in those just fine. Prop time first isn't necessary, it's just cheaper. Mar 25, 2021 at 20:46
• @Ralph J, For what it's certainly worth, military pilots get significantly more training and seat time - so if anyone is to be trusted on their first out with a Jet, It would be them. Pilots in the military are selected for their acumen and ability. They tend to cut the chaff from the wheat. Kinda essential when they're being entrusted with pricey aircraft. Joe Q Public doesn't normally have this experience and discipline. Additionally, I did highlight that it is possible to train in a Jet, they're just not anywhere near common and do require more experience to fly competently in comparison. Mar 25, 2021 at 22:08
• @RalphJ, additionally thank you for the correction. I forgot about the T-6 and for some reason remembered the T-37. I have more memory of the T-34 because it's been prominent in most of my life (I'm not a military pilot). Mar 25, 2021 at 22:14
• Welcome to AviationStackExchange. While it can not be argued that military pilots are not the cream of the crop (which they are). I think the military pilots level of professionalism lies more in the military vetting process, indoctrination, culture, and mindset than it does in the amount of hours flown. When comparing military to civilian flight training, one must consider a civilian in a full immersion program could gain about 250 hours of flight time (not including ground and sim training) their first year. And, then go on to instruct over 1250 hours of flight time their second year. Mar 25, 2021 at 22:56

Prop planes have a longer glide ratio. (they fly farther when the engine quits. ) My father would have said jets have the glide path of a rock, the slower they go, the faster they come down! Jets are also much more complex and sometimes simple is safer to maintain as well as fly.

• Hello, and welcome to the Aviation Stack Exchange! I would guess that complexity is a big part of why people learn to fly in prop planes - feel free to elaborate on that! - but note that large transport-category aircraft tend to have much larger glide ratios than trainers: aviation.stackexchange.com/a/3001/136 Mar 25, 2015 at 0:48
• Even if the point on glide ratio was correct (see previous comment and the answer linked therein), even 10:1 from FL300 still gets you farther than even 20:1 from 5,000 feet. And as the linked answer mentions, the ratios are more likely to be reversed; 20:1 from FL300 or 10:1 from 5,000 feet.
– user
Oct 20, 2017 at 8:55