The raw performance numbers of a Meyers 200 might resemble what you’d expect from the most modern single-engine piston speedster, even though the airplane is a product of the 1950s, and went out of production in the 1960s. But don’t turn a nose to these old gals because of their age. We’re talking cruise speeds that can flirt with 190 knots, an airframe with an exceptionally crashworthy race-car-like tubular roll cage and understructure, no history of inflight breakups and no FAA ADs against the airframe. Decent ones sell for shy of $80,000.
But these are classics, and exceptional ones with show-winning restorations fetch a lot more. And while the Meyers Aircraft Owners Association is a huge resource for support, you’ll want to have a Meyers wrenched (and evaluated before you buy one) by a mechanic who knows the model well. Still, if you’re considering a vintage Bonanza, Comanche or even an early Mooney, you might eyeball a rare Meyers 200, but you’ll find far fewer. Here’s a look at the airplane and the current market.
The Meyers 200 was the brainchild of Al Meyers, and his third aircraft design. In 1935, he began work on his first design: a biplane called the Meyers OTW (Out To Win), which earned Uncle Sam’s blessing for use in the Civilian Pilot Training program. Meyers then designed a two-place, retractable, low-wing taildragger called the Meyers 145. The 145 was a fast and efficient machine, achieving 145 MPH on the same number of horsepower. Only a handful of Meyers 145s were built.
The design eventually was modified into a four-seater, which is the 200. The prototype Meyers 200 flew in 1953, but it wasn’t until five years later that the airplane received its type certificate, and the 200 ultimately went on to win a number of speed records in its class. For production, the prototype’s carbureted, 225-HP Continental O-470-M engine was replaced with Continental’s fuel-injected, 260-HP IO-470-D.
Production started with the 1959 model year, and moved slowly. At the time, there were a few direct competitors around: Piper’s Comanche 250, and the Beech Debonair and Bonanza. The Meyers was considerably more expensive than either the Comanche or the Debonair, and cost almost as much as the V-tail Bonanza while offering less load-carrying ability.
The 1959 and 1960 models were designated 200A. They had a 70-gallon fuel system, 3000-pound gross weight and an empty weight of 1870 pounds. Performance was on a par with the V-tail Bonanza: 170-knot cruise speeds and 1150 FPM climb rates. A total of 11 were built.
In 1961, Meyers brought out the 200B, incorporating minor changes including a different fuel system (a mere 40 gallons standard, 80 optional) and an improved instrument panel. Empty weight went up to 1975 pounds, though the gross remained 3000. Some 17 B models were produced.
The C model, introduced for the 1963 model year, got additional changes: a higher cabin roof, larger windshield and better interior. Only nine C models came out of the factory. But much more significant enhancements arrived with the 200D in 1965. The wings got flush rivets, and the IO-470-D was replaced by a Continental IO-520-A of 285 HP. The D model’s aerodynamic changes boosted the cruise speed significantly, to 183 knots, while the stall (dirty) dropped to only 47 knots. Takeoff roll and 50-foot obstacle clearance numbers also improved.
The weight dropped a bit, too, to 1940 pounds empty. Gross remained 3000 pounds. Six were built in that year, according to the Aircraft Bluebook.
By the end of the year, Meyers was in financial trouble. The design was sold to Aero Commander (later known as Rockwell Commander), which was a solid second-tier manufacturer at the time. Production run of 69 planes was achieved for the 1966 model year. Aero Commander also developed a six-seat, swept-tail E model and flew a prototype.
Another 20 D models were produced in 1967, but the design was abandoned when Aero Commander merged with its parent company, Rockwell-Standard. In all, only 135 Meyers 200s were produced, and just fewer than 100 are still flying.
The rights to the airplane were acquired by Interceptor Corporation, which certified a turboprop version around 1971 and called it the Interceptor 400. Only two of them were built. One survived two accidents—a ditching off the coast of California and a crash into trees on short final. Both were from engine flameouts. No one was hurt in the accidents, but the aircraft was later destroyed in a hangar fire. Several attempts have been made to resurrect the design (including the piston version), but for one reason or another none were successful.
As we refresh this article in the summer 2020, we’re told that could change with a turbine version, although we wonder how much demand there will be for an unpressurized turbine single in a market dominated by a healthy selection of pre-owned (and new) pressurized turboprop singles from Piper, Daher and Pilatus.
STRONG DESIGN, SOME UNUSUAL SYSTEMS
At the heart of the airplane’s design and reputation are welded, 4130 chrome-alloy steel tubes forming the fuselage and center section. The structure runs from the firewall to the rear fuselage bulkhead and three feet out into the wings, where it supports the main landing gear assemblies. The rear fuselage section is of semi-monocoque design and construction.
The landing gear and Fowler-type flaps are hydraulically actuated, and the flight controls incorporate push-pull tubes. There are two emergency gear-extension systems: a hand pump to supply hydraulic pressure and an uplock release mechanism. If the hand pump doesn’t work, the pilot releases the locks and slips the airplane, allowing aerodynamic loads to shove the gear down.
The gear system is unusual. Aside from the desirable trait of multiple emergency backup systems, there’s a switch built into the circuit that prevents the starter from turning if the massive gear handle is not in the down position. Understand, though, there are no squat switches, and pilots have inadvertently retracted the gear on the ground. After takeoff, you move the gear handle to the up position, then move it back to neutral once the gear is stowed to reduce pressure in the system. If you forget, there is an annunciator light to remind you.
Worth mentioning is that the nosewheel is the same size as the main wheels, a design that makes the Meyers 200 a player for reasonably rough unimproved strips.
The elevator trim is also different and takes some getting used to when transitioning to a Meyers. It’s a vernier control mounted just underneath the three power controls. We’re not so sure this is good ergonomics because it could possibly be mistaken for one of the engine controls—but in practice it’s not a problem, once the pilot gets used to it. The good news is it’s easy to make fine adjustments to the trim. It’s also one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t skimp on initial training. No, this isn’t your everyday Bonanza.
Fuel in most Meyers 200s is carried in two main tanks and two auxiliaries. Each holds 20 gallons and the total usable capacity is 74 gallons. The management system leaves something to be desired, in our opinion: There’s only one fuel gauge, and it only reads the tank in use; there’s no way to tell how much fuel is in one of the other tanks without actually selecting it. One way to solve the issue is with a fuel totalizer or even better, a big-screen engine monitor with fuel quantity display as many owners have installed.
Overall, the panel layout is excellent for the time period it came from, with plenty of room and a fairly standard instrument arrangement. Glass upgrades are common and modern PFDs and MFDs fit well. Once seated in the cockpit, inflight visibility is just about as good as it gets—forward and aft.
There’s a retractable step, complete with its own door, and a large, incongruous chrome assist handle jutting out from the side of the fuselage to aid in climbing aboard. Need to carry a lot of stuff? This probably isn’t the plane for you, but there’s a workaround, sort of.
The passenger seat and the two rear seats can be removed quickly to accommodate cargo. There’s also a large baggage hatch on the right side of the fuselage. But the airplane cannot haul much—legally, that is.
Yes, this is a heavy single. Throughout production of the relatively heavy airplane, gross weight remained at 3000 pounds, with real-world equipped empty weights typically running 2100 pounds. Add full fuel, and you can fit only about 450 pounds of people and baggage into the airplane and stay legal.
As one owner commented, the four-place Meyers 200 really is “a legal two-place airplane.” Although Aero Commander completed testing to raise the gross weight to 3350 pounds, the paperwork was never submitted to the FAA for approval. If this were approved, it would allow the aircraft to be topped with fuel and still carry a full passenger load and baggage.
The airplane appears well able to handle the load. There are many stories of Meyers being operated (illegally) at the higher weight with no problems.
A TRUE SPEEDSTER
If that’s what you’re after, a Meyers 200 will deliver. Maximum cruise speed of the original models is an honest 170 knots—as fast as the V-tail Bonanzas produced during the same period, and nearly 10 knots faster than a contemporary Cessna 210 Centurion. Not fast enough? With its bigger engine and flush-riveted wings, the 200D is even faster—plan on 183 knots at max cruise. This is a bit faster than S- and V-35 Bonanzas and a whole lot (10 knots) faster than D- through G-model Cessna 210s. Never-exceed speed of the 200A is 208 MPH, and its maximum structural cruising speed is 165 MPH. Starting with the B model, these limits were raised to 236 MPH and 210 MPH, respectively. Thanks to relatively high gear- and flap-extension speeds, the slippery Meyers 200 can easily mix with traffic in the pattern.
In the 200A, the gear can be lowered at 165 MPH, and the flaps at 125 MPH. Gear-extension speeds for the B, C and D models are 170 MPH for normal operation or 210 MPH in an emergency, though the gear doors will get ripped off at that speed.
At the other end of the speed spectrum, the D model stalls at a remarkably low 47 knots thanks to the Fowler flaps, with the earlier models a few knots higher. As with many airplanes in this class, proper power and speed management are needed during approach to avoid excessive rock-like sink rates.
Stalls are reported to be relatively benign for a high-performance retractable, with lots of aileron authority available. The airplane is not certified for spins, though there is anecdotal evidence that it is capable of self-recovery after one turn.
The controls are relatively heavy, thanks both to the push-pull tubes and to the short lateral throw of the yoke. Owners say that, due to a bungee arrangement in the control systems, little or no trim change is required with gear and flap extension.
Relatively speaking, owners we talked with report that the airplane generally is easy to fly. But newcomers, especially those with little experience in heavy, high-performance singles, should get a thorough checkout by an instructor who knows the airplane. Speed management is obviously a must and it can be easy to get behind the airplane when workload is high. Al Meyers chose not to offset the engine or horizontal stabilizer to lessen low-speed, high-power torque effects. As a result, almost full right rudder is needed on takeoff and initial climb, and there’s no rudder trim.
Remarkably, there have been no ADs on the airframe structure. The only two Meyers 200-specific ADs are old, one-time directives dealing with systems: 66-28-1 called for modification of the elevator trim, and 67-23-1 mandated inspection of the landing gear rigging. We highly doubt there are any instances of non-compliance with these directives.
A few ADs have targeted the prop, though none are repetitive. Three ADs on McCauley props have required replacement of their attach bolts and inspection of their blades and hubs for cracks. The Hartzell props have drawn two directives. One required blade replacement; the other, issued in 1985, called for replacement of blade clamps. A 1991 directive called for replacement of certain defective parts.
The engine and ignition systems are subject to the usual collection of one-time, shotgun ADs affecting other airplanes. There are only three directives that might involve repetitive inspections: 77-13-22 calls for repetitive inspection of the crankcase for cracks on IO-520s, 86-13-4 mandates pressure checks of IO-520 cylinders each 50 hours until replacement and 96-12-22 requires repetitive inspections of the oil filter assembly.
In all, there are only 31 ADs applicable to the Meyers 200, a low figure for a 40-year-old design. Given the small number of airplanes in existence, it’s not surprising that there have been almost no service difficulties reported on the Meyers 200. One of note indicated cracks found on the rudder spar near the upper hinge attach point. An improved rudder hinge kit is available on the aftermarket to address this. Past examinations of the record pointed up a couple of nosegear maintenance discrepancies. Since it’s a retrac, there are inevitable landing gear issues to watch for. A broken nosewheel horn in a Meyers 200A prevented the wheel from extending fully, and a broken cable in a 200D allowed the gear to cock and jam in the wheel well.
There were also two SDRs on frayed rudder cables found in 200Ds. One of the good things about the Meyers 200 from an owner’s standpoint is the fact that the airplane was built using a lot of off-the-shelf components. As we found in previous reports, owners report that they have few if any problems getting parts for their airplanes. They say that most parts requiring regular replacement are used on many other aircraft, so there is a good supply.
But their could be some potential sources of grief. One is the cabin door. It is constructed of aluminum and fiberglass and like many cabin doors does not hold up well to use and abuse, and some doors do not fit properly anymore. Leaking air creates quite a racket and drafts.
Some owners have had their doors pop open in flight. Some have been successful reworking the door for a better fit. Landing gear bushings are another issue. Each airplane has about 52 of them, and they require regular replacement. Some owners shotgun the bushings every 250 hours.
Like any airplane this age, deterioration of plastic components is a problem. In the Meyers, there isn’t much of it, and it’s found mostly in the seats. However, fiberglass replacements are available, and many owners invest in new interiors.
Plan on fuel tank upkeep, eventually removing them to touch up the welds.
We fully recognize that the Meyers/Aero Commander 200 fleet isn’t huge; nevertheless we were surprised when we started our search for the 100 most recent accidents.
We couldn’t find 100 accidents.
We couldn’t find 50.
We went back 35 years and located a total of 20 accidents. On top of that, we didn’t see much of the usual stuff we expect to see. No one forgot the landing gear on landing. No one lost control on landing rollout in a crosswind. No one flew VFR into IMC. No one went below minimums on an instrument approach and hit terrain.
While there are not enough accidents for any sort of a statistical universe, we did see two trends worth noting—misuse of the fuel system and lack of maintenance.
One of the hoary axioms of aircraft design and human factors was proved again—if you give pilots a fuel system with choices beyond “on” and “off,” they’re going to screw it up. Five of the 20 Meyers crashes involved pilots who ran one of the four fuel tanks dry and either didn’t try to switch tanks, were too low to do so successfully or claimed that they couldn’t get a restart.
One pilot took off on the left main, used it for 20 minutes and then progressively used the other three tanks for 20 minutes before going back to the left main for the remainder of the flight. Unfortunately, the remainder of the flight got him to base leg for landing when that tank ran dry.
A pilot decided to stay at 11,500 feet in a tailwind for as long as he could. He then pulled the throttle to idle and dove for the destination airport. He exhausted the fuel in the selected tank during the power-off descent but didn’t realize the engine was no longer reciprocating until too low for a restart.
Maintenance issues were front and center in nine Meyer accidents. Blocked fuel lines shut down the engine in two instances. An exhaust pipe separation led to a fire in flight—the pilot landed safely.
A pilot/owner/mechanic took off on the first flight after performing the annual on his airplane. He hadn’t tightened one of the fittings on a fuel line. The engine quit at 300 feet. After landing in trees, he got out of the airplane and was able to extinguish the post-crash fire in the cowling.
A tech investigating a throttle issue found a loose cable bracket and worn-out bolt. He didn’t have the same bolt in stock, but installed a similar one and drilled a hole in it for a cotter key and castellated nut, which he installed. Four hours later the nut came off, the bolt came loose and the power went to idle, instigating an off-airport landing.
A pilot on base leg for landing on a moonless night had some of the interior lighting start flashing brightly. Unable to see the instruments and with his night vision ruined, he lost control of the airplane. He survived the ensuing crash.
We only found one landing accident in a Meyers 200—a pilot landed hard in level attitude and then got the airplane into PIO. It departed the runway and the nosegear collapsed when it hit an obstruction. What was otherwise a minor accident resulted in serious injuries to the pilot who was not wearing a shoulder harness and jackknifed over his seatbelt into the panel.
Questionable judgment played a role in three Meyers 200 crashes. A pilot flying his Meyers at 500 feet AGL with the gear and flaps down while looking at real estate stalled and impacted nearly vertically. An owner buzzing his construction site hit the construction trailer and stopped abruptly. Finally, a retired airline pilot buzzed the retirement party of another airline pilot. He capped off the buzz job with most of a roll before hitting the ground at high speed.
SUPPORT AND MODS
Hands down the best resource when buying and owning a Meyers is the Meyers Aircraft Owners Association at www.meyersaircraft.org. It has an active forum (covering all of the Meyers models), a search engine for parts and services and a news section for fly-ins, events and general happenings in the Meyers community.
The 200A can be upgraded to a B model by installing stringers in the tail, which permits higher speeds.
The earlier models can swap the IO-470 engine for an IO-520A, bringing them up to a D configuration. Some have fitted the Continental IO-550 and three-blade prop. A modified nosebowl with an extended profile and smaller air inlets is also available.
Avionics and instrument panel upgrades are hugely popular, of course, and some of these airplanes still have old autopilots in various conditions. If an autopilot is important to you (and in an airplane as high-performance as the Meyers 200 we think it should be), pay close attention to it during the prepurchase eval.
Some airplanes have old Britain pneumatic systems, others have Century and S-TEC models. Upgrades (and repairs) are expensive for all.
I bought a Meyers 200C in 2009 after reading the previous Aviation Consumer report. I still own it and average about 60 to 70 hours per year. This was my first retractable-gear airplane after flying and owning a Piper PA28-180 and a Cessna 182 Skylane. I have found the plane to be a joy to fly. It’s reasonably quick and I plan on 150 to 155 knots at 2300 RPM and 23 inches MP power setting. I mostly fly rich of peak EGT and the IO-520 burns about 15.5 GPH at the aforementioned power and prop settings.
As you guys noted in your report, the gross weight at 3000 pounds and an average empty weight at 2100 pounds limits you to roughly 900 pounds for pilot, passenger and fuel. With a full fuel load of 80 gallons, that leaves 420 pounds for people. What it truly becomes is a two-place airplane with full fuel, and a three-place airplane with 55 to 60 gallons of fuel (to stay legal of course). That gives you three-hour legs with reserves. I have flown lean of peak and the burn is closer to 12 GPH, but you lose 10 to 12 knots in cruise speed.
The engine is not canted so you need a lot of right rudder on takeoff to offset P-factor. Pattern work is interesting given the low flap extension speed of 125 MPH (yes, airspeed is measured in MPH and not knots). The gear extension speed is fairly high though, and on downwind with the legs hanging out and power back to 15 to 16 inches MP you can get to final approach speed fairly quickly. With the short wingspan, the sink rate will get your attention if you pull the power back, and you have to keep a bit of power in through the flare.
After 600 hours of flight time, I am used to the panel-mounted pitch trim control, as well as the big landing gear knob. We moved the gear annunciator lights over the area of the gear handle and it makes it a lot easier. The quirks you noted in 2008 on the fuel selector and single gauge mean you have to be paying attention when you switch tanks.
I did a firewall-forward engine swap in the winter 2017. It had a light case and non-VAR crankshaft and the case developed a crack that eventually took it out of service. Even with a CMI factory reman it was a very expensive proposition. The mount was overhauled and the nosegear box was rebuilt. We also installed a JPI 830 engine monitor, replacement engine and prop controls and GAMIjectors. I have put 200-plus hours on the engine and had to send the fuel pump out this past winter for overhaul. Somehow trash got in there even though all the hoses were replaced at the engine change. I also redid the instrument panel and kept it mostly original, but reorganized some instrument locations. It is ADS-B compliant and I have a GNS 430 WAAS along with an aera 660 portable GPS used as an MFD. I also did an alternator conversion, along with an oil filter adapter to replace the oil screen. The interior was replaced in 2012 and it is holding up OK for now. The airframe only has a little over 2000 hours total time, with 30 percent of those put on in the last 10 years.
I am hangared at KLHZ (Triangle North Executive Airport in North Carolina) at a cost of $300 per month; insurance for a $125,000 hull and $1 million in liability is $1500 per year. Annuals have been from $3500 to $7500 depending on what they find. (I call BS on anyone getting an annual done properly on any complex airplane for $2000.) Mechanics say the bird is fairly easy to work on, but the systems are vintage 1950, with all-hydraulic gear and flaps, so you have to do a lot of checking on the hydraulic lines.
The Meyers Aircraft Owners Association is a rock-solid, must-join group when owning the airplane.
One thing bearing discussion with a smaller fleet size is insurance—where getting approved is becoming a chore. At 1200 hours total time when I bought the plane, the insurance company agreed to let the seller (a 26,000-hour ATP /airline captain) give me five hours of dual with an endorsement, and I then had to do 10 hours of solo before carrying passengers. I did 2.5 of that flying home from Alabama to North Carolina. There’s no way a company might be that lenient today. The OPW I have with U.S. Specialty Insurance specifies 750 hours total time, an instrument rating, 150 hours of retrac and 10 hours in type. Some potential buyers are going to deem that too steep a path to climb. Finding a partner is challenging.
Still, these are fun airplanes with a very unique history that is a treat to be a part of.
Ed Puliam – via email