Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Twin-Engine Pistons Buyer's Guide 2014
Take your choice: a 600 hp luxury transport to a 200 hp multi-engine trainer
The market for piston twins will probably never die as long as the airlines continue to need pilots, and that need is predicted to become even more prevalent in the near future. Only two of the airplanes listed below are dedicated trainers, with four other models more technically consigned to business or cargo roles. Piper has always been a major manufacturer of multi-engine machines, and they still build two: the Seneca V and the Seminole. Beech offers the top-of-the-class 58 Baron. The Tecnam P2006T and Vulcanair P68 are international offerings from Italy, and the Austrian/Canadian Diamond Aircraft continues to produce the diesel-powered DA-42 (no longer called the Twin Star because of objections from the French helicopter company, Eurocopter). From the bottom of the twin market (the P2006T) to the top (Beech 58 Baron), multi-engine airplanes are alleged to offer improved safety with redundant power, a second electrical system and the ability to bring you home no matter where or when an engine quits. Prices quoted are for base-equipped 2013 models.
Beechcraft G58 Baron
As the top of the current piston-twin class, the 58 Baron deserves its royal regal name. Despite a narrow cabin, the Baron enjoys the most powerful engines in the group, the fastest cruise, the quickest climb. On top of that, it's arguably the best-handling machine in the group. Design-wise, the Baron utilizes a G36 Bonanza fuselage coupled to a wing four feet longer than the single-engine airplane's. The Baron also employs two of the same 300 hp Continental engines used on the Bonanza. Like other the twins in our survey, the Baron can't carry six folks and full fuel, but 100LL capacity is sufficient to allow leaving some fuel in the truck and substituting people pounds. The Baron's IO-550 engines are approved for lean-of-peak operation, so it's possible to get total fuel burn down to 28-30 gph. This means you can download fuel and still carry five folks on 600-700 nm legs. If cabin load is light and you can top the tanks, the Baron offers well over 1,000 nm range at max cruise, 1,150 nm at reduced power settings. Price: $1,373,900.
Certainly the most innovative of modern twins is the Twin Star. Diamond has pursued the twin-engine version of the Star with resolute determination despite formidable financial setbacks. Thielert Engines of Hamburg, Germany, produced the Twin Star's initial diesels, but went bankrupt in 2008. As a result, Diamond was forced to develop its own engines, the Austro AE-300 turbo diesels, rated for 170 hp/side. Diabolically, the aviation recession hit about the same time, causing more hand-wringing at Diamond, just when the Austrian company had captured nearly 80% of the twin market. Diamond prevailed, and the resulting airplane—known as the series VI, is a marvel of innovation, incorporating a total of 21 improvements. The bottom line is a twin that climbs quicker, cruises at least 30 knots faster than the original and burns jet fuel. New options include air-conditioning, an improved ventilation system, new props, redesigned engine nacelles, a number of small, aerodynamic improvements aimed at reducing drag, and a variety of other upgrades. Price: $758,000.
The second twin targeted for the multi-engine training market is the Piper PA-44-180 Seminole. This model has gained acceptance at a number of American and international flight schools. In fact, that's its primary market. The Seminole has been with us for some 35 years, and its popularity at university/institutional and other ab initio flight schools only seems to grow year by year. International sales have been a significant factor in the airplane's success, a tribute to Piper's warranty and service efforts, always one of the strongest sales points for the Vero Beach, Fla., company. For those who do buy the Seminole for personal or business transport, cruise is 160 knots following a climb at 1,300 fpm. Cruise fuel burn can be as little as 18 gph total, a significant advantage in this day of $6-$7/gallon avgas. Price: $663,500.
The Seneca is another Piper that predates the Seminole and just keeps on keepin' on. Introduced in the early '70s, the airplane was a born-again retractable Cherokee Six with redundant power. The first Senecas flew between a pair of counter-rotating, 200 hp Lycoming IO-360s and utilized the heavy-duty gear system later employed on the Piper Lance. Piper upgraded to turbocharged Continental TSIO-360s on the Seneca II in 1975, and today's Seneca V has evolved to 220 hp Continentals of the same basic design. Senecas often are regarded as among the best jack-of-all-trades twins, primarily because of their large, double cargo doors, turbocharged engines, spacious cabin and good short-field performance. Payload with full fuel isn't adequate to allow filling the seats, but the airplane will cruise an easy 190 knots at heights as tall as FL250. Price: $972,400.
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