Letters: 06/09

Diamond Dissent

I enjoyed your article on four-place cruisers in the March 2009 Aviation Consumer. However, I would like to set the record straight on a couple of points and provide another perspective regarding resale values and what defines "best value."

Regarding production volumes of the DA40 versus the SR20, more DA40s have been produced from startup through the end of 2008 than total SR20s through 2008, even though the SR20 has been in production three years longer. Since 2003, the DA40 has outsold the SR20 every year. Here are the statistics to support that.

You commented that the purchase price for a comparable used SR20 is generally less than a DA40. As you can see from the numbers above, the higher price of the DA40 cannot be attributed to lower production volume as you supposed as there have been 20 percent more DA40s produced than SR20s.

The difference is more likely driven by the market's acknowledgement that the DA40 is an overall better value than the others, resulting in higher demand. Having an airplane retain more of its original value is hardly a negative.

Less depreciation equates to a lower overall cost of ownership as owners recapture a larger proportion of their original investment on sale. This factor is often overlooked by prospective owners when evaluating the true cost of owning an airplane. True value is much more than purchase price. It's also operating costs, insurance costs, maintenance costs and investment recapture upon sale.

The DA40 is generally superior to an SR20 in each of those areas. Couple that with the unequaled safety record of the DA40 versus any of the others, and the fact that there are no meaningful compromises in performance, equipment, or direct operating cost that a buyer must make—and the hands down winner of a comparison of these four models has to be in favor of the Diamond.

I hope that you will agree that my alternative description of "best value" is deserving of publication.

Jeff Owen,
Regional Sales Manager
Premier Aircraft Sales

You got us on the numbers. We mangled the data and should have said all Cirrus, not just the SR20. This distinction is critical to the analysis because a large number of SR20 owners step up to the SR22, something that's not the case with the DA40. Further, SR22 owners have proven affluent enough to step up to newer models of the SR22, too. The upshot is that there are a lot more used SR20s and SR22s on the market than DA40s. More supply equals lower prices.

While you could argue that the market sees greater value in the DA40 and thus supports higher prices, Cirrus would point out that another way to look at how the market values airplanes is to note that it has sold about 4200 total, compared to Diamond's 2300 during similar periods. We still think the total size of the Cirrus fleet and the ratio of new airplanes to used is the big driver here. Given its sales volume, the SR22 is a popular airplane. But a large inventory has depressed prices.

DIY Overhaul

Your recent article concerning engine overhauls being done close to home offered excellent advice. A field overhaul is the second best way to overhaul your engine and paint your airplane, too.

The very best way is an owner-assisted overhaul. Much work in engine assembly is repetitive and easily learned: Cylinders 2,3,4,5 and 6 go on just like cylinder 1, really.

By working with a mechanic, not only can you save money (I always have) but you will have a much greater understanding of the cost/benefit of different options, such as new cylinders or a new cam? And you will have a more reasoned idea as to where blame should fall if problems occur.

Arthur Thompson,
Hereford, Arizona

So There

It is possible that Dennis Muchmore is in error if he believes the usual gross misinformation about ethanol. (See Letters, May 2009.) I hope he will inform us of those university studies debunking ethanol criticism. I wonder if they might, by coincidence, be universities in major corn-growing states? I seldom agree with Paul Bertorelli's editorials, but in the April one on ethanol, I can't find one word with which I disagree.

The only difference between big oil and big ethanol is in scale. In my view, they are both scams forced on the American taxpayer. They both get huge subsidies and both overcharge for their products. Ethanol fuel is politics, nothing more.

If there is anything more ridiculous than using fuel to make food to make fuel, I can't think of it right now! For those of us using mogas in our airplanes, ethanol has a lot to do with flying and I appreciate the May issue article article on that very subject. This is a very important aviation issue to me and many others.

Gus Causbie,
Ash Flat, Arkansas

Jeppesen Charts

I have two comments about your May issue. First, despite any confusion caused by the colors selected for some airspace, I'm glad to see the new Jeppesen charts. From the time I started flying (two years ago) I have wondered why the FAA made the info so hard to find by using only two colors.

Second, whoever wrote the article on the Beech Sierra needs to go back and review his elementary school math. He states that the 14 RLOC accidents constitute "the vast majority" of the 36 accidents recorded. Judging by the graph, 14 is a large plurality, but it is five short of being any kind of majority.

John Worsley,
Lenoir, North Carolina

Those calculations were performed in our custom alternate reality cell. If we run the numbers through regular reality, you are absolutely correct.

I was really interested in the new Jeppesen VFR+GPS charts after reading your article. However, the price you listed was not completely accurate. I went to the Jepp site to order a Chicago enroute chart.

It wasn't until checkout that they tell you that the shipping/handling cost almost doubles the price of the chart. A $14.99 chart costs a completely unreasonable $13.70 to ship! Even if you only have to buy one every six months, paying almost $30 for one chart that covers a fraction of the area of a $9 FAA sectional doesn't make much sense.

Ken Bolvin,
Via e-mail

At press time, Jeppesen told us because of customer complaints, it has reduced the shipping cost.

Tiger Heavy

I believe that I have found an error in your article on the Beech Sierra, specifically in the Select Late-Model Comparisons section. You compare the Sierra against several aircraft including a 1977 Grumman Tiger. The graph claims payload with full fuel of almost 750 pounds for the Tiger.

Unless I'm misunderstanding the graph, I believe it's wrong. That would come out to an empty weight of 1344 pounds. That's an awfully light Tiger. I own a 1977 Tiger, with a 2400-pound gross weight. The basic empty weight for my Tiger is 1513 pounds. This leaves 887 pounds of useful load. Subtract 306 pounds for 51 gallons of usable fuel and we're down to 581 pounds. That's about three FAA adults (170 pounds each) plus about 60 pounds of stuff.

If you can find a Tiger that will have a full-fuel payload of 750 pounds, please tell me where it is and I'll buy it.

Alex Kittenplan,
Via e-mail

The one we looked at was parked under the Brooklyn Bridge, which we were advised was also for sale. Clearly, we erred—the graph indicated claimed useful load, not payload. The payload with full fuel data is show at left.