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I live in Switzerland (mountains and cold in the winter), have about
300 helicopter hours and 500 airplane hours (half in single and half
in twin). Just passed my IFR and would like to buy a twin engine. I
want to have a cruising speed between 190 and 250 knots, be able to
climb to Fl 250, have a pressurised cabin and not spend a fortune on
maintenance. The DA 42 is great because G1000 and Jet A1 fuel costs
about half the price of Avgas in Europe....but it is slow, does not
climb high, is not pressurised and is a little cramped inside.
I am looking at an Aerostar (last version with very few hours).
Anyone can make comments on this plane? Anyone can suggest a good
-- elie vannier, November 1, 2009
The Cessna 340 is the plane that is closest to what you say you want. They are available for almost nothing because every business that ever bought one ended up moving on to the C421 (much larger cabin) or to a jet. As far as individuals go, very few had the commitment to training required and they ended up downgrading to a Bonanza.
An Aerostar would be tougher to maintain and fly, I think.
When buying a complex ancient airplane like this, try to find one that was flown and maintained regularly for at least the last couple of years. You don't want to be the guy chasing all of the squawks. Also remember that if the engines need to have been rebuilt within the preceding 12 years and flown regularly since the rebuild. Otherwise they cannot be trusted, especially on a high performance airplane.
-- Philip Greenspun, November 1, 2009
Seems the Aerostar has a higher accident rate than comparable twins. This used to be an easier statistic to find 25 years ago when Aviation Consumer provided these stats in their used aircraft guide. FAA, EASA, AOPA and GAMA really ought to have these numbers summarized by aircraft model and readily available on their websites.
Curious what people think of a Cessna 340. This link is from an aviation broker who specializes in twin engine Cessna aircraft sales, http://jtatwins.com/jta.php?p=6
As for diesel, you might find someone who has an STC and willing to do a Centurion 4.0 retrofit on a Cessna 340.
No self-respecting Las Vegas bookie would ever want to take odds on guessing the future of aviation, to hazard a guess as to when we will see a quality piece of machinery backed with competent service, and competitively priced against avgas engines prove itself but there is a tremendous market for an diesel engine manufacturer in the twin engine piston market who can get it done.
At some point in the future the $150K-$250K used twins will yo-yo their way back to double those numbers if fuel consumption of 32 to 40 gph using 100LL drops to 18 to 24 gph with diesel. But whether that will be in the next five, ten or fifteen years is hard to say.
-- Richard Miles, November 1, 2009
When buying an older aircraft, corrosion would be one item to be especially concerned with. It will pay to get a a look not just at those places that are accessible but you might want to go the extra expense of having a few rivets popped here and there and make sure there are no cosmetic cover ups. If you are looking for information in gory detail about corrosion these are comprehensive articles: http://www.airmod.com/articles/PDF/cpajan07.pdf, http://www.airmod.com/articles/PDF/cpafeb07.pdf, http://www.airmod.com/articles/PDF/cpamar07.pdf
As for Avionics the options are improving. Having a Garmin G500 with SVT goes a long way in narrowing the technological gap between new and old aircraft and is running about $25,000 installed. Not sure if a STEC-55X would be enough improvement over the Cessna 400 autopilot or whether it would be worth gambling that Garmin will have a GFC700 like autopilot on the market in a few years at less than exospheric prices.
If anyone has had experience with Airmod I�d be curious to know how it went. They seem to offer more expertise with interior upgrades than anyone else I�ve run across so far and seem to have the best handle on producing truly ergonomic seats. A two or three thousand dollar expense per seat in a plane you will use for longer flights might prove to be one of the most underrated upgrades if you buy an older plane with seats having no lumbar support.
-- Richard Miles, November 1, 2009
Having spent a couple of years considering the right upgrade from single to twin, the questions raised interest still interest me. I currently own an operate a Piper Archer 2 and a 2002 Piper Seneca V. I've had the Archer for about 12 yrs and the Seneca for 4 months. I live in Norway and must be prepared for icing for 8 months of the year. I was considering the DA42 as well as the Aerostar and C421 / 414 and 340. The reasons for deciding on the Seneca was
1. I believe that the other 30 yr old alternatives really require a dedicated and experienced maintenance facility to keep the cost of maintenance to an acceptable and predictable level. That was the issue that really scared me off the 340 or the Aerostar as I think these are really attractive airplanes.
2. Recently I have had some horrendous experiences with my 1977 Archer, the last annual was 35 kUSD. The plane may be worth only 50 kUSD, but has a 'new' engine (2007) as well as a 2005 paintjob and interior, so scrapping it was not an attractive option.
If you can afford it (I could not) consider a Meridian ( has some issues but are reasonably cheap) or even a TBM 700
For my mission, the Seneca has been excellent, but I will always wish for more speed and pressurization
-- John Hestenes, December 22, 2009
Thank you very much for your detailed comments. Everything you write makes a lot of sense. However, with the IAF's at high altitudes in Switzerland (frequently above level 150), I am left with no other choice than a turbo or turbine aircraft and possibly pressurized. So, as you recommend, I am considering two separate offers to buy a 50% share in a Meridian. It is not as good as a TBM, but a lot cheaper in today's market. One can find excellent Meridians with less than a thousand hours for less than 900.000 US dollars. Should your Seneca lead you south, please make a stop in Lausanne (La Blécherette is a cute little airport reserved for private planes with close to 100 based aircrafts including several PC 12, and a Mustang is landing regularly). I'll be happy to meet you. Very best wishes for the holiday season. Elie Vannier
-- elie vannier, December 23, 2009
John, your point number one is right on. We are entering a weird phase for GA because the fleet is going to start shrinking fast. 30 year old planes take much more maintenance in general, especially complex planes. With production having dropped off a cliff 30 years ago, the market is going to change somehow.
Elie, a turbine is a good alternative, I suspect most twins are going to end up in the hands of retired pilots and mechanics who like to work on them.
-- Eric Warren, December 23, 2009