Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Challenge Yourself

There are lots of ways to have more flying fun. But if you sign up for advanced ratings, you’ll also end up being a better pilot.

Challenge YourselfNo question about it—earning the private license is a major accomplishment. Some pilots will never need to seek additional ratings. The private allows pilots to operate in a wide variety of conditions, and many aviators content themselves with the entry-level ticket.
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Extra Add-Ons
For pilots who don’t have the time and money to obtain a new rating, there are other ways to explore the world of faster, higher and more complex aircraft. Simple endorsements for certain types of airplanes can do the trick. It won’t only make you a better pilot, but it will also open up new doors for you, especially if you long to fly in the flight levels, rent a Citabria or cruise along in a 200-plus-hp aircraft. Although no time requirements exist for endorsements, the FAA requires that the pilot must receive and log instruction time, and obtain an endorsement in his or her logbook to act as pilot in command. The following is a brief description of different endorsements that are available to those who seek to better their flight skills.

The Complex Endorsement
Pilots need a complex endorsement to fly airplanes with retractable gear, flaps and a constant-speed propeller. When flying such an aircraft, you’ll find that the airspeed gets a significant boost with the gear up because it doesn’t interfere with the relative wind. For example, a 180-hp Cessna 172 RG Cutlass gets 140 knots in cruise, while the comparable fixed-gear version with the same power cruises at only 122 knots. Obtaining this endorsement requires no more than five to 10 hours of training.

The High-Performance Endorsement
Speed is the name of the game for this particular add-on. It’s required of pilots who fly aircraft that run on more than 200 hp. And, like the complex endorsement, the high-performance endorsement requires no more than five to 10 hours of training.

The Tailwheel Endorsement
This is perfect for the pilot who wants to go back in time by flying a conventional-gear airplane. Some say that the controls provide a better feel for the airplane and its environment. Taildgraggers, however, are notorious for groundlooping during landing, which is why a tailwheel endorsement is needed. Expect anywhere from five to 15 hours of training.

The High-Altitude Endorsement
Flying higher into the flight levels means getting to experience a whole new different set of sky. It also means that pilots need to be equipped to handle hypoxia and decompression sickness, which is why the high-altitude endorsement is needed when flying pressurized airplanes with a service ceiling of more than 25,000 feet. Several Air Force bases around the country offer a full day of high-altitude training with an extensive curriculum, which includes altitude-chamber training. This endorsement requires only two to five hours of training.

Better Insurance Rates
Getting advanced ratings won’t just make you a safer, more proficient pilot. It will also give you better insurance rates. In fact, the money you spend on advanced ratings can return to you twofold in the form of insurance premium discounts. The reason for this better deal? Insurance companies see pilots with more training and who fly more complex aircraft as better pilots with greater depth of experience. In other words, in their eyes, pilots with advanced training are less accident-prone.

Although rates may vary from company to company, typically, a 200-hour private pilot who owns an older Cessna 172 worth approximately $50,000 pays $1,000 per year for insurance. If that same 200-hour pilot was to get an instrument rating, he or she will typically get a 5% to 10% discount on the insurance rate. That’s a savings of $50 to $100 a year. Additional ratings, such as a commercial or ATP, also can yield about a 5% to 10% decrease in insurance rates.

Sometimes, flying a more complex aircraft also can get you better insurance rates. A 200-hour private pilot, for example, who owns a Cirrus SR-22 will see a 15% to 20% discount if he or she gets an instrument rating. That’s a $1,500 reduction from the typical 200-hour, Cirrus SR-22 private-pilot rate of $7,500. The underwriters’ reason for this better deal is pretty straightforward: Pilots who fly more complex aircraft have better flying skills and should be rewarded with lower rates.


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