Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cougar Baron: Most Happy Baron

Rocket engineering offers the world’s most enthusiastic Baron

It doesn’t require a brain surgeon to figure who Conrad’s market will be. Though several VLJ manufacturers have attempted to market small jets around $1 million, no one has even come close, and the economics involved make it unlikely anyone ever will. If Cirrus can bring its Vision jet to market at the proposed $1.7 million, that may wind up being the industry’s least costly jet. (The Diamond D-Jet now is up to $1.9 million, and all indications are that the PiperJet will cost well over $2 million.)

Conrad hopes to sell his conversion for $895,000 with new engines, and $795,000 with 1,000-hour-or-less warranteed “takeoff” engines. You can buy midgeneration 58P Barons for between $200,000 and $250,000. That’s a total of around $1.05 million, a half million less than the least expensive VLJ (assuming the price holds). What else is in the $1.05 million range these days? A new Piper Mirage, a brother-in-law price on a new, normally aspirated Beech 58 Baron, and that’s about it among new aircraft.

Okay, we know we’re comparing apples to grapefruits—a new airplane to a 30-year-old, former-piston-engine conversion. It’s obvious the VLJs will have higher pressurization differentials and more modern systems than the Baron. The question is: How much are you willing to spend for those benefits if performance is roughly the same?

In the airplane business, there’s a mentality that some buyers will never purchase a used aircraft, much less a used conversion. As someone who has owned six airplanes over the last 45 years—only one of which I bought new—I don’t agree. My current LoPresti Mooney is a highly modified Executive, and it’s unquestionably the best airplane I’ve owned.

Certainly, if money was no object, I’d probably own a dozen or more flying machines, with a Gulfstream 550 for long-distance travel, an Aerostar 700 for shorter-range trips, an Extra 330 for fun, a Seawind for the water, a Jet Ranger for helicoptering, etc. If you need to operate on a million-dollar budget, however, and your missions are mostly straight line, it may be difficult to beat the Rocket Engineering Cougar.

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Monument Valley, Utah/Arizona
Tim Greer, Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (KDVT), Phoenix, Ariz.
Airport: Monument Valley Airport (UT25)
Activities: Incredible flying opportunities—plus hiking, cycling, camping, trail rides and nearby river-rafting and boating. There’s plenty of history, culture and parks. Spend a few days and make Page (KPGA) your home base. From there, it’s a short flight to the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Lake Powell, Marble Canyon and much more. Goulding’s Lodge has a great airstrip (UT25) next to a hotel, campground and wonderful restaurant. Permission should be obtained prior to landing; call (435) 727-3225.
Best Season: Autumn
Flying Tips: Avoid thunderstorms and the heat of summer. There’s bumpy afternoon flying if the weather gets hot.
GPS Longitude: 110° 12’ 4” W
GPS Latitude: 37° 1’ 0” N
What to Bring: A camera and lots of film.
About Your Plane: A Flight Design CTSW LSA that cruises at 120 knots, holds 34 gallons and burns 5 gph.

Labels: Turbine Twins

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