Used Aircraft Guide

Piper/Ted Smith Aerostar

The Aerostar is the product of famed aircraft designer Ted Smith, whose name is attached to such classics as the A-20 twin-engine bomber and the Twin and Jet Commander lines. In 1963, Smith formed his own company to build a family of fast fliers, all built around the same fuselage, wings and tail. Five years later, the Model 600 emerged in 1968, with normally aspirated Lycoming IO-540 engines and a takeoff weight of 5500 pounds. A year later, the 601 appeared, with a pair of Rajay turbochargers and manually controlled, electrically actuated wastegates on each engine. With turbos, the engines could maintain 290 HP from sea level to 16,000 feet.

Commander 112/114

These days you dont have to put your eyes on a model 112 or 114 Commander for long to see why these airplanes had perhaps more ramp appeal than the competition. At the time (somewhere around 1972) North American Rockwell remained true to its military contract experience and built big airplane touches into the small Commanders. Even well before the Commander singles came along Rockwell had been trying to bring the right mix of ramp appeal, features and performance to the general aviation market. The Lark, Darter and efforts to revive the Meyers 200 didnt exactly work out the way Rockwell had hoped.

Piper Twin Comanche

When we looked at the current Twin Comanche market, we found that owners generally prize the Piper Twin Comanche for the same reasons that they always have. Itís a relatively affordable, economical and accessible twin with decent performance. There isnít much more to ask for. In many ways, itís one of the few twins that can claim to be not much more expensive than a single to own and operate, but thatís only if you buy the right one. There are plenty of basket cases in the weeds. But there are some pretty nice ones, too, and youíll pay top dollar for them.

Piper PA-46

If youíre in the market for a used Piper PA-46, the good news is there are plenty of them for the taking, plus the oldest ones can be found for around $200,000. Moreover, a Malibu, Mirage or Matrix can wear a lot of hats. For pilots looking for experience in high-altitude, pressurized flying, a Malibu or Mirage is a logical step up. The unpressurized Matrix, with the same cabin as the rest of the PA-46 line, works as a comfortable people hauler with more simplicity and perhaps lower maintenance costs than its pressurized brethren.

Bellanca Viking

These days itís hard to imagine that a wood and fabric four-place piston single like the Bellanca Viking still exists, but it does. And although there arenít great squadrons of them around, the Viking retains a loyal, almost cultish following.

Cessna 206 Stationair

The Cessna 206 Stationair is one of those airplanes that you can dress up with a classy paint scheme and a stylish leather interior to fly business associates in style. Or, put one on floats and jump in with a wet swimsuit. Got stuff to haul? Load as much as you can fit through the big cargo door. Indeed, any vintage of the Stationair can wear a lot of hats.

Aviat Husky

As capable and well built as the Husky is, weíve seen plenty of owners (many who were new to tailwheels) unload beautiful, hardly used ones simply because the airplane had, dare we say, too much performance. Yes, groundloops will scare the hell out of you. But in the hands of the well-trained qualified pilot who respects it and their own skills, a Husky does a whole lot pretty darned well. Itís all about the built-in utility.

Piper Saratoga:

Shop the six-seat, retractable piston-single market and youíll find three basic choices: Beechís Model 36 Bonanza, Cessnaís Model 210 Centurion and Piperís PA-32R series, which is the Lance and Saratoga. At first blush, the Bonanza arguably handles better than the other two while perhaps squeezing out a knot or two over the Centurion. The 210, on the other hand, generally has better short-field performance than the Bonanza and offers an improved hand-flown IFR platform.

Cessna 414

the last of the pressurized, piston, 400-series airplanes Cessna developed, pilots and mechanics will tell you that Cessna got it right with the models 414 and 414A. Combining spacious cabins and relatively small, efficient engines, the 414 series can carry lots of fuel or a small crowd with their belongingsóbut not both.

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Combining spacious cabins and relatively small, efficient engines, the 414 series can carry lots of fuel or a small crowd with their belongingsóbut not both. All told, Cessna built nearly 1000 of the airplanesóroughly a 50/50 split between early tip-tanked 414s and wet-wing 414A Chancellorsóduring 16 years of production. Once in service the airplanes became popular as workhorses for small charter and corporate flight departments, as well as comfortable transports for private owners.

Pitts Special

If youíre looking for an airborne toy, something to both challenge and perfect your skills, youíve come to the right place in a Pitts. Straight up, if youíre looking for a one- or two-seat cruiser, we suggest looking elsewhere. The used Pitts market can be daunting. Many different variants have evolved over the years, including factory-built and experimental versions, but there remain two main types: a single-seater and a two-holer.

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No matter how you feel about Garminís market domination, you canít argue that the company maintains the poll position by enthusiastically pumping out a steady stream of fresh products almost on a monthly basis. But Garmin also knows how to get the most mileage from its major systems and the G600/500 retrofit PFD/MFD was getting stale.

Model 35 Bonanza

If Beech Bonanza ownership seems out of the budget, the good news is that there are plenty of vintage V-tail models on the market at affordable prices. The bad news is that unless those 50- and 60-year-old airframes have been well maintained, you could be buying a money pit. Plus, shops wonít feel sorry for you when you roll up in any Bonanza.

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In the early 2000s Cirrus learned that equipping an airplane with a parachute and gee-whiz avionics doesnít necessarily make it safe. As was proven more recently, favorable accident stats come from focused training. But as one Cirrus sales pro put it, itís the Wild West when it comes to the market of used SR20s and SR22s because some buyers either get the wrong training or in some cases, no transition training at all. A get-in-and-go approach doesnít work well in a Cirrus.

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While I was recently shopping at BestBuy for a wireless music speaker, a salesperson who arbitrarily remarked that Bose was the best got me thinking about pilots shopping for premium aviation headsets, a market dominated by Bose and also Lightspeed for as long as I can remember. While Bose may be the most recognizable name in both the consumer audio and aviation headset markets, donít forget that Lightspeed Aviation was a major force in shifting the market from passive to active noise cancelling headsets in the early 1990s.