Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

10 Perfect Airplanes For Special Missions


Okay, nothing’s perfect, but these airplanes come about as close to perfection as possible for specific missions



Beech A36/G36 Bonanza
5 Perfect Family Transport
Beech A36/G36 Bonanza

It's almost impossible to exclude the Bonanza from any list of superlative airplanes. The straight-tailed Bonanza in general and the six-seat model 36 in particular have been outstanding in practically every respect for a half century, and any pilot who has flown one understands why. Beech has a long tradition of building quality products with smooth, crisp controls, more than enough power and luxurious accommodations.

It's an imminently comfortable airplane with enough climb and speed to satisfy pretty much anyone. The six-seat A36 is near perfect for Mom and Dad up front, three kids in back and enough luggage for a weekend or more. Count on ultimate flexibility in the bottom two miles of sky and 165 to 170 knots cruise. The 36 is a delightful IFR vehicle, with excellent stability and smooth, fluid controls to help make quick corrections.

With 300 hp on the nose, conference seating in back and 74 gallons in the wings, the A36 provides one of the best family transports above the planet.
The 201 was a revelation when it was introduced, and though it has been out of production since 1998, it remains one of the most efficient airplanes in the sky today.

Socata TBM 850
6 Perfect High-Speed Transport
Socata TBM 850

If luxury and speed are your thing, you can't do better than the TBM 850. This is a consistent 300-knot airplane at flight levels in the mid-20s, flying behind perhaps the world's most reliable engine, the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66D.

At nearly 7,400 pounds gross, the TBM-850 rockets uphill at 2,300 fpm to airline country, FL310. The aft cabin measures 48 inches tall by the same dimension wide and is swathed in fine Corinthian leather reminiscent of a corporate boardroom.

For the last 15 years, VLJs have allegedly been just over the horizon, but so far, only one has actually arrived. For the time being, Socata's single-engine TBM 850 continues to offer near-jet performance for near-piston twin operating costs.


Mooney 201
7 Perfect Compromise Of Speed & Efficiency
Mooney 201

Roy LoPresti's aerodynamic miracle from the mid-1970s proved exactly what could be done with 200 hp and some clever engineering. LoPresti and his team converted the old Mooney Executive, already a good airplane, to the 201 with a swept windshield, improved cowling and a dozen other aerodynamic tricks, and picked up 15 knots without a power increase.

The 201 was a revelation when it was introduced, and though it has been out of production since 1998, it remains one of the most efficient airplanes in the sky today. There are few production airplanes that can even come close to the 201's fuel efficiency, as good as 18 statute mpg at 190 mph. Perhaps best of all, prices for 201s from the mid-80s are below $100,000, a best buy by any measure.



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