Swift Checkout Advice

by Steve Rothstein, CFI

The Swift is certainly a sexy looking aircraft whether in flight or sitting pretty on the ramp. The fact that the aircraft flies like it looks invokes a strong desire of ownership on the part of a sport pilot. But like the Richard Bach story on the Swift this aircraft is so unlike the modern general aircraft today that most uninitiated pilots are not prepared for it. However if the prospective Swift pilot has the right attitude toward flight training this can be overcome, skills learned or sharpened, and challenges conquered.

I recall my own initiation with Swift ownership. I made many of the classic mistakes that can now be easily avoided. Although I was a member of the Swift association at the time, I was new and had not had the benefit of a good exchange of information that is now available on this and other web sites. Furthermore, I had never purchased an aircraft before and the Swift I ultimately bought was logistically hard to evaluate and a pre-purchase inspection was not accomplished. ( This cost me later ). Furthermore my insurance demanded 10 hours of dual instruction with a CFI that had Swift time. "Hey, where am I going to find someone like that". Well the first thing I did right was to hire a really sharp taildragger CFI. Robin Reid, son of famed aviator Amelia Reid had some time in Swifts and thousands of hours teaching along with his mother in all kinds of taildraggers. I had to work around his schedule and live in a motel away from home in order to go straight through the course. I checked my airline pilot ego at the door and got to work. I realized that flying taildraggers (which was new to me) and mastering the Swift can be a humbling experience. But eventually, the light does come on and confidence is gained. When Robin felt I was safe he cut me loose and I realized I had a license to learn and needed to keep track not only of the aircraft's limitations but my own as well.

Now 14 years and 850 Swift hours later I have found prospective buyers of Swifts asking me for instruction in there new ( to them ) Swift. So here are some tips for pilots with limited or no experience in flying and owning Swifts. May I strongly suggest that when you find the Swift of your dreams (or the one you can afford) that you budget for a really good pre-purchase inspection of the aircraft. Take the time and have the patience to find a mechanic that knows Swifts and all there inherent weak points. Plan on paying him/her well and tear down the airplane like an annual inspection. If you find surprises you can renegotiate with the owner or walk away (sometimes the cheapest option). If the aircraft is acceptable you have a good idea of what you've got and can opt to complete the annual.

It is typical for the new Swift owner to not only need a Swift CFI but to also need the aircraft ferried to where instruction can commence. It is important to understand that if you hire someone to travel to the aircraft it had better be in airworthy condition. It is important to realize that the ferry pilot or CFI that agrees to work with you may not have ever seen the aircraft before and may not know what he/she is getting into. Plan to provide copies of recent logbook entries, phone numbers of the previous owner, and any information that the pilot may need to assure him/her that the aircraft is ready and legal for flight.

There are prerequisites before Swift instruction begins. A new Swift student should have complex ( read retractable) time, current taildragger experience ( including proficiency with 3 point and wheel landings ), and a thorough understanding of good crosswind technique. Certainly, students without some of these prerequisites can succeed but it will take longer. I find that 10 hours of instruction is probably a minimum for someone new to a Swift.

Find a qualified Swift CFI. More Swifts have been damaged or lost because a new owner hired a CFI that had no Swift time and little taildragger experience as well. They were both passengers on the first flight. Unfortunately Swift CFI's don't grow on trees and almost never make a living as a CFI. They usually have other occupations and cannot be found readily at the local FBO. You may have to travel to find one. Plan to pay more than the going rate and be ready to work around their schedule. Weather, mechanical breakdowns, and schedule conflicts all conspire to make the process challenging. The payoff for the patient student is a safe and confident pilot who has greatly increased his/her pilot skills.

Steve Rothstein, CFI
Northwest of Chicago near Rockford IL.
Ph# 847 707-3275