Plane & Pilot
Saturday, October 1, 2005

25 Bargain Birds For 2005

The aircraft market continually changes, creating new low-cost airplanes for pilots who dream of owning their own plane

Compiling any list of the 25 best bargain buys in general aviation is almost guaranteed to ruffle some feathers. Our choices aren’t always going to agree with everyone else’s. No matter how much we try to be fair and impartial, our selections have to be at least a little subjective. We’re probably as subject to partiality as the next pilot, even if we’re allowed a broader frame of reference." />

3. Luscombe 8F
Don Luscombe’s agile little two-seater was said to be aerobatic, and while that may be an exaggeration, it was an eager-handling airplane. No big surprise that the later 8F with the McCauley metal prop is the best buy. Expect an honest 80 knots cruise on about 4.5 gph in exchange for $24,000.—Bud Corban

4. Cessna 140

A Like their big brothers, the C-180 Skywagons, the metalized Cessna 140As, built in the late 1940s, are among the most durable of small singles. Change the tires, batteries, engines and props regularly, and a well-treated C-140 seems to live forever. The C-140As fly with 90 hp, cruise at 90 knots and will carry two souls in snug comfort for two-and-a-half hours plus reserve. Plan to spend $16,500 or less.—D.C.

5. Cessna 170
The C-170s sport four seats and fly very much like a C-140, only better. Some C-170s, repowered with 180 hp engines, still serve yeoman duty in the backcountry of Canada and Alaska. As with the C-140, the later B models are the best buys, all metal and fitted with slotted flaps. Plan on 100 knots of cruise and a 900-pound useful load. About $33,000 should buy you an absolute gem.—B. Corban

6. Cessna 195
The C-195 offers a classic, 300 hp, nine-cylinder, Jacobs radial, along with a novelty for general-aviation, crosswind gear. You can taxi in a crosswind with the nose canted 15 degrees to the left or right of center. At 3,350 pounds, the C-195 was no lightweight, but all that rotating power drove it along at 140 to 145 knots. The type typically demands $70,000 for a cherry example, and it’s worth it.—B. Corban

7. Ercoupe 415
The twin-boom Ercoupe was as close to an automobile as possible, stall-proof, spin-proof and without the encumbrance of rudder pedals. A steering wheel directed the airplane both on the ground and in the air. Ercoupe production spanned some 30 years to the final version (the single-tail Mooney Cadet), but a typical early Ercoupe offered 90 knots of cruise for only about $13,000.—B. Corban

8. Mooney M20C
If you’re a short pilot like me (five feet, 10 inches) and don’t really need to carry four full-sized folks, a 1965 to 1969 vintage Mooney Ranger may be the ideal airplane. It’s modestly fast (145 knots) on minimal fuel (9.5 gph), can carry two-plus-two in a pinch, features hand-retractable landing gear and, perhaps best of all, the 1970 to 1978 vintage models (also known as the Ranger) sell for under $70,000.—B. Cox


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