The market for multi-engine piston planes isn’t a big one, and the number of options for pilots looking to fly with two mills instead of just one is somewhat limited in number, though not in variety. The selection ranges from the four-seat Piper Seminole twin, which is almost exclusively sold as a training solution with its pair of Lycoming O-360 engines, all the way up to the $1.2 million Diamond DA62 diesel twin with FADEC Austro turbocharged diesel engines. In between are just a few new planes, though all of them are remarkable designs in a number of ways that set them apart from their competition.
The high-wing, twin-engine Tecnam P2006T, certificated in 2010 (the designation refers to the year in which the plane was launched), is an all-metal four-seater that’s popular in the training market and for use as a spotter—no competing high-wing light twins are in production. It’s also the lightest Part 23 production twin we know of. At a maximum takeoff weight of 2,712 pounds, it’s around 1,100 pounds lighter than the Seminole. It’s powered by a pair of Rotax 912S engines, producing just under 100 hp apiece, which are extremely fuel efficient, burning 10-12 gph total in cruise and even less in the typical training scenarios, when lower power settings are commonly used. Its trailing link landing gear is strong and forgiving for relatively inexperienced pilots, and its 140 knot cruise speed, which might sound slow by twin standards, is pretty sweet when you’re only burning 9 gph.
Base Price: $440,000
Competitors: Piper Seminole, Diamond DA42
Learn more at Tecnam.
Developed in the late ’70s as a trainer to fill a niche where the by-then upscale Seneca twin had once resided, the T-tail Seminole entered the market at a time when GA’s fortunes were turning dim. The Seminole had the distinct advantage of being just about the only comparable twin, Beechcraft and Grumman having retired the Duchess and the Cougar, respectively. The easy-flying Piper twin has counter-rotating propellers to eliminate the critical engine on single-engine operation. While it’s occasionally operated by private flyers, the Seminole’s 162-knot cruise speed hardly seems to justify the additional expense of an extra engine, and the majority of Seminoles have found their way into organizations, where it’s a reliable, successful training platform for private and commercial pilots. Today, it has a few unconventional competitors, the diesel-powered Diamond DA42 and Rotax-powered Tecnam P20006T.
Base Price: $699,990
Competitors: Diamond DA42, Tecnam P2006T
Learn more at Piper Aircraft.
The Diamond DA42, formerly the TwinStar, may not be the headliner in Diamond’s lineup anymore, but it’s better than ever. An all-composite twin with retractable gear, the four-seater is a stalwart in the training market, where it’s popular for its low operating costs. The plane burns around 11 gph in a typical operating environment. When it was launched several years ago, the Austro-powered DA42 was a revelation. With more power than its precursor (170 hp for the Austro vs. 135 hp for the Thielerts), the DA42 finally had the power it needed for much improved single-engine performance. That’s not to say it’s merely a trainer. The DA42 will cruise as fast as 190 knots on around the same fuel burn total with two engines as a Cirrus SR22 or Cessna TTx on one. And with flight into known icing capability and advanced safety features, the DA42 can hold its own in the world of personal transportation.
Base Price: $749,800
Competitors: Tecnam P2006T, Piper Seminole
Learn more at Diamond Aircraft.
Vulcanair Vr (P68R)
You might not be familiar with the name Vulcanair, but you should be. The company builds some great performing and great handling airplanes that you might remember from when they were built by Partenavia. The top of Vulcanair’s piston lineup is the Vr, a retractable-gear, all-metal, six-seat twin with fuel-injected 200-hp Lycoming engines. The plane looks a lot like a slightly scaled down version of the Aero Commander and it has many of those same qualities, rugged build quality, competitive performance, great visibility (with its high wing configuration), and a comfortable cabin. The new Vulcanair also has late-model avionics: the all-digital Garmin G950 avionics suite with the STEC 55X autopilot. Performance wise, the P68R ain’t no slouch. It can cruise at 170 knots, land and take off in less than 1,000 feet and, with a useful load of nearly 1,400 pounds and a full-fuel payload of 521 pounds, operators can configure the plane to do shorter trips with the seats full or flights of up to 966 nm with four aboard.
Base Price: $985,000
Competitors: Beechcraft G58 Baron, Piper Seneca V, Diamond DA62
Learn more at Vulcanair.
Piper Seneca V
Piper’s signature twin, the Seneca V, has been around for years, and in some ways it’s been a forgotten part of Piper’s fleet, with more visible, popular platforms in the PA46 lineup. But the Seneca is a terrific personal airplane—it’s fast, has a good payload, can go a long way and has the kind of friendly flying manners common to Piper aircraft. The Seneca’s turbocharged Continental TSIO-360Bs produce 220 hp each (160 fewer ponies than the Baron, its main competitor), but it makes the most of that power with a sleek aerodynamic design and big wing that create a similar end result arrived at in a different way. The Seneca is fast (200 knots at high cruise), roomy and boasts the G1000 integrated flat-panel avionics suite with a host of safety features. It’s available with flight into known icing capability, onboard weather radar, and air-conditioning, built-in oxygen and satellite communications.
Base Price: $999,900
Competitors: Beech G58 Baron, Diamond DA62, Vulcanair Vr
Learn more at Piper Aircraft.
With its certification last year, the Diamond DA62 turbodiesel twin established a new bar for piston-twin performance. The high-end DA62 is as fast as the DA42 on slightly more power, and it has a similar range, around 950 nm at high cruise. But its greater seating capacity, huge useful load and full fuel payload, and outstanding technological features set it apart. The DA62 can take off with full fuel and 6 adults and fly around 900 nm with reserves. We know of no other production piston plane that can do that. The seating is in three rows, the entry to the rear seating area is via a full-sized gull-wing door, and the headroom is impressive. The DA62 features full flight into known icing capability, a full slate of safety features via the G1000, including synthetic vision and envelope protection. The flying manners of the DA62 are outstanding, even on one engine, and single-engine control is as easy as it gets.
Base Price: $1.08 million
Competitors: Beechcraft G58 Baron, Vulcanair Vr, Piper Seneca V
Learn more at Diamond Aircraft.
Beechcraft G58 Baron
One of the most iconic personal aircraft in GA history, the Beechcraft 58 Baron remains an impressive package nearly 50 years after its first flight. It’s the only Baron that Beechcraft (now a part of Textron Aviation) builds. It’s the high-powered, long-body variant, and its popularity made it a clear choice for Beech when it shelved Models 55/56 decades ago. The 58’s claim to fame is its rear seating, where a wide, easy-entry side door allows passengers to board easily and experience a kind of business seating experience in the expansive club seating area. The Baron earns its keep with tremendous performance. Powered by a pair of Continental IO-550s of 300 hp apiece driving a pair of three-blade Hartzell constant-speed props, it can cruise as fast as 200 knots while carrying a good load. Today’s G58 is equipped with Garmin G1000 flat-panel avionics and safety utilities undreamt up when the Baron first flew.
Base Price: $1.38 million
Competitors: Vulcanair Vr, Piper Seneca V, Diamond DA62
Learn more at Beechcraft.