CFI question...or not to question??


I am considering embarking on obtaining my PPL. Just did a Discovery Flight in a PA28 180. Loved it. I was also planning on doing a Discovery Flight in a typical high wing to see which I prefer.

My question. Along with getting references on any particular CFI do you think it is okay to request SMOH time on the training aircraft? You see, the particular school I am realy interested in is a husband/wife team. He is the CFI, she does the office stuff. They own 2 Cherokees. A 180 and a 140.

Any other insight welcomed.



“do you think it is okay to request SMOH time on the training aircraft?”

Sure, you can ask anything you want but I don’t know why you would be interested in SMOH. What are you going to do with the information? Is there a deal/no deal time SMOH for you? If you are worried about the engine, I would prefer compression #'s, but if I was concerned, I would find another operation.


Not really sure how relevant SMOH is on a rental. I would only worry about that if I was the one responsible for replacing the engine. Two thoughts come to mind about flight instructors that might help you decide if you really need to ask this one.

Number one, anything that happens to you while flying the airplane is going to happen to the instructor (excluding solo time) and he or she will be flying with you a lot. The instructor is not likely going to get in an unsafe airplane if he knows it.

Number two, most Instructors seem to really be worried about liability and responsibility. Had one that use to remind me of the risk he was taking by instructing all the time. If you ever do this or if this ever happens down the road you know they are going to come back and look at me…. Being that the CFI is also the airplane owner he is taking on a decent amount of responsibility in both instructing and renting you the airplane. I think he will make sure the airplane is in the best possible shape.

I have rented airplanes in the past that I have known total times on were extremely high. Learned later a couple of them were well past TBO. All airplanes have quirks and problems every now and then. The worst I have encountered is an alternator failure in the pattern on a rental. The thing you need to look for though is how well the airplane is maintained. If problems are noticed how quickly are they fixed? Is there a way for you to report problems (squawk list) with airplane and is doing so encouraged? Are there things on the airplane that don’t work? Flew on once with a broken primer knob, and again several years later and it was still broke. Caps were missing on the tire stems too, so I pointed it out and got a, so….

Most rentals used for instruction are going to be under 100 hour inspections. So they are going to see a mechanic quite often if they are used a lot. It doesn’t bother me to fly an airplane I know is a little over SMOH as long as I know it is getting good maintenance. If you notice something wrong on the airplane by all means point it out. Curious about the type of engine, how often the oil is changed, if that wire is suppose to be hanging there, or what that duct tape is covering by all means ask. Something you want to learn about the airplane don’t be shy about it.

However, I think I would keep the SMOH question to myself for now. That could be a turn off or might make the CFI think you don’t trust him (without good reason). You might ask it later once you have made friends with him, and at that point he might be glad you asked the question. If you don’t trust him for any reason, don’t fly with him, no matter how good the deal is, even if the engine was overhauled last night. I once flew with a CFI I had been told had a drinking problem among other things, because the airplane rental was much cheaper than anywhere else. Don’t think he was ever drunk around me (and don’t know if the rumors were true), but he was a terrible CFI and I just wasted my time and money there. The itch to fly can make a person do some pretty crazy things, just keep your head on. So, curious, why the SMOH question anyway……?


I don’t see anything wrong with you asking questions about the aircraft that you will be using in your flight training. I think it’s more important for you to get a feel for the overall maintenance performed on the aircraft. Any reputable flight school should be comfortable discussing the maintenance on their aircraft with you. If the flight school is offended by the question or hesitant to answer I would look somewhere else.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on specific numbers such as SMOH because there is no guarantee the engine will make it to TBO. One of the reasons aircraft are required to be inspected is to catch problems before they become major issues. It wouldn’t be the first time an engine with a recommended 1,800 hours Time Before Overhaul (TBO) begins to show signs of excessive wear at 1,200 hours and had to be overhauled early.

I will say this however, if you do learn that an aircraft engine is close to its recommended overhaul time, does the flight school have a plan in place to take care of the engine when it is out of time. If they don’t have any idea how they are going to address the inevitable, your flight training could easily take a 6 month hiatus while they figure out what to do.

That’s my two cents worth hope it helps.


I don’t think SMOH has anything to do with the price of tea in china! My partner of a Cessna 340 started taking flying lessons in a pa28-181 and it had a very high time engine that ran great, It got to TBO and was changed for a remain and he was the 2nd or 3rd student/instructor to fly it. During unusual attitude recovery the throttle cable FELL off! they had to land on highway 20. the engine idled perfect till they shut it off b4 landing. the A/P forgot some safety parts!! no one was hurt or damaged but the plane was good till it got messed with.



That is a pretty good question. How the maintenance is done and recorded on an aircraft you will be flying is very important.
The airworthiness certificate displayed in the cockpit is only valid if the aircraft has been maintained in the appropriate manor. Also the aircraft must be in compliance with the Airworthiness Directives and current on the inspections required for the type of operations conducted by the owner/operator.

Aircraft are not maintained like cars. Your flight instructor will be able to answer any questions you have on what and how this is done. It is part of your training to determine, understand and verify if the airplane you will be flying is airworthy. Your instructor may not include this in a discovery or introductory flight but, it will be covered as your training progresses.

If you have any other questions, send me a message. I’ll get back to you.

Keith Woody CFI