Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Most Affordable Singles

We examine some of the best buys In general aviation

Bonanza G36
4 BEECH F33A BONANZA: The F33A was discontinued in 1994 (perhaps coincidentally, the same year Mooney introduced the Ovation). That doesn’t subtract a whit from the ultimate four-seat Bonanza’s talents, however. Certified in the utility class, the straight-tail airplane is stronger than most other machines. There even was an aerobatic model, the E33C, approved for most basic vertical and horizontal maneuvers. Bonanzas will outhandle most other machines in the class, offering uncommon control harmony and 170-knot speed. It also has the distinction of being what many pilots consider the best single-engine machine in the sky. Bonanzas from 1985 through 1994 generally sell for $200,000 or less.

5 BEECH A36 BONANZA: Add two seats to an F33A, and you’ll wind up with an A36, an airplane that’s currently in production as the G36 (“G” for Garmin). All the six-seat Bonanzas are regarded as top-end airplanes with performance roughly comparable to the aforementioned F33A. The right side aft double cargo doors make loading the rear seats easy, though the stretch from four to six seats eliminated the baggage compartment. Fuel capacity remains a low 74 gallons on all model 36 Bonanzas, but even so, the airplane can’t carry full fuel and full seats. All airplanes after 1983 employed the 300 hp Continental IO-520, so cruise fuel burn ran about 17 gph, and endurance was 3.5 hours plus reserve at high cruise. Model 36s from 1985 to 1992 usually sell for $200,000 or less.

Cessna 172
6 CESSNA SKYHAWK 172: The Skyhawk’s undeniable popularity virtually guarantees it will appear on any best buy list. The fact is that Skyhawks always have been among the easiest-flying airplanes available, one reason they’re often used for flight training. Today, Cessna only builds the 180 hp 172 S, but prior to last year, the 160 hp 172R also was available. Typical of big wings and mid-powered engines, the Skyhawk does its best work coming off and back onto the ground, easily operating out of 2,000-foot runways. Count on a 120-knot cruise following a 700 fpm climb. You can purchase a Skyhawk as late as 2008 for $200,000.

Cessna 182
7 CESSNA SKYLANE 182: Unlike its little brother, the 230 hp Skylane boasts performance that’s near that of the old bottom-level, 200 hp retractables, despite dragging fixed gear underneath and struts on either side. Many pilots regard the Skylane as the best four-seat family airplane on the market, capable of lifting two adults and two kids at 850 fpm, and transporting them for four hours at 135 to 140 knots. The Skylane flies on instruments as if mounted on rails, is stable in turbulence and is generally regarded as every pilot’s best friend. If you have $200,000 to spend, you should be able to find a Skylane as new as 2005. The turbocharged model became available in 2001, and they’re available for less than $200,000 through about 2004.

Cessna 210
8 CESSNA CENTURION 210: Cessna’s premier single-engine traveling machine has a following that’s nearly as fanatical as fans of the straight-tail Bonanzas. Indeed, the retractable 210 spanned the market from normally aspirated and turbocharged to pressurized. The normal airplane managed to haul 4+2 with relative ease, traveling at 165 to 170 knots. Turbocharging upped the speed ante to as much as 200 knots at 25,000 feet. With their large, strutless wings and huge flaps, Centurions shared with the Skylane good short-field characteristics, though the folding gear was less adaptable to rough fields. Fuel capacity typically was 90 gallons, and the 285 hp Continental burned 16 to 17 gph, so endurance was 4.5 hours plus reserve, worth 800 nm range. Only models from the last two years of production, the 210R and T210R, qualify as younger than 25 years old, and both airplanes occasionally are available for less than $200,000.

Cirrus SR22
9 CIRRUS SR22: Dale and Alan Klapmeier’s innovative composite design has been with us for nearly a full decade, and in recent years, it has even outsold the Skyhawk. That’s partially because the SR22 represents all-new technology, with a glass panel to preclude getting lost, a side stick rather than a conventional yoke, a ballistic parachute system to provide the ultimate hedge against engine failure and a cabin configured after a BMW 5 Series. The slick composite surface presented a smooth surface to the wind, and in combination with a 310 hp Continental IO-550, the airplane cruised at 180 knots. Model years 2001, 2002 and 2003 typically sell for $200,000 or less.


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