A factory-new airplane for $1,270

From a recent visit to the National Air and Space Museum:

Behind and above, a Piper Cub (derivative of the Taylor Cub being advertised).

Adjusted for inflation, if we assume that the advertisement was from 1931 (first year of production), the “costs no more than a medium priced car” price of $1,270 is around $21,000 in 2019 mini-dollars.

[Note that the manufacturer apparently did not expect readers of the ad to be surprised that a person identifying as a woman (based on clothing) would be the owner-pilot. This was before Americans agreed that women are the new children (quoting a Facebook post in which a woman who earned a Private certificate in 1970 was “an original feminine trailblazer”, fully 60 years after the first woman earned a certificate).]

5 thoughts on “A factory-new airplane for $1,270

  1. No ZIP codes! Penny postcards! Not even a telephone number! “Cable Address: CUB”

    How did anyone survive?

    The ad is surprisingly fresh for something ca. 1931: change the hair style, put a slightly more modern aircraft in the picture (heck, take the photo with a smartphone, it’ll be better) put a website on it, raise the price to $200,000 plus insurance, include a link to your course materials, and presto! all that’s old is new again.

    I wonder if they enjoyed their experiences more than people who try to buy a “low priced” airplane today, do the cert., and handle all the associated expenses? Of course, at the time one could also study law via correspondence school by responding to an ad:


    “Law school study by correspondence has existed in the United States since 1890 when Sprague Correspondence School of Law (which eventually merged with Blackstone Institute, and later was known as Blackstone School of Law) was established by William C. Sprague in Detroit, Michigan.[6] Among the school’s early graduates was Antoinette D. Leach, early Sprague Law Correspondence Law School graduate and first woman attorney in Indiana, who in 1893 became the first woman admitted by the Indiana Supreme Court to practice law in Indiana.[7]

  2. What would a good first plane be these days? If a used J-3 could be found in the under $50k range, would it be worth it for short local flights? What would the next step up be if you wanted to expand your cargo/range?

    • chtrall: Given the size of the typical American these days, a four-seat airplane is the sensible choice when transporting two humans plus a few bags. A Piper Cherokee/Warrior/Archer or a Cessna 172 is probably the best choice due to (1) tricycle gear (easier to land, especially in a crosswind), and (2) depth of maintenance experience and parts availability. You can get one suitable for VFR operation for $30-50k. I personally like the Cirrus SR20 and the bottom of that market is around $100,000. They are more expensive to maintain, though, with nearly $2,000/year devoted to keeping the parachute current ($20k at 10-year intervals) and six cylinders rather than four. The Cirrus is a great IFR airplane and the parachute makes passengers happy!

Comments are closed.