Pilot reports can only tell you so much. Back in the glory days of aviation, when the industry was selling 18,000 units a year, manufacturers used to provide airplanes to magazines for several days or even a week for evaluation. In those happy times, we’d wring out the airplane in every way possible: short-field takeoffs and landings; 75%, 65% and 55% cruise at several altitudes; the full gamut of stalls; an examination of CG concerns, and sometimes, even a run to the service ceiling. That’s not so much the case anymore. As the market has dropped from 18,000 to 1,800, manufacturers no longer have demonstrator aircraft just sitting around, so pilot reports often are confined to an hour or two of flying with a company pilot.
…And in some respects, that may not be so bad. Pilot reports don’t reveal every aspect of an airplane’s personality, anyway. What we often miss in a pirep is the personal touch of an owner’s opinions. What does he or she like most about his airplane? After a hundred or a thousand hours, what would he change if he had the chance?