Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Four-Seater Buyer's Guide

20 new aircraft to choose from

Cessna Corvalis TT
Cessna Corvalis
Born as the Columbia 300, the Corvalis represents a major departure for Cessna. An original design by Lance Neibauer, it was the first all-composite and low-wing single ever offered by the Wichita company. Cessna acquired the Columbia line three years ago when Columbia went bankrupt. Cessna immediately sought approval for conversion from the Avidyne glass panel to the Garmin G1000, and today’s airplanes are all-electric machines. As is practically everyone these days, the Corvalis models are currently fighting a market headwind, but that in no way diminishes their talents. Base Price: $533,400.

Cessna Corvalis TT
Again, a blower improves all aspects of performance, especially for pilots who need to fly high on a regular basis or leap out of tall airports. The Corvalis TT is unquestionably the fastest fixed-gear, production, piston airplane in the sky. The penalty for such brevity is a higher empty weight and slightly less payload, probably worth the price if terrain or weather forces you to fly tall on a regular basis. Base Price: $574,000.

Piper Warrior
Piper Warrior III
Piper’s least expensive certified airplane is also its oldest. The PA-28-161 sprang from the Cherokee 160 and was essentially the same airplane with a semi-tapered wing. Like all Cherokees, the Warrior is a benign airplane, more forgiving than the Diocese of Las Vegas. Today, the Warrior continues in production as a competitor with Cessna’s 172S, though production has slowed with the economy. Base Price: $290,000.

Piper Archer
Archer III
Archers are both durable and lovable, and perhaps best of all, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to fly one. The goal on the Warrior and Archer was simplicity, and that’s the airplanes’ major advantage over the rest of the world. A 180 hp Lycoming O-360 provides one of the most reliable engines in the business, and a fixed-pitch prop, strong hydraulic-damped gear and electric flaps make the Archer an extremely straightforward machine, a manifesto of moderation, well within the ability of any pilot who’s simply awake. Base Price: $299,500.

In the hinterlands of southwest Georgia, little Maule Aircraft continues to pump out a steady stream of fabric-covered airplanes that do what they do better than practically anything else. Maule builds nosewheel and tailwheel variations of three basic models, the M7-260, M7-235B and MX7-180. See “Adventure Aircraft” on page 40 for more details on these aircraft.

Diamond DA40
Diamond DA40 Star
Diamond’s happy, four-seat Star has been exactly that since it was introduced in 2000. An all-composite four-seater with something few other airplanes can boast, a back door, the Star is remarkably efficient and comfortable. It flies with a central control stick rather than a yoke or side stick, and the result is roll and pitch response uncommon to the class. Additionally, 180 hp makes the Star nearly as fast as the retractable Piper Arrow. Base Price: $344,950.

Cirrus SR20
Cirrus SR20
The entry-level Cirrus was the Brothers Klapmeier’s first production airplane. Introduced at the turn of the century, the SR20’s Avidyne MFD effectively short-stopped the first major criticism of general aviation, “Yeah, but what happens if I get lost?” and the ballistic, full-airplane parachute system addressed the other big question, “What do you do if the engine quits?” Add doors on each side and a large cabin, and you begin to understand the type’s popularity. Base Price: $337,900.


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