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." />


15. Piper Pacer
The Pacer was a Clipper until Pan Am complained. The first four-seat Piper produced with the short wing, the taildragger Pacer musters only 115 hp for motive force. Later versions feature larger tanks, more tail and control wheels (rather than sticks). Eventually, the Pacer evolved to the Tri-Pacer with 150 hp, but the first airplane is still considered a fun machine for under $17,000.—D.C.

16. Bellanca Cruisemaster
Giuseppe’s wooden wonder can be an excellent buy if you’re willing to contend with wood and fabric. The wings are Sitka Spruce works of art, and the fabric work is of the highest quality. With a 190 hp Lycoming 0-435 engine, a hydraulic gear and an adjustable pitch prop, the Cruisemaster could carry four in cramped comfort, cruise at 140 knots and range out 550 nm between pit stops. Plan to spend $26,500 for a jewel, $23,000 for a fixer-upper.—B. Cox

17. Stinson Station Wagon

The Station Wagon was Stinson’s post-war heavy-hauler. With rear seats removed, the airplane could lift up to 650 pounds of cargo. The best model featured a 165 hp Franklin powerplant, and production picked up the line and produced it for a short time after Stinson threw in the towel. Initial climb with a full load was alleged to be 850 fpm. The Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest suggests that you’ll pay $30,000 for a good Station Wagon.—B. Corban

18. Aeronca Chief

Take a Champ, mount the seats side by side rather than in tandem, and you have a Chief. Only narrow folks need apply, however. Yes, you still fly behind the same 85 to 90 hp Continental engine, and cruise is only 80 knots following a 350 to 400 fpm climb, but what else would you want for only $14,000?—D.C.

19. Piper Cherokee 235

Piper created the 235 as an answer to the Cessna Skylane. The top, four-place Cherokee never quite succeeded in competing with the C-182, but it’s an excellent load-lifter and reasonable performer nonetheless. Cherokee 235s are easily the low-wing equal to the high-wing Skylane in practically every area, and you can plan to spend $48,000 to $70,000 for it.—B. Cox

20. Piper Comanche 250
Piper’s first retractable is often hailed as the company’s best folding-foot model until the Malibu. The carbureted Comanche 250 offers solid 150- to 155-knot cruise on about 14 gph, meanwhile providing reasonable comfort for four folks. Systems are simple, the airplane is moderately idiot-proof, and you’ll probably find hundreds of them available for less than $63,000.—B. Cox





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