The search for the perfect plane is as old as personal flying itself. The difference between today and 1930, to use a random year as an example, is that instead of being limited to a handful of models, there are choices galore for pilots looking to get into a good pair of wings.
A surge in flying and airplane building throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s is largely to thank for the tremendous supply of good used airplanes, as is the fact that airplanes, unlike many hard goods, can be fixed and updated much the same as houses can. Examples of perfectly restored planes from 1903 to present around the world are proof that good airplanes don’t fade away if there’s someone willing to put the effort and investment into fixing them up.
That one word, “investment,” is key here. We know that pilots have different budgets and different needs, and since it’s impossible to catalog every model, we decided to offer a greatest hits of used planes running the gamut from an entry-level choice at $20,000 to a million-dollar dream ride. We know we’ll get a lot of emails from our readers pointing out that we missed an obvious choice for one niche or the other, and we welcome it all. Please tell us what favorite used model you think we should have included and why.
For those pilots just looking to get into ownership, this is a great place to start.
It seems anything Roy LoPresti touched was automatically a work of art. LoPresti transformed the stodgy GA Traveller into the Tiger with a series of much needed aerodynamic modifications, mostly by hanging a carbureted, 180 hp Lycoming O-360 on the nose.
LoPresti also boosted fuel from 38 to 52 gallons, made a few cosmetic changes and wound up with a carefree, fixed-gear/fixed-prop flying machine capable of 135 knots cruise on only 180 hp.
LoPresti redefined “sporty” with the sliding-hatch Tiger. The nosewheel was full-castoring, so all directional control on the ground was with asymmetric braking, allowing 180-degree reversals in the airplane’s wingspan.
If it wasn’t raining, you could taxi with the hatch all the way back for maximum cooling. You could even leave it open a few inches in flight or more.
Back in the ’70s, I flew at least 50 air-to-air sessions, flying echelon on a Tiger photo ship with the hatch full back. The hatch remained solid as a rock throughout. The AA5B made a great photo ship as long as you held position slightly above the leader’s wing.
Tigers were tough birds in other respects, as well. The main wing spar was a steel tube that ran from wingtip to wingtip. Wing skins were bonded rather than riveted in place, one reason why the AA5B is so aerodynamically efficient. A downside was that field repair was a challenge if the aircraft was damaged.
The little Grumman featured the quickest ailerons of any non-aerobatic, certified single on the market. I have it on good authority that the AA5B was capable of a beautiful barrel roll when no one was looking (or even if they were).
Your first flight in a Tiger will convince you of its true nature. It’s as playful as a Malamute pup, though it won’t lick your face. For pilots whose tastes run more toward fun than utility, it’s tough to beat a Tiger.Price: 1975 – $35,000; $1993 – $75,000