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8 Things To Consider When Transitioning To A New Plane

This story was made in partnership with AOPA Pilot Protection Services. Make sure your certificates are protected before your next flight. Learn more and get started here.

Transitioning to a new plane? Here are 8 things you need to consider before taking your first flight.

1) Avionics

It's easy to overlook or underestimate the task of learning a new avionics system. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the avionics before you go, so you don't end up like these pilots.

If you're learning a new avionics system that you aren't familiar with, start by reading the plane's operating handbook and the avionics guide before your first flight.


2) Engine Numbers And Settings

A pilot with a lot of "time in aircraft type" can glance down momentarily at their engine instruments and tell you if they are where they should be. Pilots that are new to an aircraft don't have the same familiarity. Talk to pilots that know more than you about the plane, and you will learn the quirks of where things like temperature and pressure usually settle in various phases of flight.


3) V-Speeds And Memory Items

Learning flows, checklists, and 'V-Speeds' can feel like a daunting task. Regardless of your learning style, keep in mind why you are committing these figures and flows to memory: for the safe operation of a flight in normal, abnormal, or emergency scenarios. Don't study to pass the checkout quiz at your local FBO, study to make yourself a more qualified pilot.


4) Performance Charts

Aircraft performance data can be represented in different ways. Some companies use tables, others use graphs. It isn't an impossible task to learn a new method of computing performance data, but with critical information such as takeoff and landing distance, make sure you fully understand how to calculate performance before your first flight.


5) Stall Characteristics

When you're getting checked out in a new aircraft, ask your instructor to demonstrate a stall for you. Every aircraft stalls just a little bit differently and being able to recognize the signals of an impending stall can save your life.


6) Power Settings

As you make your first landings, pay attention to what your instructor tells you to do with the power. Note the RPM and airspeeds that are recommended on each leg of a standard pattern. Learning to manage your energy in a new airframe will lead to easier (and hopefully smoother) landings.


7) Characteristics In Ground Effect

Every plane behaves differently in ground effect. How your plane responds to entering ground effect can change you approach your flare. Understanding what happens in the last few feet of your landing can save you from hard (and unsafe) touchdowns.

Be sure to pay extra attention to this when transitioning between high and low wing aircraft.


8) Common Maintenance Items

Planes are designed to have a high degree of redundancy, but even so, there are things that can (and will) go wrong. Talk to someone who has worked on the aircraft. They'll know the most common reasons it will end up in the shop, especially if it's an older aircraft that they have worked on for years.


Protect your certificate with AOPA Pilot Protection Services. Learn more and get started here.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a flight instructor from Southern California. He is currently studying aviation at Purdue University. He's worked on projects surrounding aviation safety and marketing. You can reach him at

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