Competition is good for everyone, and 2015 promises to provide just enough to make things interesting. Mooney will be back in the hunt for the single-engine dollar, including a pair of new three-seat trainers. Cessna’s lineup will include two diesels in the 172 and 182 lines, plus the TTx and the old reliable T206. All indications are that Beech will continue with the G36 Bonanza, and Cirrus will be selling the class-leading SR20 and SR22. Piper will be marketing a diesel Archer, Arrow, Matrix, Mirage and Meridian, and Diamond will still be campaigning its DA40 Star and DA20 Eclipse. Discovery Aviation will be selling what used to be known as the Liberty XL-2 and the former Russian Avia twin, now renamed the 201 (not to be confused with the Mooney of the same designation). No manufacturer had announced 2015 prices, so all prices quoted are for 2014 unless otherwise noted.
Beech G36 Bonanza. It’s hard to believe the current G36 Bonanza is 45 years old, and it’s descended from a design that was introduced 21 years before that. Production of the original four-seat V-tail Bonanza lasted through 1982 before Beech finally acknowledged the controversy over the beautiful V-tail and shelved the V35B forever.
Beech G36 Bonanza
The six-seat model 36 was the beneficiary of a 10-inch fuselage stretch that translated directly to a third row of seats, boosting capacity from four to six. Though the current airplane looks cosmetically similar, replete with the same right-side aft cargo door, the changes over four-plus decades are significant. The major innovation is the Garmin G1000 glass panel coupled to the integrated Garmin G700 autopilot. Bonanza specs haven’t changed much over the years, either, primarily because they haven’t needed to. The G36 offers a useful load of 920 pounds, climbs at 1,230 fpm and cruises at 176 knots up at 7,000-8,000 feet—not the top of the class, but excellent performance by any measure. Price: $777,385.
Cessna 172S. The basic Skyhawk apparently is forever. Now in its 59th year of continuous production, the basic 172 design continues to enjoy one of the longest production runs of any airplane in general aviation.
Park a 2015 Skyhawk next to a 1956 model, however, and you might be hard-pressed to recognize the similarities. Today’s 172 is modernized in every way, from the spinner to the tailcone. The company’s durable and lovable 172 continues into 2015.
In flight, it’s still the same endearing machine however, forgiving almost to a fault. Today’s entry-level Skyhawk sports a 180 hp Lycoming IO-360 out front, a Garmin G1000 panel and an interior that’s at least three generations better than that of the original.
Performance isn’t impressive, but it’s commensurate with that of the experience level of many Skyhawk pilots. Climb is a little over 700 fpm if you’re doing everything right, and cruise at optimum altitude (7,000 feet MSL) is 124 knots.
While Skyhawks aren’t short-field airplanes, they can sneak into and back out of 2,000-foot strips with relative impunity. There are four seats, and you can actually haul four folks if you limit the load to a two-plus-two configuration.
Skyhawks may not be the optimum four-seater, but their continuing sales record suggests they offer more than enough for less than too much. Price: $364,000.
Cessna 172 JT-A
Cessna 172 JT-A. With everyone taking a serious look at diesel these days, it was inevitable that Cessna would investigate the engine type on the venerable 172 Skyhawk. Though the 172 JT-A isn’t certified at this writing, Cessna hopes to market the new diesel as a 2015 model.
It will feature a Continental CD-155 turbo-diesel powerplant, rated for 155 hp and capable of cruise at 131 knots on 25% less fuel than the avgas model it replaces. This is an improved version of the Thielert diesel first employed on the Diamond models from eight years ago. Continental Engines bought all rights to Thielert, moved everything to Mobile, Ala., and made dozens of improvements to the
In keeping with the efficiency of diesel engines, range will increase dramatically, and so will the price—$71,000 above the standard Skyhawk. Price: $435,000 (2015).
Cessna Skylane JT-A. For 2015, the Skylane’s sole remaining configuration is a turbo-diesel design. Perhaps sadly, the avgas Skylanes that everyone knew and loved are now a part of Cessna’s history.
The newest modernized model is fitted with a six-cylinder French SMA SR-305-230E diesel powerplant—perhaps the most efficient mid-range engine available. Horsepower rating is 230—similar to the old avgas model. The SMA engine burns only Jet A, no avgas, and perhaps ironically, it’s not approved for diesel.
Diesel offers some efficiencies not available with avgas, enough that Cessna claims a max range of 1,360 nm. Cruise is promised at 156 knots, and that’s almost exactly what I saw flying the flight-test airplane in Wichita two years ago. Cessna is still in the certification process, but hopes to have the airplane available for sale by early 2015. Price: $530,000 (2015).
Cessna Turbo Stationair (T206). Just as the Skylane line has been streamlined, so has the Cessna 206. The company dropped the normally aspirated Stationair for 2014-2015. The Turbo Stationair assumes the mantle of the top load lifter among Cessna’s piston products with a 1,238-pound useful load. Loading is facilitated by cargo doors at aft right, and with five of its six seats removed, the T206 offers floor space that will swallow most reasonable items. Alternately, the airplane can accommodate up to six folks, fuel load permitting.
Cessna is offering a variety of new interiors for 2015. There’s a four-seat “limo” option that emphasizes extreme comfort and room in back, plus a number of other interior features.
The T206 is a utility airplane par excellence. Its landing gear is tough and resilient, capable of absorbing hits from rough strips or semi-washboard runways. If you need to fly high above the weather, the T206 will truck along at 160 knots, or you can plan on 145-150 knots at more breathable heights. Price: $634,000 (2015).
Cessna TTx. This airplane, formerly the Columbia 400, allowed Cessna to expand into production of a high-performance single without expending the huge fortune normally required for FAA certification.
Cessna hadn’t had an entry in that market since the Turbo Centurion, but the TTx was certainly a worthy successor. With a 310 hp Continental TSIO-550 on the nose, the TTx brags of a 235-knot max speed, though max cruise is a more realistic 225 knots—still a respectable velocity. That makes the TTx the fastest production fixed-gear airplane in the world. Standard avionics include the Garmin G2000 glass panel with integral G700 autopilot. Air- conditioning and TKS are options.
For 2015, Cessna offers the “surge” option that includes a special interior, a special paint scheme, two-tone interior leather and a Blackmac prop approved for flight into known icing. Price: $799,000 (2015).
Cirrus SR20. By now, practically everyone knows the story of the remarkable Cirrus. Designers Alan and Dale Klapmeier rethought the whole concept of a personal airplane and came up with a design that conveniently sidestepped the two most pervasive concerns of new pilots: what to do if the engine quits and how to avoid getting lost. The company’s first production airplane was introduced in 1999, and it was something of a revelation to the general aviation industry, fitted with a large Avidyne glass PFD/MFD, a full-airframe parachute and an unusual level of interior comfort. Today, the basic entry-level Cirrus SR20 continues to sell to flight schools and individuals alike.
Fitted with a durable six-cylinder, 200 hp, Continental IO-360 engine, the SR20 offers an easy 150-knot cruise following an 800 fpm climb. It’s certainly a capable trainer, but many owners use the airplane for personal or business transport, as well. Full fuel is 56 gallons, but if you download fuel slightly, you’ll still have weight allowance for four folks plus endurance for three hours’ flying—typically enough for nearly 500 nm between pit stops. Price: $349,900.
Cirrus SR22. There’s a reason the Cirrus SR22 continues to reign as the most popular airplane in the world. Since it was introduced at the dawn of the new millennium, it has been consistently at the forefront of aviation technology.
Today’s SR22 is available in both normal and turbo versions, and either airplane provides a different spin on aircraft design. Like many modern composite designs that feature flat-panel displays, the SR22 offers side sticks for roll and pitch control. The avionics suite is built around Cirrus Perspective—a Cirrus concept of the Garmin G1000.
Both entry doors fold out and up to provide access to the cockpit, and Cirrus has made a special effort to style the interior after that of the 5-Series BMWs. Like the lower-priced SR20, the SR22 was designed with special emphasis on crashworthiness. The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System is a last alternative method of saving the occupants in an emergency. The airplane’s crush zones in the cabin floor and 26G seats are intended to protect all occupants in the event of a crash or chute deployment. (The parachute system lets the airplane descend at 18 fps—1,100 fpm vertically—so the airplane will be sacrificed to protect the occupants.)
The SR22 employs what has become the standard big-bore engine in the industry, Continental’s IO-550, in this case rated for 310 hp. A turbo model is also available. Like everyone, Cirrus has been affected by the continuing aviation recession, but production continues apace. (In case you’re wondering, the single-engine Cirrus Vision Jet is on track for certification by the time you see this.) Price: $489,900.
Diamond DA20 Eclipse. The Canadian/Austrian DA20 is the Diamond’s answer to the question of how to learn to fly. And it’s by far one of the best answers you can find. The DA20 Eclipse is a pure composite machine, propelled by a 125 hp Continental IO-240B3B—a near perfect combination for the task of teaching someone the ways of the sky.
Better still, it’s a remarkably comfortable airplane. The cabin is wide and tall with a forward-folding hatch that opens up entry to both seats. Rudder pedals are adjustable fore and aft, but the seats are fixed. Flight controls are conventional joysticks coupled to standard rudder pedals. The nosegear is nonsteerable, which makes for happy taxiing and ground maneuvers you’ll never match with a steerable nosewheel.
Cruise at 75 percent is 137 knots and stall is down around 45 knots, so the airplane has a wide, nearly 100-knot operating envelope. The DA20 is spinnable, and features 26G seats and crush zones in the floor to absorb impact, but it’s not approved for IFR operations. You can learn IFR in the type, but only as long as you don’t enter actual IFR conditions. The little Diamond has no lightning protection, so it’s not approved for actual IFR. Price: $227,800 (G500).
DA40 XLT Star. Think of the Star as an Eclipse on steroids, and you’ve got the general idea. This Austrian four-seater makes the most of its lightweight carbon-fiber construction, providing an impressively smooth aerodynamic surface that helps reduce drag and maximize speed.
Power is provided by one of the industry’s most reliable engines, a 180 hp Lycoming IO-360—the same basic engine that has powered dozens of production aircraft for the last five years. The XLT Star delivers 147 knots, which means it will probably keep up with several of the ’80s vintage retractables—the Arrow, Sierra and Rockwell 112.
Diamond emphasized cabin room in the Star as a top priority. The main canopy opens up and forward to admit the two front seat occupants, and those riding rear may enter through their own overhead hatch at aft left. If there’s a slight downside to all that Plexiglas, it may be a warm cockpit in summer, but the visibility is outstanding. The panel is built around the Garmin G1000.
As with all Diamond products, the Star sports an excellent safety record, specifically .32 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours—just over half the industry rate. Price: $469,000 (DA40 XLT); $450,000 (diesel).
Discovery XL-2. Born as the Liberty, the XL-2 was targeted directly at the trainer market, and it seemed like a natural winner. A development of the Europa Motorglider, the XL-2 might have had a better chance if it hadn’t been introduced just before the 2008 recession. With a FADEC-controlled Continental IOF-240B and MT composite prop on the nose, the Liberty trainer was/is an easy-flying, economical two-seater, though the initial price may have been a disincentive.
Now, a new company, Discovery Aviation of Melbourne, Fla., has plans to put the XL-2 and the Discovery 201, a light utility twin, into production. (See “Seven Twins For The New Year” for details.)
Just as with the original Liberty, the Discovery XL-2 takes simple operation to the extreme. Discovery Aircraft certainly won’t mind if private buyers select the aircraft, but it’s intended as a trainer, and it should be excellent in that mission.
The configuration is similar to that of the Grumman-American singles of 40 years ago, but upgraded in every respect. The cabin is larger—easily capable of accommodating two broad-shouldered men—and the XL-2 manifests benign flight characteristics reminiscent of a Cherokee. Wing construction is all metal, and the fuselage is composite. Carrying through the Piper analogy, the XL-2 utilizes an all-flying stabilator rather than the more conventional elevator. The XL-2 features an all-metal laminar flow wing with a composite fuselage, a 4130 chrome-moly tricycle gear and a Piper-style stabilator rather than an elevator.
Max cruise is 113 knots, and stall is an insignificant 50 knots. Fuel capacity is 28 gallons in a single fuselage tank, so no management is necessary. The city of Wuhan, China, placed a major order for 200 XL-2s in October 2012, with the stipulation that components were to be shipped to Wuhan and all airplanes would be assembled there. No word as to whether those conditions will still apply under the new management. No price had been announced at press time.
Mooney Ovation III
Ovation III. It’s nice to report that a legacy company has returned to market without going bankrupt. Mooney Aircraft had been in hold mode for five years, selling parts and marking time in Texas until someone with deep pockets came along to rescue them. Eventually, as everyone knew would happen, someone did.
Meijing Group of Zhengzhou, China, is that someone, and the Ovation III and Acclaim S are now back in production. Mooney has already delivered the first new Acclaim S and expects to roll the first new-generation Ovation III off the line by the time you read this.
The Ovation III sports 310 hp from essentially the same IO-550G engine used on the Cirrus SR-22. Price: $649,000.
Acclaim S. When Mooney was building the Acclaim S, the type was unquestionably the world’s fastest certified production, piston-powered airplane, regardless of the number of engines. I flew one of the last of the type before the shutdown (with the boarding step conveniently removed) and saw an average two-way GPS groundspeed of 239 knots at 25,000 feet. That’s close to turboprop performance.
Late last year, a new Type S recorded the same speed. The Acclaim’s only competition is the Cessna TTx, and the TTx is probably 10 knots slower at the same height (though, surprisingly, the TTx does score its performance with fixed gear). Useful load on the Acclaim S is about 1,000 pounds. Subtract 100 gallons of fuel, and you’re down to a 400-pound payload. Options include air-conditioning and TKS ice protection. Price: $699,000.
Piper Archer DX
Piper Archer DX. Like so many other manufacturers, Piper has taken a close look at diesels and decided to try one on the popular Archer. The DX is fitted with a Centurion 2.0S Jet-A compression/ignition engine. (That’s techno-speak for diesel. Like most other manufacturers, Piper doesn’t like to use the word.) The Centurion was developed and tested in Europe, and granted its EASA certification late this year. The move to diesel is meant to sidestep the rising cost and poor availability of avgas in Europe.
A Piper Warrior was one of the first general aviation aircraft to fly with a Centurion diesel in 2001. Preliminary performance estimates suggest a cruise at 134 knots at 70% power and a fuel burn of only 5.8 gph. Price: $395,495.
Piper Arrow. Piper’s ubiquitous Arrow has been around in one form or another since 1967, and it just keeps on selling, not in huge quantities, but strong enough to assure its renewal to the company’s model lineup. There’s probably no more me-too airplane in the sky, but Arrows offer so much talent in so many areas that it endears itself to the large, institutional flight schools.
The Arrow’s overriding talent is its gentle flight characteristics. The stall is extremely docile with no attempt to drop a wing, and what break there is remains predictable with a modicum of prestall buffet. Landings are almost silly simple, and the airplane generally flies as if it enjoys it. Cruise is a realistic 135 knots, and the Arrow can carry three plus full fuel—a typical load for flight schools that load one student in left front, an observer in right rear and an instructor in right front.
Operating costs are minimal, insurance demands aren’t excessive, and the Arrow is a durable design that needs little maintenance. This an excellent formula for a family four-seater or a complex trainer. Price: $448,750.
Piper Matrix. The Matrix was one of the biggest sales hits Piper had experienced in years when the company introduced it in late 2007. It was a result of some surveys of Malibu owners that revealed many rarely ascended above 12,500 feet and therefore didn’t fully utilize pressurization. The Matrix was a simpler airplane removed of all provisions for pressurizations—valves, switches, lines, tubing, pumps—and realized about a 180-pound reduction in empty weight and a price reduction of around $180,000.
Today, the delta is still $161,000 for those pilots willing to forego an inflatable cabin. For just under seven figures, you get a true six-seater (with slightly reduced fuel) that will climb at 1,000 fpm, cruise at 210-215 knots at FL250 and endure for five hours, about 1,000 nm at medium cruise—arguably the near twin brother of the world’s most sophisticated piston single. Price: $939,500.
Piper Mirage PA-46-350P. If you must have it all, however, the pressurized Mirage realizes that dream. The great advantage of pressurization is that you can simply set it and forget it. If you’re not willing to make the step to single-engine turboprops, the Mirage is the top of the line.
Piston engines don’t come much bigger than the 350 hp Lycoming TIO-540, even if an overhaul does cost $75,000. For those pilots willing to confine themselves to the bottom three-and-a-half miles of sky, speed is close to 200 knots, usually well above the weather and most other traffic. Okay, so Mooneys and Cessna’s TTx will run by you, but if you look closely, you’ll note their pilots are all wearing oxygen masks. Price: $1,100,450.
Mooney M10. Back in 1967, Mooney purchased rights to the ERCO Ercoupe 415 from Alon Corporation and launched the Mooney M10 Cadet trainer. The Ercoupe’s twin tails had been designed to make the airplane unspinnable, and pilots trained in the type received an FAA private license limited to aircraft that were “characteristically incapable of spinning.” To avoid that limitation, Mooney redesigned the M10’s tail to a vertical configuration to enable the full gamut of maneuvers.
Sales weren’t impressive in the ’68-’70 model years, and Mooney discontinued the M10. Soaring America Corporation, based in Calif., is an American division of the Chinese parent company, Meijing Group. It has now put the Mooney Acclaim S and Ovation III back into production and revived the M10 to help train new pilots in the huge Republic of China. The new M10 was introduced at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition last November by Mooney COO Tom Bowen.
The modernized version will be a significant improvement over the original M10. It will be available as either a fixed gear or retractable, both with essentially the same fuselage and wings, and both with two doors. The fixed-gear version will be an all-composite trainer called the M10T and will be powered by a FADEC Continental CD135 diesel engine and MT prop. The trainer’s max cruise will be 140 knots with up to three on board, and the 42-gallon fuel capacity should allow a 500 nm range. Standard avionics will be the Garmin G1000. The cabin will be 48 inches wide, far more comfortable than most other trainers. Pitch and roll control will be side sticks rather than yokes.
The high-performance airplane will be designated the M10J (after the extremely popular M20J). The new retractable will be a three-seat retractable flying behind a Continental CD155 diesel and MT prop. The cabin will be in the same configuration, and max cruise will be 160 knots. Range will be 900 nm. Standard avionics will be the G1000/G700. No prices had been announced at press time.