Best First Plane, Budget Class

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I just finished reading a forum thread regarding a person looking for
advice on purchasing a first plane before starting his IFR training.
The responses were Diamonds and Bonanzas. Those are out of my price

I'm a student pilot who plans to pass his Private checkride in a month
or so, and probably will pursue IFR at some point. I'm 30 years old
and haven't accumulated the personal wealth of most aircraft buyers.

What would people recommend for a budget first-time airplane purchase?
Here are my criteria:


* Two adults (330 pounds total) riding with 60 pounds baggage

* Safe (I have only 33 hours in my logbook and want to live long
enough to have many hundreds more)

* IFR capable, for when I pursue IFR training

* Not complex (fixed gear, variable-speed prop)

* Cheap(er) to maintain and own

Would be nice:

* 4 seats, even if 4 people need to bring minimal or no baggage

* Faster than a Cessna 150

* Low wings (I took one lesson in a 1982 Piper Warrior and preferred
it to the Cessna 150 I have been training in)

* Can get in and out of shorter strips

My budget is probably no more than about $30,000. And I'd also like a
plane that's cheap to insure so as to cut down on the total expense.

Any thoughts?

And before you say it, yes, I agree that at this point in my flying
career it probably makes more sense to rent. But plane-shopping on
ebay and craigslist has become my second hobby so I figure I might as
well focus it!

Thanks for all your thoughts.

-- Ryan Harvey, December 16, 2009


You said that you liked the Warrior, so why not buy a Warrior? There is certainly no shortage. At $30,000 you can get an older airframe with a fairly new engine and probably original avionics. Budget an additional $1000 or $2000 for a good handheld GPS, ideally one with a satellite weather data link.

I would not shop on eBay or Craigslist for a plane that old. I would start by going to the maintenance shops that have good reputations and finding out if any of their customers have Warriors to sell. The quality of a 1980 Warrior has little to do with how it was built and everything to do with how it has been maintained.

Enjoy your new plane!

-- Philip Greenspun, December 19, 2009

I owned a Cessna 172 for five years, on a lease back. There is a lot more to owning an aircraft than the purchase price. Especially if you are looking at an older aircraft but want it for IFR use. Be sure to do a full accounting for insurance, repairs (avionics included, since you want this for IFR), annuals, tie downs, and so on. You might consider finding a partnership that needs a 3rd or 4th person. Your $30K gets you into a better/newer aircraft and the other expenses are shared. Good luck, Mike

-- Mike Azzarello, December 20, 2009