Has it come time to buy your first airplane? Have the skies been calling your name? Or are you just tired of standing in the airport security line then getting shoved in a long metal tube with no leg room? Or, maybe you are a businessman who does business in remote areas that have local airports but are hard to get to commercially.
Wherever your need is, you have decided it’s time to make a purchase. If you are familiar with aviation, you may have an airplane in mind that you would like to have, but is that the right airplane for your mission? If you are new to aviation, you may have no idea what airplane to go for. Here are some helpful hints in narrowing down the different airplane options out there to fit your specific mission.
Flying For Enjoyment, but Not Going Far Fast
If you’re just a weekend flyer who is tired of dealing with flight school rentals, but you don’t need to carry a lot of people or go very far, your options are pretty numerous. Anything from a Cessna 152 to a Piper Cherokee, maybe a Beech Sundowner, or a Bellanca Viking, or anything in between. If you are content with taking a weekend hop for a hamburger at 100-110 knots, you have limitless options for airplanes. Tailwheels (Cubs, Citabrias, Huskies) are excellent birds for you well.
Getting Places Fast With Only You and Maybe One Passenger
Need to go 200-300 miles fast and not worried about weight? A Cirrus SR22T, a Columbia 400, or Cessna Corvalis might be just what you need. Cruise speeds on those are all around 180-190 knots at 10,000 feet. All are oxygen equipped if you want more speed higher up, as the service ceilings are 25,000 feet. Payloads run in the range of 400-500 pounds with full fuel. All these have air conditioning options, too.
Hauling More Weight, but Still Need the Speed?
A little slower (150-170 knots) but a little bit more payload options are A36 & B36 Bonanzas, Piper Saratogas, Cessna 206s, or Cessna 210s might suit your fancy. All come in turbo models if you are a high elevation dweller. The Cessna 206 has been used for many years as cargo and people haulers in remote regions like Alaska, South America, and Africa. I’ve even seen pictures of snowmobiles being carried in a 206.
Tired of Oxygen Cannulas?
The next step up from a Cirrus, Corvalis, or Saratoga is the Piper Malibu. A bigger brother to the Saratoga, the different PA-46 models offer one of the best options for a single engine piston out there. All except the Matrix (PA-46-350T) are pressurized, all the pistons cruise about 200 knots, and all are configured with club seating with plenty of leg room. Useful loads range around 1200-1400 pounds (they hold 120 gallons of fuel, so payloads range from 480-680 pounds). The original Malibu (PA-46-310P) only burns 16.5 GPH so that allows partial fuel to be carried to allow more people and bags. All have 6 seats.
Need to Carry Even More Weight?
It’s time to get into the piston twin market, then. A Cessna 414, a Cessna 421, a Cessna 340, a Beech Duke or a Beech Baron are all pretty good options here. The 421 and the 414 have the largest cabins, while the Duke has the highest useful load. Cruise speeds range from 200-220 knots, but the cabin is roomier and you get a few more pounds useful load than a piston single. If you do get into a 421, get good training as they are equipped with Continental geared engines, which can be tricky to operate if you don’t know what you are doing.
Need to Carry a Lot of People and Go Fast?
Turboprops are the way to go for you. King Airs have the most utility while the Pilatus PC-12 is the cream of the single engine turboprop crop as you can put almost anything you want in it. If you have 4-5 passengers, stay away from a Piper Meridian as you can’t carry a lot of weight. Those are better for 2-3 passengers at the most (plus a pilot). The TBM 900 is pricey, but fast (300-325 knots). The original TBM 700 can be had for under a million bucks, you get 280 knots, and a very usable useful load. You still can’t fill all 6 seats with full fuel, but you can do more with it then a Meridian.
Have a Boatload of Money Sitting Around?
A jet might be for you then. Fuel, insurance, maintenance, and hangar costs are high, but jets will get you places real fast with room for all your friends and family.