Looking at upgrading and wondering about your thoughts

Discussions about buying and owning your own plane.
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Location: Caro, MI

Looking at upgrading and wondering about your thoughts

Postby nmontei » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:57 pm

Within the next 6 months I'm planning on upgrading from my current plane, a 1964 C-172 to a faster bigger aircraft. I have around 550 hours, about 100 of which is in tail draggers (RV7, citabria, Challenger 2). what my mission will be is 400 miles 2 people (both over 200lbs) with 150lbs of luggage. Occasionally there will be 2 people and 2 kids with baggage. I'm setting my spending limit at $130,000 that will get me in a Cherokee 6, c-206, c-210, or possibly a early sr-22. So what I'm asking is what do you guys think? I have an hour and a half in Cherokee 6's and enjoyed it, but it's the slowest of the bunch.


Posts: 180
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:18 pm

Re: Looking at upgrading and wondering about your thoughts

Postby Jeb » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:23 am


It's nice to be in your shoes. $130K will get you a nice airplane these days...

So, you regularly need to move 550 lbs 400 nm, non-stop, along with the occasional plus-kids-and-bags mission. After the 400 nm, you also need some reserve fuel. I presume you can accept the need for a fuel stop when the kids and bags are aboard.

With a 150-knot airplane, you're looking at roughly three hours to cover 400 nm. My preferred fuel reserve for such a mission would be at least 1.5 hours of cruise fuel, giving me 45 minutes of divert fuel and the IFR-required 45 minutes. Let's presume cruise fuel burn is 12 gph, but 15 gph for the first hour. 12 x 3.5 = 42 gals, plus another 15 = 57. 57 x 6 = 342, so you need 342 lbs of fuel for your basic mission. 550 + 342 = 892, so you're basically talking a half-ton useful load.

These numbers are WAGs -- my Deb, for example, burns slightly more than 13 gph in cruise and 18 for the first hour, but it's also faster than 150 knots. And I can pull back the power to use these numbers. Let's hasten to add that a faster, say 170-knot, airplane would have slightly higher fuel consumption, but cover the ground quicker, so these numbers are okay for ball-parking. Conversely (and perversely), a slower airplane with reduced fuel consumption and capacity might mean a fuel stop some dark and stormy night. BTDT. Which probably is why you want to upgrade from the 172...

As you've noted, the fixed-gear PA-32 series will easily carry the load, but is relatively slow. I would put the 235 Cherokees/182/205/206 here, also. All get the job done, but with lower nmpg numbers.

Moving to retractables, you've got some interesting four-seat choices. Discard the 201/231/Arrow/Sierra/177RG for useful load limitations. A 182RG might fit the bill, depending on how the numbers work. Moving up in horsepower to 250/260, you're in Comanche territory, as well as early '60s Bonanzas/210s. Unless I missed something, all will perform the mission -- just -- and it comes down to an individual airframe's condition and equipment.

Going to the 285/300 hp retractable singles, things start to get more interesting. A later Mooney with a big engine (not sure the model designations...) has the speed/fuel burn numbers but I don't think it can handle the useful load. Later 210s, the PA-32R series and all big-bore Bonanza models will easily do the basic mission, plus haul the kids. These airplanes either have the TCM IO-520/550 or the Lyc. IO-540. Some may have turbos (you didn't mention the terrain over which you'll be flying for 400 nm).

So, that's where I'd focus. I'd find the cleanest airframe I could with the best avionics (a/p, moving map, at least /G, engine monitor/fuel totalizer and maybe a backup AH would be a sweet spot). I'm not sure I'd worry too much about TBO on the engine, unless it was a fresh field OH, which would put me off. Engines are expensive, but also are known quantities and fresh ones automagically raise the airplane's value. Avionics less so, and you won't get back your acquisition/installation costs in this market. Same with paint and interior, and there are inexpensive ways to get by.

The SR22/Lancair 400 models also present interesting possibilities. Finding a good one at your price point might not be that hard. However, I'm curious if their useful load numbers will work for you. Willing to be educated...

You sound like a Cessna guy, so a 210 might be a good solution. If it were me, in this market, I'd be looking at C/E/F33A/A36 Bonanzas. (Oh, wait -- I already have one of those!)

Good luck, and keep us posted...


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