As a student pilot, you will typically be flying an aircraft designed for pilot training. I’ve listed the most popular ones here with some information with help from AOPA’s web site.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk

Cessna 172

The most popular general aviation aircraft ever built is the Cessna 172, and as you might imagine, there are a ton of them flying with student pilots at the helm. Personally, I find the 172 inferior to the Piper Warrior, but they have a reputation for being a fantastic trainer. For more information, check out AOPA’s page on the 172.

Cessna 150/152 Aerobat

Cessna 152

Just as popular as the 172 is the 150/152 series – the 152 is the newer, slightly upgraded version of the 150. Typically a two-seat trainer, the 150 is an extremely forgiving, lightweight, and efficient airplane to fly. You’ll probably find the rental rates for the 150 to be lower than other four-seat trainers because of it’s fuel-stingy 100hp engine. With that said, the 150 won’t win any races, or any comfort competitions. Personally, at 6’2”, I find the legroom of the 150 a bit cramped, especially when holding my feet clear of the rudder pedals so my CFI could land the plane. The 150 series is sometimes referred to as land-o-matic, because of it’s extremely forgiving nature.

Piper Tomahawk

Piper Tomohawk

With Cessna’s success with the 150 series, Piper wanted a piece of the action. It’s entry — the Tomahawk — was designed based on inputs from flight instructors. What emerged was a fantastic, fun-to-fly trainer that offered superior training capabilities. The tomahawk is much less forgiving than its 150 counterpart, and it was designed that way. The airplane is rated for spins, and can perform limited acrobatic maneuvers. The bubble-canopy offers far superior visibility to the Cessna, and it’s 112hp engine results in faster performance as well. The tomahawk is a small, two-seat aircraft, but has adequate room for taller students inside, and more shoulder-room for both pilots. My dad learned to fly in a Tomahawk, and he and I spent many hours flying in one.

Piper Warrior

Warrior II

My choice for trainers is the Piper Warrior. The Warrior evolved from the Cherokee series and is still in production today. This four-seat aircraft is just as much at home on a touch-and-go as it is on a cross-country. My favorite thing about the Warrior is the room. The cabin is larger than that of a 172, and I prefer the low-wing design. The Warrior is noticeably heavier than the 150 or Tomahawk, and you notice it when flying. With 160hp, the Warrior leaves the other trainers on this page in the dust, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for training, but it’s fun to brag. The Warrior utilizes a tapered wing and stabilator compared to the horizontal stabilizer/elevator combo on the others, and the “hershey-bar” wing on the Tomahawk. The biggest down-side I can see to the Warrior is the cost, larger engine means it drinks more fuel, and therefore typically costs more to rent.

The aircraft you end up flying largely depends on what your club has available, but if given the choice, take one flight in them all, and pick the one you like best. Once you’re certified, you can always get checked out in others.