Used Aircraft Guide

Piper Warrior

For a history lesson on the eventual success of Piper's Warrior, look back to the alluring post-World War II boom, where major airplane manufacturers, to include Aeronca, Luscombe, ERCO, Piper and Cessna, among others, all eventually came to the conclusion that the future for mass-marketing airplanes was wrapped up in something that had four seats and on the order of 150 HP. Some manufacturers gave up after limited success, while Cessna and Piper went on to fight it out for decades, as Beech and Grumman-American tried to make inroads.

Cessna 182 Skylane:

Except for its intolerance for mismanagement on and around the runway—giving it a not so respecful ranking in the NTSB reports—we suspect buyers are comfortable with long-term Skylane ownership. For many, it’s as far up the pecking order as they’ll go in their flying careers.

Cessna 310

Cessna's first post-World War II twin-engine airplane, the venerable 310 is a logical consideration for anyone looking to step into the world of piston twins. While it doesn't come without some quirks, it's roomy, stable and has cruise speeds that top 200 MPH.

Beech Baron 55

All the way down to the basic Musketeer, Beech just took pains to get its airplanes' flying manners a cut above everything else, and that applies in spades to the Baron series. Fly most any Beechcraft model and you will likely come away impressed with its sturdy feel, solid build and, especially, its satisfying handling. Even so, every aircraft company has to make compromises. In the 55 Baron, for instance, what many find to be pleasant handling characteristics can prove to be a handful in poor weather, or when the air turns green with turbulence. We shouldn't have to reiterate that nothing comes for free, particularly in a higher-end Beech.

Columbia 300/350:

But the airplane did have some disadvantages that might be significant to buyers who are eyeballing remaining Columbias on the current used market. Although both the Columbia 300 and earlier SR22s have identical empty and maximum gross takeoff weights, according to the Aircraft Bluebook the 300 gives up 150 pounds in full-fuel payload to the SR22, because its tanks are larger. It's a little more sensitive in loading, too, and perhaps a deal-breaker for some-it lacks the Cirrus' airframe parachute system.

Cessna Skymaster

The Cessna 337 Skymaster is arguably the most commercially successful so-called push-pull attempt, at least in terms of numbers built. And although the 337 Skymaster isn't the most popular twin ever marketed, it's done just fine for itself and has achieved its primary goal: eliminating asymmetric thrust and simplifying the pilot's workload in the event of an engine out. Unfortunately, as you'll see in our accident scan on page 30, some Skymaster pilots find plenty of other ways to NTSB fame.

Cessna 195 Businessliner

The venerable Cessna 190 series was not the first business aircraft by a long shot, although it was a first for Cessna. These days, for owners wanting to own a piece of aviation history, it is probably the most practical of classics because it's a decent people hauler. Even better, it's not overly expensive to maintain, compared to other classics, that is. There's no fabric, and parts are generally available unlike other classic machines including the Beech Staggerwing, Spartan Executive and Stinson Reliant.

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. It’s a relatively affordable, economical and accessible twin with decent performance. There isn’t much more to ask for. In many ways, it’s one of the few twins that can claim to be not much more expensive than a single to own and operate, but that’s 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 you’ll pay top dollar for them.

Piper PA-46

If you’re 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 it’s hard to imagine that a wood and fabric four-place piston single like the Bellanca Viking still exists, but it does. And although there aren’t 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, we’ve 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. It’s all about the built-in utility.

Piper Saratoga:

Shop the six-seat, retractable piston-single market and you’ll find three basic choices: Beech’s Model 36 Bonanza, Cessna’s Model 210 Centurion and Piper’s 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.