Plane & Pilot
Monday, December 5, 2011

Piston Singles Buyer’s Guide 2012


Which aircraft is best for you?



Cirrus SR20
Cirrus Aircraft
www.cirrusaircraft.com

Cirrus SR20
The Klapmeier brothers' first production airplane was the 200 hp SR20, and it continues today as the foundation of the Cirrus line. In fact, the U.S. Air Force recently provided a resounding endorsement by purchasing 25 SR20s as primary trainers at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fitted with a 200 hp Continental IO-360 engine, the SR20 is well-suited to operation at modest density altitudes, and can cruise at up to 155 knots. Price: $289,900.


Cirrus SR22/22T
Cirrus SR22/22T
The airplane that truly captured the imagination of the flying public is the SR22, a 310 hp, carbon-fiber sport/speedster. Designed from the outset around the interior dimensions and accoutrements of the BMW 5-series sedans, the SR22 boasts one of the most comfortable cabins in the class. It also scores 180-185 knots following a 1,400 fpm climb. Introduced in 2001, the SR22 outpaced even Cessna's long-established 172 and 182 in sales. The turbo version of the SR22 allows cruise in the flight levels at 210 knots or more. Price: $449,900 (normal) to $544,900 (turbo).

Hawker Beechcraft
www.hawkerbeechcraft.com


Beech G36 Bonanza
Beech G36 Bonanza
For many pilots, the G36 has always represented the top of the pyramid among production singles. With its aft right cargo doors and conference seating, the G36 offers easy boarding to all six seats, near 200 mph (176 knots) speed on short flights and a max range of 900 nm at reduced power settings. It's also arguably one of the most comfortable airplanes in the sky, with a new thermostatically controlled air conditioner, LED lighting everywhere you look and luxurious comfort at all stations. Most notably, however, Bonanzas are famous for their excellent control harmony. The airplanes are equally renowned for the way they fly as for their impressive performance numbers. With the same rugged gear system used to train Navy pilots to land on carriers (on the old T-34C), the Bonanza can even fill in as the most luxurious off-airport airplane you'll ever find. Price: $736,000 to $759,000 with new interior.

American Champion Aircraft
www.amerchampionaircraft.com


American Champion Super Decathlon
American Champion Champ
Flying doesn't get much more minimalist than in a Champ. Sure, you can always opt to fly ultralights or LSAs, but if you're determined to stick with standard production airplanes, a Champ is as entry-level as they come. The Champ employs a 100 hp Continental O-200D engine, basically the same mill used on the Cessna 162. Approved for basic aerobatics, the Champ is rated for +5/-2 G's, and can fly loops, rolls, hammerheads, spins and most other inside maneuvers. Certified at 1,320 pounds gross, the Champ meets LSA standards, so it can be flown by aviators with a sport pilot license. Price: $109,900.

American Champion Super Decathlon
At the opposite end of the line, the Super Decathlon is a brilliantly conceived, marvelously capable advanced aerobatic trainer that can double as a Sunday-go-to-hamburger airplane. A variation on the original Bellanca Super Decathlon, the current airplane features a Lycoming AEIO-360 engine with inverted fuel and oil systems to allow limited inverted flight (two minutes—more than enough, believe me). In tandem configuration, it's a comfortable cruiser with 125 knots speed and 40 gallons of fuel, worth three hours endurance plus reserve. Perhaps best of all, the Super is pure fun. Price: $163,900.


American Champion Scout
American Champion Scout
The bush champs are the Scouts, and as of last August, there are now two of them. The basic airplane is a hardworking, nonaerobatic version of the Super Decathlon. Sporting four feet more wingspan, the Scout offers a lower stall speed and better short-field performance plus a tough gear system to handle off-airport destinations. The Scout also features a carbureted engine for more reliable engine starts in the backcountry. Gross is 200 pounds heavier than the Super Decathlon's max weight, and the Scout is approved in the utility category. Price: $157,900.





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