Plane & Pilot
Monday, December 5, 2011

Piston Twins Buyer's Guide 2012

Five aircraft round out the piston-twin selection

Tecnam |
Back in the '70s and '80s, there were nearly two dozen twins on the market. Today, the piston-twin market has been whittled down to a mere handful of airplanes. Surprisingly, there's even a new entry in the light- twin market.

Tecnam P2006T
Why not, someone in Italy reasoned, build a scaled-down, four-seat version of the Partenavia P68, and use a pair of water-cooled Rotax 912S engines to power it? That someone was Professor Luigi Pascale, more than coincidentally, the designer of the Partenavia. With only 98 hp per side, you might imagine the Tecnam P2006T would be underpowered. Not really. At 2,599 pounds gross, it weighs less than a Piper Arrow or Mooney, both of which grossed at least 100 pounds more and use a single 200 hp Lycoming for motive force. Climb on the P2006T is 1,140 fpm, and cruise is 140 knots (about the same as the Arrow). Perhaps best of all, the diminutive Rotax engines collectively sip about the same fuel as an Arrow, 10 gph, and can burn car gas. Imagine flying a twin trainer with the operating costs of a Mooney. Price: $459,600, delivered to the U.S.

Piper Seminole
The word on the ramp is that Piper's Seminole hasn't a mean rib, spar or tube in its aluminum body. Certainly, if you asked the students at University of North Dakota Aviation Department, they would give the Seminole high marks. It's indeed a simple machine, fitted with two of the most durable 180 hp Lycoming engines ever created. Single-engine manners are among the most docile there are, with a Vmc below stall at any height above about 4,000 feet. Realistic cruise is near 160 knots, in case anyone cares, and operating costs are budget pleasing. Price: $599,000.

The Tecnam P2006T climbs at 1,140 fpm, cruises at 140 knots and burns just 10 gph for both engines combined. Piper Aircraft |
Piper Seminole
Piper's four-seat Seminole trainer features a Garmin G500 avionics suite and cruises at 160 knots.

Piper Seneca V
Introduced in 1972, the world's least expensive six-seat twin is in its fifth iteration, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the Seneca V scoots along at 190 knots at FL250 with the help of turbocharged 220 hp Continental TSIO-360 engines. Perhaps more important, the Seneca offers a large cabin, happy to contain whatever baggage, passengers and gear you need to bring along. Piper used to advertise that you could even load a small upright piano inside, through the aft cargo doors. With a wide cabin, G1000 avionics in the cockpit and options that include icing certification, air-conditioning and an entertainment center, the Seneca V brings luxury to a midsized twin. Price: $899,000.

Piper Seneca V
The Seneca V seats six, has a Garmin G1000 cockpit, and cruises at 190 knots.

Diamond Twin Star NG/L360
Following the legal problems and bankruptcy at Thielert Aircraft Engines of Munich, Diamond Aircraft relaunched the twin-engine version of the Star in 2009 with its own Austro AE-300 diesel engine. The airplane was dubbed the NG for New Generation. At about the same time, the company introduced a Lycoming-powered version, the L360. The 168 hp Austro engines obviously have the benefit of burning readily available jet fuel, whereas the Lycomings sport slightly more horsepower, 180 per side. The carbon-fiber NG scores better fuel economy, while the L360 appreciates better climb and speed, as well as a slight useful load advantage. Both models feature the Garmin G1000 glass panel and G700 autopilot. Price: $815,000 (NG); $624,500 (L360)—prices based on Euro value.

Diamond Aircraft |
Diamond Twin Star
The Diamond Twin Star's rear door allows easier access for passengers to the back seats, as well as baggage area behind the seats. The 2012 Beech Baron has a new interior with a G1000 glass panel.

Beech G58 Baron
When you pull up on the ramp in a Baron, you know you've truly arrived. The Baron offers the best performance in the class, though tempered by a comparatively narrow cabin. Basically a 36 Bonanza fuselage with two Continental IO-550 engines, the Baron can climb at 1,600 fpm and cruise at up to 200 knots. Like the Bonanza, the Baron's interior was totally revised for 2012, including all-LED lighting. The airplane is fitted with Garmin's G1000 glass panel and integrated G700 autopilot, one of the smoothest and most intuitive avionics packages in the industry. Price: $1,344,000 to $1,367,000 with new interior.

Hawker Beechcraft |
Beech Baron
Back in the '70s and '80s, there were nearly two dozen twins on the market. Today, the piston-twin market has been whittled down to a mere handful of airplanes. Surprisingly, there's even a new entry in the light- twin market.

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