Make a case for your airplane

We asked the Air Facts community to share with us why they bought the airplane they did and why this was the right choice for them. We heard from William “Pete” Hodges of Spotsylvania, Virginia, who made the case for his 1968 Cherokee PA28-140. Here’s Pete’s case:

Cherokee 140

The Cherokee 140 is “the smallest airplane that would do our biggest jobs,” says the author.

In 2004 I was completing my Private and was looking for a first airplane to own that would support the flying my wife and I wanted to do, including 400 mile cross-countries, training and day trips. After reading “Buying and Owning Your First Airplane,” we chose the Piper Cherokee 140. We bought it just after I soloed and I completed all the cross-country and final training in this aircraft. I learned not only how to be a good pilot, but also how the be an owner and good steward of the airplane.

We chose the little 140 because it was the smallest airplane that would do our biggest job. There are a lot of them around so it would be easy to get parts. All the mechanics know how to work on them as they are simple to maintain with fixed prop and fixed gear. They cruise at an honest 100+ knots with 5.5+ hours of endurance at 8.5 GPH, and they carry a lot of stuff with two people on board.This airplane can also carry four people, no bags, partial load of fuel, and has good short field/grass field performance, especially when lightly loaded or in cool weather. It is a great choice for a first airplane that you want to keep and grow with.

Panel

The panel is basic, but offers everything a new private pilot needs.

We bought 86F in 2004 with a zero-time engine overhaul, new interior, and six-year old exterior paint. It looked almost new for 36 years old. After we owned it for a couple of years, I started to get the “bigger airplane” itch. After doing some research, we got our bigger plane by modifying this one with the CAVERNOUS back shelf option for about $1500 instead swapping to a larger airplane for $15,000. A year later we added an AOA Lift Reserve Indicator to give us a better margin of error for short field work, and the year after that we added wheel pants for an extra 10% of cruise speed.

Are we happy with our little bird? You bet we are! Sometimes the best deal you can get is a good well-built plane-Jane!

Pete made a good case for his Cherokee. How about you? What do you fly or own and why is it the best airplane for you. Go ahead: Make your case.

13 Comments

  1. Jeff Ingram says:

    I’ve had a Mooney Executive (M20F) since 1991, after two years with a 172. The Executive is an honest 140 Kt. airplane with a fuel burn in the 9-10 gph range. It is a good cross-country platform and reasonably affordable to fly. Like, Pete, above, after about 5 years with the Mooney, I started looking into a “bigger” airplane, and I am so happy that the wise old sage at the airport talked me out of getting a twin. At least I can still afford to fly. Given that an Executive is about half the price of an equivalent 201, and the speed difference is only about 10 Kts, I believe it to be a better buy.

  2. Liad says:

    Mooney M20c short body. Can not get that much airplane for sub $50,000 anywhere else. 135 true all day long on 9 gph. I keep a citabia around for sunny and windy days.

  3. Brooks says:

    I too, was fortunate enough to be able to buy a Cherokee 140, with 2 partners. All three of us were new pilots at my local airport, and were trained by the same instructor. I started later in life, and never imagined that the dream of ownership would become a possibility. With two 25 gallon tanks and a burn rate of 7 GPh,we fly as little as $12 per hour each, when 2 people split the bill! That’s what burning ethanol-free 87 octane car gas can do for you! It has been a blast flying all over the southeast!

  4. Hunter Heath says:

    My first airplane was a 1966 Cessna 172, the lovingly kept toy of a group of 4 older men who let me buy it only after I wrote a heartfelt letter about how my family and I would give it a good home. It served me well for 9 years, and serves my friend and former partner even now. I flew it all over the central US for business and pleasure. The Cessna 172 is the Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry of the air– does a little of everything, reliable and repairable, and forgiving for a low time pilot. Now, flying only for pleasure, I own a 1946 Aeronca Chief, bought for several reasons. Important for a senior, it allows me to fly under the Sport Pilot rule, and since I’m extremely left-handed, it’s more comfortable for me than a Cub or Champ. It burns little fuel, it’s cute, and every time I fly this basic aircraft, my late father– who trained in J-2s and 3s, Taylorcrafts, and the like– is my co-pilot.

  5. Don Myers says:

    In 2004 we purchased a 1946 Ercoupe w/rudder peddles (223 on the most recent overhaul). That began our search for a newer/better airplene. We are still looking. Coupe 729 does everything we need. It is big enough for the two of us, our dog and a suitecase. Cruises at 80 knots, burns 5.5 gph, can’t stall it, can’t spin it and it’s a convertible. LSA certified. Show me another plane that will do all of that and we will buy it!

  6. Karl Vogelheim says:

    In 2010 I purchased a Stinson 108-3. For my budget and mission, it was the best choice. It has an incredible useful load. After full fuel (50 gal) I still have around 750lbs of load. It has the classic taildragger look and it is one of the simplest aircraft you can get mechanically which translates to lower annual costs. It is also a very comfortable aircraft with good interior space for four though us taller pilots (6ft 1in) will have the headset band touching the ceiling during flight. While some will speak poorly of the Franklin power plant, I have found it to be smooth and reliable. The only downsides to the aircraft are it is relatively slow (about 110mph) in cruise and it has quite a bit of drag so it burns 10 gal per hour. However, I have always been asked by someone who sees my airplane if i is a Stinson and I will often get regaled by person questioning me about when they owned one.

    • Del Schneider says:

      I agree with Karl Vogelheim about the Stinson, however the 108-1 or -2 is somewhat faster with the same 165 Franklin engine. Mine cruises about 122 mph on the same 10 gal/hr. the smaller tail is apparently the main difference, although the total fuel is only 40 gal. This is a great airplane after upgrading? from a Piper Arrow-180.

  7. Frank Ladonne says:

    Actually, (he said in his most condescending fashion), the best plane to own just happens to be the one I have. It’s a Cessna 172XP. It is a variant of the 172 that was built originally for the Air Force as a trainer and called, by them, the T41B. It has all of the characteristics of the plain vanilla 172 that we all learned on but it has a 210 horsepower 6 cylinder engine and a constant speed prop. This gives it a 130 Kt top speed but 115 kts at 8.5 GPH at cruise and 1500 FPM climb in virtually any weather from 1,000 ft elevation and a 18,000 foot ceiling.

    Not the fastest or the sexiest but boy, what a GREAT cruiser.

  8. I bought my 1981 Mooney 231 turbo 40 years ago, for its 165kt sporty behavior.
    We Mooneyiacs think of them as pocket rockets. (I initially imagined the mike button was the gun trigger.) Its 10.5 gph fuel burn (LOP) let me leave out 25 gallons of fuel and fly two 200# men and our wives around Mexico. Now it means that filling the plane costs $300 instead of $450, for the same range as a Bonanza or C-210.
    Very stable and turbulence resistant plane due to high wing loading, fast enough to go into LAX, but still land at (reasonably graded) Baja dirt strips. The turbo engine is easy to abuse; easy to get high CHT at altitude. LOP helps a lot, keeping CHTs<380F. Engine abuse reputation depresses the plane purchase price attractively, for buyers willing to monitor an engine analyzer.

  9. Jim Frankenfield says:

    Got my pvt. ticket in July, ’52, 35 hour course, cost me $310.00 in a “Champ”. Drafted (army) in November, saved my $$ while in Greenland while the other guys were buying coo-coo clocks at he PX; back in the States in ’54, bought an Aeronca 7-AC for $500 bucks (rough engine…found a “pin-hole in the carb. float causing a richer mixture as the float ‘sunk’ in the carb bowl. After adjusting the float level a few times, finally found the float half full of avgas. Maybe that’s why the price was so low? Burned the gas out, soldered the pinhole, problem fixed. Flew the Champ to-from eastern PA to Red Bank, NJ (near Ft. Hancock, NJ) before discharge. Sold the Champ for $600., bought a Chief for $650. Got additional CFI and ratings on GI bill.

    Then, in 1964, decided to “roll my own”, actually, me and Tom, an engineer with Narco Radios, decided to build, from plans, two D-260 Senior Aerosport aerobatic bi-planes, the ‘two-holer’ version of the (Parsons-Jocylin) PJ 260 designed by the great Aero Engineer Nick D’Apuzzo, Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville, PA (think Centrafuge), who flew out of Turner Field, PA, where I was Chief Pilot Pt. 135, and Chief Flight Instructor Pt. 141 and FAA DPE. Nick taught me to weld, and in April 1968, after nearly four years of evenings and weekends and 5000 man hours (each), we had our first flights and took the top awards (Tom’s – Grand Champion – me, first runner-up) at EAA Rockford Convention – fly-in, 1968. Me on cover Sport Aviation, Nov’68.

    Now the fun part…..what a blast, teaching oneself aerobatics,(with Duane Cole’s book on my lap,) how to do a “snap”, bbl roll, snap on top of loop, slow roll, immelman, Cuban 8s, outside loop, etc. and having an airplane in your hands that would ‘make up’ for any mistakes I made. What a joy…what freedom! I even did the Lomchevok, (tumbles tail over nose…”Big” Ed Mahler ‘told’ me how to do it!) One day after I landed, Mrs. Turner ask if I was near the NE extension of the PA Turnpike…I said yes….she said a State Cop came in and asked if she knew of anybody out in that vacinity….Cop said tell him to do his routine somewhere else…he’s stopping traffic. (I was above 1500 ft. AGL, I swear.) The D-260, (64 gals, 10 GPH, Lauderdale to N. Phila with one stop at Charleston, SC) 6.4 hours duraion at 65%. Best airplane I ever flew, not just because I built it, but because of a great designer, Nick D’Apuzz.

    This was half a century ago. What great memories. How I miss it. (old man) Jim

  10. Gail A. Hammans says:

    Getting the flying bug at age 70, caused me to look at purchasing an aircraft with a different outlook. I new that I was going to train as well as, after certification, fly my wife and family in it. After much thought and research, I came to the conclusion that one of the things that you do most to your plane, more than anything else is put fuel in it . Old people just have no busines climbing around on ladders lugging 1 1/2″ fuel hoses. The decision to buy a low wing {Piper PA 28-140} for me was a no brainier.