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." />

9. Bellanca Decathlon
When I was a CAP cadet, I didn’t understand why all airplanes couldn’t fly inverted. The Decathlon can. For those with a penchant for vertical and inverted fun, the Bellanca Decathlon offers plenty of control in three dimensions. The basic Decathlon sported 150 hp and a semi-symmetrical wing for better inverted handling characteristics. Decathlons from the mid-1970s sell for under $40,000.—D.C.

10. BeechCraft Sierra
Essentially a retractable Musketeer, the Sierra was one of the slowest of the 200 hp retracts (130 knots on a good day), but it also was one of the few with four-plus-two seating and an aft boarding door. Produced for a dozen years starting in 1970, the airplane was the step-up airplane for the Beechcraft Aero Clubs and still earns high marks for a comfy cabin, simple systems and typical Beechcraft quality. The 1977 C24R has a representative price of $58,000.—B. Corban

11. Cessna Cardinal

The C-177 Cardinal was a better airplane than Cessna knew, but it was only produced for a decade. A severely swept design, the airplane was the sexiest piston that Cessna ever offered. It also was probably eight to 10 knots quicker than the Skyhawk, although admittedly, with 20 more hp. The full-cantilever wing had a spar carry-through hanging down into the cabin, but otherwise, room was good. The first 180 hp Cardinals run about $37,000, and even the last 1978 models sell for $60,000.—B. Cox

12. Piper Cherokee Six 260

If how much you can carry is more important than how fast you can carry it, a Six 260 may be the perfect choice. If lightly equipped, some PA-32-260s could lift their own weight in useful load. There were six seats in three rows of two, and the aft row was accessible through a large, left-side cargo door. The Six 260 makes a great family machine for Mom, Dad, three kids and all the baggage they care to bring. A mid-1960s Six sells for about $65,000.—B. Cox

13. Taylorcraft

C.G. Taylor designed the Piper Cub, then went on to pen the welded tube-steel fuselage and wood-wing Taylorcraft in the late 1930s and 1940s. Taylorcrafts typically fly behind 85 hp Continentals and deliver nearly 90 knots, impressive for the time. Stall is down around 40 knots, so short-field characteristics are exceptional. Despite the low horsepower, the big wing allows a high service ceiling, above 16,000 feet. Some late-model Taylorcrafts are easily available for $70,000 or less.—D.C.

14. Globe Swift GC1B

The point of the post-WWII Swift was to mimic the look and handling qualities of a fighter. The two-seat Swift offered dramatically quick roll and pitch response, but the 125 hp Continental engine didn’t even come close to delivering the climb and cruise of a fighter. Still, the Swift was a fun airplane with 110-knot cruise, a fast roll rate and plenty of visibility. Expect to pay at least $27,000 for a decent Swift.—B. Cox


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