Airplane Shopping

Stratos 716X

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Cirrus Vision Jet, meet your competition.

In July, Stratos Aircraft completed the first test flight of the single engine Stratos 716X personal jet. Stratos, based in Redmond, OR, is taking a page out of Epic Aircraft’s book in how the company is planning on bringing the Stratos 716X to market.

Epic Aircraft first released the Epic LT composite single engine turboprop in the early 2000s as an experimental. The first kit was completed and flying in 2005. Epic’s goal was to bring the airplane to market as a certified aircraft, a feat that took them almost 20 years to do, achieving full certification earlier this year.

Stratos Aircraft is hoping to learn a lot from their Bend, OR neighbors. The 716X is going to start off as a limited release experimental kit, while the company is working on achieving certification for the airplane. Once the plane is certified, it will be dubbed the Stratos 716. The 716X experimental kits will be assembled through a factory builder assist program (no garage built single engine jets here!). The kit will cost $2.5 million assembled, while the expected cost of the certified Stratos 716 will be $3.5 million.

Now, let’s talk about the airplane. 400 KTAS. One engine.

That’s right, you did hear correctly. The Stratos 716X is expected to cruise at 400 KTAS on only one engine. Compared to the Cirrus Vision Jet, that’s 100 knots faster. Think, “I’ll be relaxing at the hotel pool with a drink in hand when you are landing” type speeds. The fuel burn of the Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 engine (3,000 lbs of thrust) is about 25 GPH more than the Vision Jet (the Stratos 716X will burn about 98 GPH of Jet A while the Vision Jet averages about 75 GPH of Jet A).

Comparing the two engines, the above numbers start to make sense. The Williams FJ33 engine on the Vision Jet only puts out 1,850 lbs of thrust, significantly less than the 3,000 lbs of thrust that the Stratos 716X Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 puts out.

What does that mean to the pilot? In the Stratos 716X, it means less takeoff roll, better climb rate, faster cruise (as evidence by the 400 KTAS expected cruise speed), and a better payload. More power = more weight carrying capacity. And, the 716X is expected to have a service ceiling of 41,000 feet. I probably wouldn’t want to go that high single pilot with one engine, but I’d be very happy with that speed in the mid-30s.

The cabin, based on the pictures I’ve seen, looks very comfortable. The Stratos 716X seats 6 and can be configured in several different ways. Baggage is no problem as Stratos Aircraft stretched the fuselage from their original 714 Proof of Concept aircraft, adding a very roomy baggage compartment above the engine compartment. The passenger compartment is as big as a Phenom 100, providing more leg and head room than the Vision Jet. The front seats have plenty of legroom too, as Stratos has opted for a side stick instead of a yoke.

The avionics for the Stratos 716X are expected to be the Garmin G3X Touch for the panel which will be driven by a Garmin GTN 750 GPS. Autopilot will be integrated within the G3X. I would imagine that once the plane is certified, the panel will be switched to a Garmin G1000 NXi and a GFC 700 will be installed.

The genius of the design of the Stratos 716X is the aerodynamics of the engine placement. Instead of hanging the engine out in the slip stream and going with a drag inducing V-Tail like Cirrus did, Stratos took some notes from the myriad of single engine military fighter jets out there, placing the engine inside the fuselage. The fuselage is then built around the engine with two air scoops for intake directly in front of the wings. With two intakes instead of one, that leads to more air flow, which again, means more power. The Vision Jet has only one.

I’m going to keep tabs on the Stratos 716X (as I kept tabs on the Epic E1000). I’m hoping Stratos gets several flying soon (the company expects to do 3 kits a year till the airplane gets certified) and certification comes quickly after.

I got to stick my head in the mockup of the Stratos 716X when I went to Osh Kosh in 2018. I was very impressed and was excited to see the airplane was finally airborne this summer.

For more information about the Stratos 716X, check out the Stratos website.

Piper PA46 Partnership in San Antonio

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A Piper PA46 partnership is being formed in the San Antonio area. Two to three partners are being sought to purchase either a Piper PA46-310P Malibu or a ’90s model Piper PA46-350P Mirage.

The Piper PA46 Malibu is the original Piper PA46 airframe. It is equipped with a Continental TSIO 520, 310HP engine (though many have been upgraded to the Continental TSIO 550C engine, which is a great upgrade), is complex, and pressurized (the best feature about the airplane!). The six seat airframe travels around 185-190 KTAS at FL200 on 16-17 GPH, giving an incredible range with 120 gallons of fuel.

The Piper Mirage is what Piper designated the PA46 when it switch to the Lycoming TIO 540 350HP engine in 1989. The airframe remained the same, but the engine eeks out a few more KTAS at 22-25 GPH depending on how high the cruise altitude is.

Both the Piper Malibu and the ’90s model Mirage are equipped with the KFC 150 autopilot. A lot of the Piper PA46 airframes still have a Garmin 530W/430W or dual 430Ws, but a large number have been upgraded to the Garmin GTN 750/650, while a few have opted for the Avidyne IFD 540/440 GPS units. There are a fair number still with steam gauges, while some have upgraded to Aspen units or the Garmin G500 or G500TXi.

If you are located in the San Antonio area and interested in a 3-4 way partnership on a Piper PA46, please Contact Us. The purchase price will be between $300,000-$450,000, so only interested parties that can afford a budget of $100,000-$150,000 please.

The plane will be based at Stinson Field (KSSF) or New Braunfels (KBAZ).

The Importance of a Pre-Buy Inspection

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There are multiple ways to save money during the aircraft buying process. To start, since you are buying an airplane, you have some means of positive income in order to afford an airplane. Airplanes come in all different shapes and sizes and usually, an airplane can be found to fit almost any budget, whether is a $20,000 Texas Taildragger all the way up to a multi-million dollar jet.

One way is to stay within your budget. There will always be a shinier, newer, lower time airplane that is just above where you set your budget at. Don’t reach for it! There is a reason you set your budget where you did.

Another way is to shop around and get multiple insurance quotes. Your agent is in charge of engaging underwriters who are going to evaluate you and your airplane as risks, then price a policy accordingly. With most airplanes, you should get multiple quotes to see what fits you best. Beware though, because sometimes, you can get a lower rate, but it will require more training, so you end up shelling out more money in the long run. If you find a policy you like, but the training seems skewed or the liability isn’t high enough, you can always have your agent ask the underwriter to modify the quote. You are still in charge.

Finally, if you evaluate your mission and see that your budget can’t afford an airplane that carries enough or goes fast enough, look into taking on a partner or two to help with costs. Be thorough in vetting your potential partners as a good partnership is worth it’s weight in gold, but a bad one is downright unpleasant and often times hard to get out of. Find pilots who have the same mindset & personality you do and treat their stuff the same way you do. Try to take a ride in their car or go to their house, then you’ll see what kind of shape they will keep the airplane in.

The best way to cost yourself more money in the aircraft buying process?

Don’t do a pre-buy inspection.

A pre-buy inspection takes place after negotiations and once a Purchase Agreement is in place. You are pretty much set on the airplane, you just want a third party mechanic who is knowledgeable on that make and model of airplane (and this is a very important point) to go over it and make sure that it is sound from a mechanical standpoint. The buyer, you, want someone who has never had an association with the seller since the mechanic will be your representative in the process and you want him answering to you.

If you have used a broker or a buyer’s agent, that person should have already gone through the logbooks for you, so you’ll have a basic idea of the history of the airplane. However, knowledgeable mechanics find things all the time that turn out to be the responsibility of the seller to repair since it happened on their watch. Without a pre-buy, you would end up having to pay for that in the not to distant future.

Here is an example of where not doing a pre-buy can cost a lot of money.

An owner bought a late ’70s model Citation ISP, one of the very first Citations ever made. It had been based in Florida (salt & humidity + aircraft don’t mix well) for a while. The buyer didn’t use a broker, but thankfully had someone look through the maintenance history of the airplane. Since it was so old, the logbook reviewer didn’t have time to do anything but a basic overview, but he gave the thumbs up to the buyer.

The buyer decided he just wanted a boroscope inspection and the seller’s mechanics to look over the airplane. Remember what I said before about a third party mechanic? Well, these mechanics didn’t do a very thorough job. When the buyer took delivery of the plane, after about 10 hours of flying, he already had an $18,000-$25,000 maintenance bill.

You may say, well that’s a jet. Jet’s have specialized maintenance and need a more extensive pre-buy inspection.

On the contrary, in my 8 years in the training business, I have seen Cirrus, Piper PA46s, Bonanzas and several other piston engine airplanes that either didn’t have a pre-buy done or the pre-buy was done by someone who didn’t know that airframe. Lo and behold, things started breaking and adding up very quickly that would have been discovered on a good pre-buy inspection.

Don’t skip on the pre-buy inspection. They usually run a few thousand dollars, but save tons of money in the long run.