25 Bargain Birds For 2005
The aircraft market continually changes, creating new low-cost airplanes for pilots who dream of owning their own plane
If speed is less of a concern than comfort, the Navion may be one of the better buys among budget models. The late-1940s Navion A models are among the best, with 205 hp, four comfortable seats, a sliding canopy (à la Tiger) and 60 gallons of fuel. Good maintenance is the key on a retractable this old, but you still can find plenty of good Navion As available for under $71,000.—D.C.
22. BeechCraft Skipper
The Skipper was a more robust trainer than the Piper Tomahawk, but today, the minimal Beech is perhaps better known as a reasonable, two-seat personal transport. Only 312 Skippers were built between 1979 and 1981, and the type is available on the used market for less than $25,000. Count on 100 knots of cruise and a 300-pound payload, but don’t plan on flying high. The service ceiling is only 12,900 feet.—B. Corban
23. Piper Arrow 180
Piper’s original Arrow was a revelation for its time, and the airplane still represents an excellent buy for pilots who are willing to settle for an entry-level retractable. Unfortunately, the airplane’s chief selling point in the late 1960s, its automatic gear-extension system, has long since been ordered disconnected, but the 180 hp Arrow is still worth 130 to 135 knots with two-plus-two aboard. Prices start around $50,000.—D.C.
24. Long Eze
As the only homebuilt on our list, Burt Rutan’s Long Eze started a revolution. A larger, heavier version of the Vari-Eze, the canard design typically flies with only 115 to 135 hp in the back (it’s a pusher). The Long Eze is remarkably efficient and carries 52 gallons of fuel, and Burt’s brother, Dick, has set several long-distance records in his airplane. Most 115 hp Long Ezes will cruise alongside many 200 hp retractables. The price is totally negotiable, but usually $50,000 for a good example.—B. Cox
25. Cessna 182
For many pilots, a C-182 could be the perfect bargain bird, but the model’s very popularity has driven up prices on later models. Early C-182s, produced from 1956 to 1959, offer pretty much the same performance, if a decidedly antique look. Early Skylanes cruise at 130 knots, but their best quality is the ability to fly away at 800 fpm with all tanks and seats full. Decent examples are available on the market for less than $50,000.—D.C.