Make the case for your airplane

Those of us who are passionate about airplanes tend to love almost everything that flies. But most choose the airplane to hook to the old checkbook based on a balance between cost, capability and pride of ownership. To each pilot, the primary airplane chosen for flying has some appeal that tends to stand out.

Here, we want to get pilots to comment on what they like best about the primary airplane flown, whether owned, leased or rented. To illustrate what we have in mind, some of us are going to write a couple of paragraphs making the case for our favorite airplane. Any warts will also be mentioned. We hope you will join in and post a comment making the case for your airplane.

 

Richard Collins' Cessna P210
N40RC, Richard Collins’ Cessna P210.

Richard Collins and the P210

Its name was N40RC and I flew it for 28 years and almost 9,000 hours. The airplane was supremely comfortable and perfectly adaptable to my missions. It would fly four hour trips with four and baggage or five and a half hour trips with three and baggage. The pressurization allowed a wide selection of cruising altitudes to take maximum advantage of winds and smooth air.

Nothing is perfect. The P210 flew like a truck and when it visited the shop it liked to stay for a while and spend as many dollars as possible. I could have flown a light twin for about the same money but I preferred the pressurized single and felt like I got more than my money’s worth out of 40RC.

 

Beechcraft D55 Baron
Pete Bedell’s D55 Baron. Photo by Mike Fizer/AOPA.

Pete Bedell and the 1968 Beechcraft Baron D55

My two brothers and I partner on my Dad’s old D55 Baron, which is now faithfully hauling the third generation of the Bedell clan. About 8 years ago, we upped the power from 285 hp to 300 hp per side after our previous Continental IO-520s powered the airplane for more than 25 years. For our needs, we couldn’t ask for more performance from an airplane. It’s a very rare airplane indeed, that you can fill the seats and the fuel tanks and have useful load to spare. It’s also rare to have the performance to haul that load out of a 2,500-foot strip of any surface, cruise at 200 knots for 3 hours, and relish in the comfort of having a second engine when flying at night, over the mountains, or across large bodies of water. As a bonus, the airplane handles beautifully making hand flying a pleasure.

Naturally, the performance comes at a cost—lots of gas. With fuel prices at $6 per gallon, we’re talking $180 per hour for fuel alone if you want to go 200 KTAS. These days, however, we typically run the Baron at 160-180 KTAS on about 20 gallons per hour for short trips. Longer trips, we’ll run it at 190 KTAS on about 25 gph lean of peak. The 55s tend toward an aft CG, so you must take care when loading a lot of people and bags. The C/D/E55 Barons have a larger nose baggage compartment than the smaller 55s to make it easier to balance. The aftmost seats are best for kids or one adult as it’s quite narrow back there. Since my Dad bought the Baron in 1971, it’s been the perfect airborne SUV for us.

 

Cessna 182 Skylane
The Cessna 182 Skylane.

John Zimmerman and the Cessna 182

Working at Sporty’s, I have the benefit of flying various types of airplanes, from a Cub to an Aztec. But when it comes to the best all-around option, nothing beats the Cessna 182, and that’s what I fly for trips most often. It’s a great combination of two other airplanes I love–the 172 and the 210. The 182 is simple and fun to fly, like the 172, so there’s no shame in flying out for the $100 hamburger and just enjoying the sights. It’s forgiving if you’ve been away for a few weeks and affordable to operate. But it’s no trainer. Like the 210, the 182 has the speed, comfort and climb ability to be a serious cross country airplane. It’s also a great IFR platform, stable and comfortable in turbulence. I’ve flown into the busiest Class B airports in solid IFR and the 182 plays with the big boys just fine. The model I fly has a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit, which takes a great airplane and makes it even better.

Like any airplane, the 182 is a compromise. It’s not really a 4-place airplane, so it won’t cut it for more than three adults. And the non-turbo model I fly struggles to get much above 12,000 feet, which is sometimes a limitation in the summertime. But it’s reliable–no pesky retractable gear to maintain–and almost any shop in the country can work on it if something does break. For me, the 182 strikes the perfect balance.

 

Now it’s your turn–make the case for your airplane. Add a comment below.

61 Comments

  • to me, the cessna 150 is a great plan,e im learning to fly in it (have my student liscence) and fly out of warnervale, Australia, the c-15 is a great plane, good range, comftable, descent engine and relatively cheap to rent

  • I really enjoy my 1977 Cessna Cardinal RG. With no wing struts, no gear hanging out and 4 foot doors it really pleases passengers. The 140kt cruise at about 10 gal. per hour is pretty respectable performance. We have flown into Oshkosh Airventure with it for many years now. It serves us mostly flying around Ohio for fun. It has been hooked up to the maintenance “cash register” more than I like but hopefully that will finally taper off. It has required a lot of catch up maintenance since it’s purchase a few years back. To be fair I also have done many upgrades: a JPI color engine monitor, GAMI injectors, Powerflow exhaust system, standby vacuum and a high output alternator to name a few things. I also share the use of the plane with three other pilots for them to enjoy.

  • I own a 172 currently. It is easy to maintain and economical to fly. That said, I am doing more XC flying and will eventually move up to something a little faster, something with an autopilot, and something that carries more weight while still being easy to maintain and economical. So far, the 182 seems to most closely match my next mission.

  • Piper Cherokee for me. The PA28-180 I partner in has been great for taking four of us on $100 hamburger and short cross-country flights.

  • My 2004 182 just keeps getting better for me. I hate to sound like a broken record but it does nothing terrible and nothing great but it cuts the middle perfect. If has enough speed for cross country, hauls enough. With the amount of gas it carries I can go a LONG ways or short on the gas and haul a lot. The G1000 is a great addition to.

  • I no longer own 3967L, my lovely 1966 Cessna 172, but my former partner Ernie still does. It was always my “magic carpet,” taking me from Rochester, MN on trips ranging from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on the MN/Canada border to San Antonio, TX. I think of the C-172 as the Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry of the air– simple, reliable, maintainable, affordable, and suitable for the pilot who can’t fly 200 hrs/year. Slow, yes, it’ll getcha there.

  • As a purely VFR pilot whose primary mission is sightseeing flights, fun daytrip/restaurant destinations and an occasional over-nighter, you can’t really beat my club’s Cessna 150. Since moving to my current airport (KPAE), the C150 has taken me and my wife over most of Western Washington, up to the San Juan Islands and down to some of my favorite airport diners in the region.

    It does exactly what I want it to do, is relatively inexpensive to fly, and will definitely keep you honest as a pilot. But most importantly, it’s just flat out fun to fly!! I recall an old AOPA blurb about the 150: “Will it get you there on time? Of course not! But you’ll be getting there with a smile on your face…” Pretty much sums it up for me.

  • Our ’59 Piper PA24-180 Comanche does all we need to do and does in great style. Since we are a couple with luggage, the Comanche easily does 4.5 hr legs with IFR reserves at 135kts @ 10gph (75% power). It’s roomy, comfortable, has simple systems and despite misconceptions has good support. It’s like most owner-flown light aircraft with XM weather, stormscope, autopilot and IFR GPS.

    The acquisition and maintenance costs are reasonable, and cared for models are well sought after. As with any older model, type club membership is imperative for both training and support, and the International Comanche Society takes very good care of its members.

    It’s very easy to fly, and a great all-around fun & travel airplane.

  • I have a Mooney Bravo, it came with two batteries, two alternators, a back up vacuum system and known icing protection. With long range tanks, I can count on a 1200 mile range (no wind) with about a 200 knot ground speed. For just my wife and I, it is about perfect and near all weather capable.

    • Amen to that! I have a Mooney M20K “231” that has most of the “252” mods, as well, and absolutely love it. The turbo is a must for IFR flying on the West Coast, with MEAs through the mountains of 16k in places. I usually fly in the flight levels, for 192kts TAS @ 13.5 gph, which is pretty hard to beat for going places. My usual trip is 400nm from Portland, OR to the Bay Area, Sacramento, or Tahoe, and it’s 2:30, including climb, with no wind. I’ve gone as far as Phoenix (700nm) non-stop, in 4:45, which hit my personal duration limit before the airplane’s. The airplane’s weakness? I wouldn’t take it into grass, and think long and hard before going into short fields with obstacles….

  • I fly a GlaStar my dad and I built. It is powered with an IO-320 Lycoming, cruises at 130kts and with our extended range tanks I have 4-5 hours in the air with reserves. It has far more STOL capability than I’ll ever need, it’s a great IFR platform (I got my instrument ticket in it), and it’s very economical to fly and maintain because I do all the work! I do find its speed limiting on long cross country trips so I am building another plane. A Glasair III. It will get me where I want to go in a hurry and in style but the STOL stuff will be out.

  • I’m on my second 182 and for my needs it is absolutely fantastic. N6863M has the AirPlains 300 hp upgrade and climbs like a homesick angel even on hot days in the Northern Rockies. The performance lets me fly in and out of Seattle and Portland without getting in the way, and allows me to land on small backcountry strips in Montana and Idaho. With Flint Tip Tanks I can easily cruise for 7-8 hours at 130-135kts and it handles the turbulence of the unforgiving Northern Rockies of Western Montana and Idaho beautifully. On top of this, it does it all while “loaded to the gills.” It sure isn’t the fastest, it’s not the most agile, but it sure covers its’ mission exceedingly well while only burning about 11gph lean of peak.

  • I had been wanting to learn how to fly for 30 years. I found a great school but soon huge questions arose about the cost of a wet rental for every lesson and what I would fly after certification. I started looking around for a plane to buy that would fit the conditions outlined in the first paragraph of the article.

    I found a beautiful Warrior 151, in fact, the 41st off the line (1974). She had been hangered for 20 years and was in great shape…I looked at a few 172’s but they were junk even with 600 hours left on the engine…TT was over 10,000 for most.

    I bought the Warrior for 24k, 380 payment for 5 years. I keep it hangered and fly as many lessons as I want, the more I fly the cheaper it gets. This may be the last plane I ever buy because it fits our needs for the future as far as we can see it.

    It’s very forgiving, easy to fly and maintain, simple design. Compared to a 172 it sinks like a rock on final and I’m having fun getting the hang of that, but just a great deal. I don’t have to worry about availability, what’s been done to it, or cost…those are all knowns for me.

    I did a spreadsheet of total cost vs. renting. I come out ahead by a hair for training and way ahead after certification. Will pay it off next year.

    Nothing wrong with renting and escaping the “joys” of ownership but for me that total involvement, investment and immersion keeps me in the air. It works for me.

  • I own a 1963 Mooney M20C. I love the airplane. I love Mooneys in general and if I ever were to buy another plane, the Mooney would probably be it. I true out at 150 knots and sip fuel at anywhere from 6 gals/hour to 10 gal/hour depending on altitude. Cost of maintaining the airplane is relatively low as well compared to other airplanes. Manual gear and manual flaps. It is just a fun plane to fly. Now that I think about it, I think I would be happy just flying in any airplane!

    • I just got my CFI (after 46 years of flying I thought it about time), and did my complex training in a Mooney M20D. It was my first experience flying a Mooney, and I was impressed! Not a great short-field performer, but once off the ground it handled great, and you it’s hard to beat the economy. The manual gear makes it a great, safe complex trainer, and I thought it was just a fun little cross-country bird.

  • Wow a lot of positive comments for Cessnas….. here is another one. I fly the elusive Cessna 175. Only made for four years is has a little more power than the 172 of the day and a little more speed but is smaller than the 182. I sorta lucked into it when looking for a project. Short story is, I ended up with more airplane than I thought I could get at the time and am glad. This thing has all the performance my wife and I need. We use it to visit family across the state and it helps bring us all closer together. We fly at least once a month and take it interesting places. This year we took it on vacation to Mardi Gras and also flew into Oshkosh. As just about any pilot goes…. I would like something faster that can carry more, but the 175 we have is just right for us right now.

  • I fly an old cirrus sr 22 for the last 5 years
    It’s been a very good plane
    Maintance has been about 25 % more than my 182 but it also faster, burns less gas per trip and can fly much higher even though they are both non turbos. ( very handy living in Colorado)
    It also hauls more with its 1150 lbs useful load vs 1110 in my old 182 and the difference in real terms is much larger as the cirrus still climbs briskly even at gross on a hot Colorado day and the 182 would struggle.
    I find the biggest difference is the speed, the cirrus always get at least 170 kts on 12-13 GPH where the 182 was 130 kts on 11gph. That extra speed makes us take more family trips to farther destinations

  • I’m a renter and mostly fly a Piper Arrow, and sometimes a Piper Warrior 160 hp. The Warrior is great for just flying around the patch sightseeing and such, the Arrow is preferred for cross-countries with it’s 135 kt cruise. The Arrow also handles bumpy air better. Both have auto-pilots, are IFR equiped, are reasonably forgiving, and have longer range/endurance than my bladder… and are relatively affordable. Most importantly: I know the shop/mechanics who work on them, and have a lot of faith in those guys.

    Negatives: they aren’t the easiest to get in/out of for us less spry folks and neither are head turners appearance wise.

    If I could afford it, ideally I’d like to own a Bonanza but that isn’t likely to happen without a big Lotto win.

  • I love my champ (citabria).

    I’m getting my ppl in it and it is truly a fun airplane to fly. I have 26 gal at 6gph I can go on slow xcs 🙂
    My next bird is an early 60’s Mooney, talk about a giant leap !

  • My Piper Pacer offers a good blend of VFR utility and fun. With the rear seat out and the rear door, loading cargo is much easier than most other airplanes. I have literally hauled a Craftman horizontal metal cutting bandsaw and a small upright bandsaw in the same load. Full size bicycles, with the wheels off, are also no problem. But it can also carry four people on short trips; I don’t think the backseaters would want to go too far anyway. The airplane does not take up much hangar space and is easy to move by myself. Being a tailwheel airplane offers less worry about prop dings and keeps the landings challenging enough to maintain interest. It has the ramp appeal of a classic airplane for that pride of ownership thing and fairly nice handling characteristics. It is a bit crude, but the simplicity insures that parts can be made available and it can be well maintained for a long time. My most favorite part though is standing under the wing in the rain (usually weathered in someplace) listening to the rain drum on the fabric; it’s like listening to a symphony (or Pink Floyd).

  • I started in the flying business as an Air Force Cadet with a USAF Convair T-29 nav trainer. Several years later I read Dick Bach’s “A Gift of Wings” and spent the next couple of years flying Cessna 172s, with some right seat time in an Aero Commander 520B. Bought a Schweitzer 1-34B, N17922, and flew single seat, parachute and oxygen mask for 8 years.

    Favorite airport: Palo Alto. Lots of every kind of exotic flying machine. Worst aspect of the country’s busiest 2000′ airport- coming back on Friday afternoon, 10th to land, follow the Cessna ahead!

  • I’ve been flying since the fall of ’81 when I started my lessons in a Tomahawk. Most of my flying these last 31 years has been in 172’s and 182’s, mostly government-owned. My favorite aircraft as of now is one I’ve never flown, or even seen in person as yet. My bucket list has a Magni 24 Orion 2-place side-by-side autogyro on the very top! I must have downloaded every video clip on YouTube concerning autogyros–they’re it for me! My first goal is to get my training out west, perhaps at Spanish Fork in Utah and be in the process of buying/building some sort of gyro. My first my not be my dream aircraft, but whatever it is I will enjoy flying it….

  • For me, it has to be the DeHavilland Beaver on floats. Slow, noisy, and drafty, but if you need to get a big load into a small piece of water it can’t be topped. Plus, it is rugged and reliable. With 8,000+ (out of over 20,000 hours total) hours of flying Beavers I have never had one leave me stranded in the Bush, something I can’t say for some other brands. To top it off, you just can’t beat the sound of that great Pratt and Whitney radial up front!

    • Great plane, and it will haul a load out of a 1000 ft strip with room to spare. Ailerons are smooth and very light for such a big wing. I spent 1000 hours behind the Pratt, but was on wheels. Great plane.

  • Grumman AA-5 Traveler. Under priced, sliding canopy, 120 kt cruise on less than 8gph. Great regional IFR light single that will outrun a similarly configured C-172. The AA-5A is even faster.

    For pure VFR fun, a Grumman AA-1X. Full glass sliding canopy, 108 kt on 6gph, still basted than most C-172s.

    • Right on! You cannot beat the Grummans as the best fixed gear, fixed pitch prop, airplane.

      I fly the AA-5B (Tiger) and with the sliding canopy and fast roll rate it’s a pure joy to fly. It is as fast as a C-182 but sips gas like a C-172.

      And you are correct about the AA-1X, too. My first airplane was an AA-1 (Yankee) and I wish I had kept it. I would upgrade it to a 150/160 HP engine and then it would be even more of a blast to fly.

      • Yea, verily! Bought my first tiger in 1980 off the new airplane lot at the Savannah factory. What a joy to own and fly! Had a Trinidad for the novelty at one point, but soon went back to a Tiger for ease of maintenance(cost) and pure pleasure. A tough little airplane……..you just “strap it on” and go!

  • I am a big fan of my Comanche 180. I previously owned a 1947 Piper PA 12 Super Cruiser and a 1966 Cessna 182 J. I chose the Comanche for the following reasons: 1) This Baby Comanche is the best bang for the buck in the certified world. 132 knots at 9.5 gph. 2) The Lyc O-360 A1A combined with the compact hub Hartzell HC-C2YR series prop are as good a combination of dependability and ease of maintenance as you’ll find on any airplane 3) Comanches are the best looking Piper singles ever made 4) Even though the Int’l Comanche Society magazine is dross, there is a lot of technical help through online forums and the support services of Comanche savvy maintenance shops such as Webco in Newton, Kansas, Comanche Gear in Florida and Johnston Aircraft in California. 5) The Comanche is a well balanced fun to fly, stable cruiser that perform. Heck the service ceiling is 18,500 feet!
    I fly 85Popa as a two seater because of trips up into the Sierras. She’s a spritely performer with just me aboard. The book says the take off distance at sea level and standard day at MTOW (2,550#) is 725 feet so the reputation of being a ground hugger due to the cantilever wing is somewhat bogus.
    I change the LG bungees every other year just because they are a lot cheaper than overhauling the gear motor and transmission; although Webco can do that when needed.
    The fuel bladders hold a total of 60 gallons so my 65% power range at 8,000 ft density altitude stretches out a ways–600 nm is the longest legs I plan.
    The empty weight (I’ve weighed her) is just over 1,590 pounds leaving a full fuel useful load of around 600 pounds.
    I like the simple systems such as the Johnson Bar flap system and the single lever that applies both brakes.
    I replaced the 6.00 x 6 nose tire with a slightly smaller one by purchasing a very reasonable STC and a new tire. Makes the airplane look better and lessens the pre-rotation takeoff skitters that I used to get with the stock tire.
    I always carry a 60 pound tool box in the baggage compt (200 # limit) and that is the key to making smooth landings. I have not had the “hard to land smoothly” experience I’ve read about in some Comanche reviews. Of course, it’s acknowledged that the 180 hp Comanche is the best balanced of the Comanche stable.
    My Baby Comanche is the airplane that best fits my needs.

    • I agree, but fly an older 250. With the extra power it gets off better and climbs faster, and I can always throttle back if I want to save gas. The Comanche (along with the Bellanca, and Swift) have some of the smoothest ailerons in the light plane fleet, and fly very nicely. As you mentioned the systems are simple and the plane is a joy to fly. The tapered wing does great even up in the teens, which helps out west.
      We only have 60 gal, which limits range to about 3.5 hours, but we get about 180 mph, so long trips are no problem. Would love to have a Twin Comanche, but finances dictate the single, for now.

  • I found myself flying mostly by myself and close to home so I switched from my trusty 172 to a Citabria. It is as fast, climbs better, is aerobatic (spins, loops, and rolls), has the same fuel burn, and is an absolute kick to fly. VFR only, just a few steam gauges, but I rarely look at them anyway. It is the most fun for the money I have ever had.

    I also have a Schweizer 1-26B glider which is dirt simple and almost flies for free. For a $42 tow I can soar for hours.

    Vern Fueston
    Montague, Ca.

    • I’m with you on both accounts…
      I started out flying sailplanes and the 1-26 was a blast to fly. When I transitioned to power I received my Private in the Citabria. Loved it.
      But, when I bought my first plane I wanted side-by-side so I bought a Grumman AA-1 Yankee. That was a fun plane to fly…not very fast but handled like a fighter.
      My next plane was a C-150-J that I flew for 15 years…great little airplane. Flew it to Oshkosh from California (my back has never recovered.)
      My current ride is a Grumman AA-5B (Tiger) and it is great (I never got over my first plane and always wanted to go back to a Grumman.)
      Happy flying.

  • I’ve owned my Cessna180 for 20 years and it is the most capable compromise I can imagine if you like to do lots of different stuff and own one bird. With the Air Plains upgrade to IO550 it cruises 150 KTAS @ 12000 on 15 GPH, or 135 on 12.5. It gets off dirt with my wife, me and a 3 day camp load in 600′ on a summer day in Colorado. It is bullet-proof, annual-tolerable, and gives me a big smile on every short roll and “vertical” climb. The Cessna team got it right in 1953. They have made some faster and fancier since, but none more versatile.

    • Absolutely right on, Jim. My Cessna 180 is a wonderful airplane. When I was flying airline, we used to fly over the Grand Tetons and I’d always say, “I wish I could go spend some time there one day”. My Cessna 180 took me from south Louisiana to northwest Wyoming in a little over 10 hours of flying time. It is flown off of a short grass strip, 30 feet wide, will haul anything you can close the door on and the engine is bullet proof. I do my own maintenance and annual inspections, so maintenance costs are almost nil. I keep it on my farm, so no hangar rent either and it has the auto fuel STC from Peterson, even though I still burn avgas too. I LOVE AIRPLANES!!!!!

  • I have enjoyed flying a 1965 Cessna 172 SkyHawk since 1986. I have logged over 1,000 hours in this old Hawk and loved every minute of it. It is easy on the pocket book and you would be surprised how far you can get in 3 hours, unless of course you encounter a strong head wind. Yes you have flying costs, but the old Hawk is worth more now then when I bought it. A good all around airplane for this pancake breakfast, occasional cross country pilot.

  • My plane (’64 Mooney super 21 M20E 200hp fuel inj)for me is the ultimate best for everything from short grass field hops to cross country IFR! For speed she will top out at 155Knts, in normal cruise lean of peak burn 8.1 GPH for no wind of 20 nm/gal, also will fly all day low & slow at 80MPH, and lands easily on short fields, AOA helps keep approach speed under control. We have portable O2 on board and at 17,000ft she is still wanting to climb. Mostly I could prattle on all day on her merits….just a great solid performer that’s extremely fuel efficient.

  • I love the Cessna 150… tied with the Beechcraft Skipper. They’re a lot of airplane, in a small package. 🙂 And everything I need as of right now.

  • The Vans RV7. Perfect balance between economy and cruise speeds, slippery enough to ensure crazy performance under almost all VFR conditions, aerobatically rated and a an absolute joy to fly. Granted, not a 4 seater at the end of the day but cruise speed vs fuel consumption vs occasional aerobatics vs hot and high performance spells win win win win in my book, and being owner/operator/builder I can do all the inspections and services myself when they are due. What is not to like? 😉

  • 1980 TR182. The hidden gem of the Cessna RG singles. Turbo-normalized – the Lycoming O540 still has a 2000 TBO, is de-rated to 235 and all but bullet-proof. I can maintain 25″ MP almost to service ceiling of 20,000. Vso is around 40 kts, yet i get 155 true at 8,000, 165 at 12,000 and 175 at 16,000 with factory O2. Only plane i’ve ever flown that beats all the POH numbers. Useful Load is 1100+ lbs, and the plane is rock solid. 180 kts at 20,000. Big, strong and easy to fly. Love my TR182!

  • Add me to the list of Cessna 150 lovers. Five gallons per hour and lots of fun to fly – learned in one back in ’77 and ended up buying a share in one 5 years ago. I like to open the window and look down. I fly it down from North Central (KSFZ) in RI to Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard – the perfect plane for low and slow.

  • I learned to fly in a Cessna 150, which is still the greatest trainer ever built. Since then I have owned a Cessna 175, a Cherokee 180, a Cherokee Six and a Mooney M20J. They all brought me home safely so they were all great airplanes. Each had their particular endearing qualities, but for me the Mooney is the best of the lot. Mooneys are fast, economical and very stout – a combination that is hard to beat.

  • My heart belongs to “Mollie”, a 1971 Cessna 182 which I have owned and flown for 5 years. My daughter nick-named her Mollie because she is a beautiful white, green, and copper lady who will go anywhere and do anything I ask. Mollie and I travel the Western states and Baja, with an occasional trip to Oklahoma to round things out. I also fly 182’s with CAP, and find it to be one of the most stable and easy to fly planes whether I’m searching flatlands, or the Sierras. For me, the 182 is my airplane of choice – a great combination of payload, speed, climb performance, and heart to get the job done!

  • I finally started flying lessons at 60 and went for the Sport Pilot certificate. Having to drive 3 hours to find an airplane and instructor left me 4 years later with no certificate but 80 hours. So I got my medical, found a local instructor, and a very reasonably priced 1978 Piper PA 38-112 Tomahawk – same two seats, good view, good gph, and fun to fly low and slow airplane. I did the research, so continue to have respect for the potential challenges of this aircraft but finished my private certificate one day before my 65th birthday and have flown 50 hours in the last year in my own airplane. I work with a dog rescue and use flying the dogs as an excuse to make 1-4 hour cross countries. I know the Tomahawk is not for everyone but it suits me well on my limited income.

  • I vote for the Baron. It’s a sweet flying plane that’s fun to fly, simple as that 🙂

    For a single it’s either a Piper Archer or a Cessna 206. The Archer flies like a dream and the 206 with a turbo is fabulous for climbing up high.

    Fly safe!

  • I think we like what we fly. I’ve flown the spaceous but slow Beech Sierra, trained in the C-172, flew mountain search in the C-182 and Piper Comanche 260B, and about 100 hrs in various C-310s.

    For the last 12 years I’ve owned and instructed in a ’68 Cessna Cardinal with the Lyc O-360-A1A and Hartzell’s compact hub prop. The plane was well equipped and priced right, and I could afford it. The cantilever-wing plane has been a wonderful trainer, photography and search platform and gets me in and out of mountain strips just fine. It has hauled me and my cat from Denali in Alaska to Fort Walton Beach in Florida with nary a surprise. Gussied up with a G696 for sports and weather, JPI-830 for engine thermal activity and fuel flow, the carbed engine will run LOP if the air is cool and smooth so that the gas in the float bowl isn’t sloshing. This gives me 105 TAS on 7.4 gph LOP or 135 TAS @ 10 gph ROP. It has many Maple leaf speed mods like the Fancy pants, lower cowl and exhaust fairings, plus Power Flow exhaust. Caught in a hail storm it has little resale value, but to me, its a keeper and it fits like a glove.

    • I must add that the cardinalflyers.com web site and daily dispatch is worth it’s weight in aviation monetary units, followed by cessna.org.

      Cardinaflyers help with specific problems peculiar to the breed like the nose strut, shimmy damper and stabilator built unlike any other Cessna and members share their expertise and experiences freely through an almost daily digest. Paul Millner and Keith Peterson patiently answer member questions, teach how to think critically and work closely with Tornado Alley Turbo and GAMI to get their RGs into the flight levels. Paul works in the petroleum industry and keeps a reality check on some of the alternative fuel initiatives. Keith manages the web site, which is a treasure trove of technical information on our breed.

      Cessna.org, aka CPA publish a nice monthly magazine with departments dedicated to ADs, SBs and SIs from the feds, Cessna, Lycoming and Continental. This has kept me ahead of the herd on things like discounts like Hartzell’s compact hub warranty, the sometimes hilarious Cessna secondary seat stop warranty (bless ’em. A warranty on a 44 year old plane!) Then there is the self-destructing Slick magneto AD.

      CPA tends to more generic needs, yet home in on specifics common to the C210 and C177 like wing attach points, carry through spars, and other structures the two share. I

      Aviation Consumer has helped make a number of purchasing and repair decisions, as have Light plane Maintenace and that un-matched source of advice, Mike Busch at savvyaviator.com. Mike also does seminars for EAA and writes for CPA on all manner of aircraft operation and management topics, as well as how to deal with repair shops and repairmen. Advancedpilot.com round out my education with how an infernal combustion engine really works. Especially of the air cooled variety. John Deakin’s articles on Avweb really taught me a lot too. He’s a great writer and takes no prisoners when it comes to old wives tales.

      I dropped all those names – and I probably forgot many – to point out that airplane ownership can be as a victim or as an informed citizen. It takes time to get informed, but it costs lots of money to be a victim.

  • No one has voted for the Piper Pathfinder so I’ll have to throw my hat in the ring. Pack up 82 gallons of fuel, 600 lbs of passengers and 200 more lbs of gear and hit the skys. Cruise at 150 mph at 14 gph for a 750 mile range with reserves (5 hours) and go into most any strip (gravel stips will chip up the wheel pants though). 12,000 is pretty much the max on altitude but for us east coast and midwest flyers that is not an issue. Really stable IFR platform and at 10-12,000 you can dodge most of the worst stuff. Add a 430 and and a 496 with weather and you can take some friends on a really fun long weekend without making the wife leave home without the hair dryer, iron, extra 4 pairs of shoes, optional wardrobe, make-up bag, air matress…. you guys know what i mean!

  • I have a ’58 Piper Tripacer. I vote for it because it is forgiving and because I can actually afford to own and fly it.

  • I bought my turbo Mooney 231 40 years ago,
    for its performance, speed, safety, and economy.

    With today’s $6-$9 avgas, the economy score has risen.
    165 kts TAS at 10.5 gph is hundreds of dollars cheaper,
    than my former 135 kts, 12 gph Cessna 182.

    Several years ago I thought of moving to a Baron twin,
    but the doubling of my insurance cost deterred me.
    Today filling its 200 gal long range tanks would cost $1200, even more deterring.

  • I am now a proud owner and new member of the Mooney family! The type of aircraft I needed to fulfill my needs for my flying missions was the Mooney M20c. I needed an A/C that was fast, economical, and… come on guys and girls lets face it, just plain cool looking. My 68 Ranger put check marks in all of the boxes. It is absolutely the most bang for the buck I could get. I couldn’t be happier with her performance, looks, reliability, and cost to operate. (9.1 gph at 7500ft and 140 kts tas/no wind) AWESOME!!!

  • I’ll have to add my two (or three) cents for the good old Cessna 182. My Mollie is a 1971 C182N model and we have been travel partners for 6 years now. As an older C182, she has a greater useful load than her younger siblings (about 140lbs more), so we easily carry four adults and 64 gals, which gives a flight endurance of just over 4 hours. Since that matches my endurance, it works for me!
    With just hubby and I and 79 gals we can go for 6.5 hours – or at least the plane can.
    We’ve flown from CA to Baja, to WA, and to OK. With enough interior room not to feel cramped (and we aren’t small folks), and plenty of baggage space, my C182 is my flying SUV. We hope to have many more years of flying enjoyment as retirement approaches.

  • I have to tell all of you of the greatest single aircraft ever built, the Bellanca Viking! Fast (190mph), fantastic handling, carries a load, (3225 GW, ~ 2300EW), long legged, I have flown in excess of more than 1000nm non-stop numerous times.

    The thing that the uninitiated say against the Viking is that the wing is wood, and wood rots. Yes, and aluminum corrodes. Both will last a really long time if taken care of, and the wood wing will not fatigue like an aluminum will. No, they are not still made, but the factory still makes any part on the aircraft and at prices that Piper, Mooney and Beech owners only dream of.
    Reliable: I flew N8CM for 2000 hours in the ’90s with exactly 1 trip cancellation due to maintenance issues (a fuel tank drain o-ring).
    Strong and safe: NASA used a Viking to do thunderstorm research in the ’70s. They intentionally flew into thunderstorms…… and always came out the other side. The stories of stupid pilot tricks that the folks walked away from are legend. Most recently a guy flew into a high tension line in west Texas. Totalled the aircraft, but walked away without a scratch. Try that in a spam can!
    I can do this longer than you can want to read it, so go to http://www.vikingpilots.com and look in on the owners group. But be prepared to fall under the spell. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
    mike hoover

    • I agree with you. I thought the Viking was, also, one of the prettiest airplanes ever built.
      My only complaint is, like almost all of the low wings, the single door…AND, it’s on the wrong side!
      I have friend with a Mooney and a V tailed Bonanza. Both are a bitch to get in and out of. The pilot should be the last one in and the first one out. Not in (most) of the low wings.
      That’s why I like the Tiger with the sliding canopy (unless it’s raining…bummer 🙂 And, as far as maintenance goes, it doesn’t get much simpler than the Grummans.
      My second choice for a fun bird would be a Swift.

  • What a great thread this is. Thanks everybody, for your contributions.

    My pick would be my homebuilt D-260 Senior Aerosport 225 hp E-225-8 two-holer aerobaic bipe, prizewinner at EAA Rockford 1968, 64 gal, 10gph, 6 hrs duration w/20 min. reserve, cruise 135 mph, 9G+ 6G-(ultimate), had it to 16K (no ox) still climbing at 500fpm. Also landed a Twin Comanchee at Flushing NY in a 65 mph direct X-wind (carried upwind engine power) wouldn’t have tried that in any other A/C I can think of.
    Old (not so bold) Jim

  • Since this thread goes on and on, let me add mine. I trained in 150s and 172s. I’ve owned (in partnership) a 182, a TR182, and a T210. I had regular access for a time to a 231 Mooney and a Cherokee 6-260. I’ve flown Johnson bar Mooneys and Bonanzas and various PA28 variants. I’ve learned aerobatics in Decathons, and I’ve flown Citabrias and a T-craft. I’ve liked all of those airplanes, for one reason or another.

    But I love the airplane I have now, a 1963 P172D with a Lycoming conversion, huge droopy tips, and so many mods that it takes a full page, typewritten, single spaced, to list them. For the last 9 1/2 years, she’s taken me all over the country, not very quickly, but fast enough; into the Colorado Rockies to enjoy the mountains; and just flitting about, often just me with my pup dog in the back seat. She’s easy to fly, relatively economical to maintain, very capable VFR or IFR as long as I recognize her limitations, and she’s all mine, not mine and a partner, not mine and a bank. Hard to beat.

    Cary

  • My current steed is a 1951 Super Cub, no gyros, no electrics, no flaps with a Continental C90-8F – always puts a smile on my face and a reasonable tourer if your mission is 200~300 miles. VFR only.

    Aircraft I have fond memories of include the Piper Apache, Piper Aztec (but the Apache is much more frugal) – with the price of Avgas in Europe they will remain memories. The Aztec was a serious IFR tourer especially in Northern Europe with 1800 lbs useful load, FIKI and the ability to get into relatively small air fields. I like it that the PA23 has the same airfoil (USA35B) as the Super Cub!

    Took my Dad on a ‘road’ trip in a Warrior many years ago – and I have a soft spot for the taper wing Warrior. A very benign civilised aircraft.

    I provide aerobatic instruction in a Slingsby Firefly T67M, and with a 260 HP Lycoming and a long Fournier wing it is very graceful – you can fly a beginner’s routine quite comfortably and stay within 3 to 3 1/2 positive G and just over 1 negative.

  • After reading the Bellanca Super Viking testimonial I couldn’t resist adding my .02 cents!

    Without a doubt, the Bellanca Viking is the hands down best 4 seat fully capable, single piston, general aviation aircraft value on the market!

    This 300 HP plane will take off, shoot straight up in the air, is capable of rolls, and a host ad aerobatics (several stock vikings your the airshows circuit performing acrobatics). As mentioned, the us government used Bellanca Vikings for thinderstorm testing, flying this single engine 4 seat GA aircraft into strong thinderstorms on purpose! Any of you that don’t think wood wings aren’t stronger… Try that in your Cessna or cirrus…
    The plane handles better than anything else I’ve flown! It handles turbulence beautifully, due to the 4 foot give in the wood wings (wood will give and not break unlike aluminum).
    You can cruise with older vikings at just under 200 miles per hour, newer vikings about 210 and turbo vikings due about 240 miles per hour.
    Range on a viking is about 850 nautical miles at high cruise, and over 1100 if you get up a bit higher,and run a bit slower… Slow cruise is 11 got fast cruise is 14gph…
    They have the best flight control characteristics of any Single piston plane around! The only negative is that they have. Bit of a narrow cockpit. I’m 6’1″ 205 and a comparable sized front seat co pilot wouldn’t run shoulder with me, however we don’t have a lot of extra elbow room to stretch out either.
    The good thing is that I’ve had a 6’5″ pilot up front fly comfortably with me sitting behind him and I wasn’t bumping my knees or feet on the front seat…. So it’s good for tall folks,a bit tight for wide folks .
    Ours has a 1180 useful load that’s about 740 with full fuel…
    These planes hang with bonanza f33’s, they out perform v tails, they are more comfortable than mooney sand they handle better than all…
    Incredible machines! Greatest value in avIation!

  • I have not seen any Vikings in Australia. Certainly none for sale. Sounds like a wonderful machine. I just poke around in a rented c172 and continue to dream….

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