Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Four-Seater Buyer's Guide


20 new aircraft to choose from



Mooney Acclaim S
Mooney Acclaim S
Add turbocharging and a plethora of aerodynamic tweaks and you wind up with the fastest, piston-powered production single above earth. Mooney claims a 242-knot max cruise, but even if the realistic number is slightly less than that, no one argues the point anymore. Mooney cabins are a half inch wider than a Bonanza’s, so the stereotype of Mooneys as “tight little machines” is mostly a myth. The airplanes are comfortable four-seaters that carry three plus full fuel. At flight-level altitudes, the Acclaim S turns in near-turboprop speeds with piston efficiency. Base Price: $634,988.


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Twins

Almost by definition, four-seat twins are primarily dedicated to the training role. In the old days of the ’60s and ’70s, the Twin Comanche was the leader in four-seat personal twins with a pair of 160 hp Lycoming IO-320s on the wings. Not much has changed in that respect. Two engines usually justify six or more seats, but all three of the airplanes below make do with four buckets and 180 hp or less.


Diamond DA42 Twin Star
Diamond DA42 Twin Star
Diamond’s Twin Star has undergone a major power change, from the original German Thielert diesel engines to the current Diamond-backed Austro diesels. The justification of diesels is that they burn jet fuel, an important consideration overseas where avgas is often hard to find. To be accurate, the Twin Star comes in your choice of twin Lycoming IO-360s (180 hp) or Austro AE-300 diesels (170 hp). The Lycoming-powered DA42 is the performance king, but the Austro model wins the range and efficiency race. Base Price: $599,900.
Regardless of the number of engines or wing location, a quad of seats guarantees any model a second look by the majority of production aircraft.


Tecnam P2006T
Tecnam P2006T
The Italian Tecnam twin premiered at Oshkosh in 2009, and Plane & Pilot was one of the first to fly it. The Tecnam uses a pair of 100 hp, Rotax 912 engines (yes, with full-feathering props), conferring perhaps the lowest operating cost of any certified twin. The P2006T is so new, it hasn’t established a sales record, but its low sales price and operating cost give every indication of multi-engine training at an hourly tab that should seriously undercut the other two contenders. Base Price: $407,000.


Tecnam P2006T
Piper Seminole
Essentially an Arrow with two O-360 Lycoming engines, the Seminole is the only survivor of the light/light twin race of the late ’70s. The airplane hasn’t changed much over the last three decades, but like the Arrow, it’s a popular choice for institutional flight schools for multi-engine student training. It’s blessed with simple systems, easy maintenance, benign handling characteristics and backed by one of the biggest companies in the industry. The Seminole also scores well in personal transport mode where owners report good economy and reasonable payload. Base Price: $644,000.




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