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What To Buy, How To Find?

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If you had ~$25000 to spend on an a/c what would you get? BUCK-50, or vintage like a taylorcraft? Asking from the perspective of putting a few hundred hours on a machine and doing it as cheaply as possible. I’m having a tough time when perusing ads to see the difference between the $35,000 and a $17,500 C-150…would it be avionics? a fresh engine? I guess what I’m asking is how do you tell what’s the best machine for the buck?

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You've got the basic idea about things that affect the price of an aircraft. Fresh engine, up-to-date avionics, good paint and interior, modifications, and total time all contribute to the overall price. If you are planning to just put a couple of hundred hours on then dump it, get with 500 hours or a bit less left on the engine, that way you will still have some time left when you want to sell. Alternatively, buy one 'on condition' and hope that you'll be able to wring a couple of hundred hours out of it. It would be a gamble, and would depend on how well it was maintained prior to you getting your paws on it. I'd lean more toward the 500 hour engine, but that's just me. Ref avionics, but what you need in the aircraft all ready. They are very expensive to buy and you won't get your money back when you sell. Paint and interior are niceties, and if you aren't planning on keeping the aircraft, I wouldn't bother looking for 9's and 10's, you just want bang for your buck. I will say that nice p+i, freshish engine and good avionics will make it easier to sell in the future, but I think that you will sell a rougher plane for closer to what you paid compared to a creampuff, which may have picked up some hangar rash along the way. You know, a plane with ugly paint just doesn't have very far down to go, while a 9 has nowhere to go but down. By the way, anyone hoping to get 35K for a 150 is delusional... Just keep studying the prices and you'll notice a pattern. Above all, if you do get to purchasing, always have a thorough prepurchase inspection done. A few hundred bucks at the start could save you thousands in the end.

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Thanks Agent Smith...I mean Gannet. :P Looking through the ads I have started to see what makes the a/c what it's worth. Personally i just want something to fly for a few hundred hours and get out whilst not losing my shirt. What exactly is buying "on condition"? Is this basically the engine has reached its time and needs an overhaul so you could get it at a cheaper price? I looked in the cars to find some info on requirements for overhauling an engine and couldn't find the reference. all i could find in the Cessna manual was that a privately operated aircraft only need an annual inspection. I seem to recall somewhere that an engine must be overhauled at the 1800 hour mark. Or is it basically up to the owner and ame at what hour mark the overhaul takes place?

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On condition means that an engine has reached its suggested overhaul point, but the owner has chosen to continue to run it. Conventional wisdom has it that if the compressions are still good, then it should be able to soldier on for a while. Engine companies disagree, but no engine will turn into a pumpkin right at 2000 hours (most engines have a 2000 hr TBO). Think COPA did a piece a year ago or so about running on condition, there is something published about accepted monitoring of trends on the engine but I can't remember where exactly. Perhaps someone else will volunteer this info. You will get the aircraft for much less than if the engine was overhauled, but you may run into an engine snag, too. I'd start by making friends with whichever AME you would have doing your annuals, buying him lunch and picking his brain over a Timmy's. Knowledge is power.


PS: private aircraft are required only to have an annual inspection, but I always viewed 100hr inspections as insurance...

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If you're only going to do a couple of hundred hours, you'll find that renting will end up costing you about the same as buying. Once all the legal fees, interest, inspection, hangar fees, de-icing, pre-heating, insurance, not to mention any unforseen maintenance are taken into account you'll find that your hourly rate will be very close to what it is to rent. A friend has had a couple of aircraft, and now rents because of this. I think his hourly rate ended up being about $200 for a Musketeer & a Cherokee. Despite pre-purchase inspections, a premature engine change on one, and avionics problems with the other, caused his costs to go way up. If however you plan on using the a/c for at least 300 hours per year, then buying starts to be less expensive.


Renting's benefits are that you don't have to deal with the insurance, maintenance, storage, cleaning, registering it, etc. You don't have the convenience of taking it whenever you want, and it isn't yours.


Owning is much more convenient. After all you can go out to the airport, untie it, and go flying when you want. Not when there is a free hour. You can also fly for as long, or short as you want. Mind you digging it out of a snowbank after a snowstorm isn't a whole lot of fun.


As Gannet mentions, spend the money on a good pre-purchase inspection. It's more than worth the cash. Talk to AMEs about the types you're interested in about potential maintenance problems, Airworthiness Directives, Service Bulletins, and general maintenance issues. If this seems a little daunting, well it is a major purchase, you could always see if their is another person in the area, who is looking to build hours, and go halves ??



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I'm not sure where your based, but if your near the GTA area (or Calgary) you might want to consider a fractional ownership outfit called OurPlane. Its more pricey then renting, but you get access to new a/c that you dont have to pay an arm and a leg for if it should break and leave you stranded 150 miles North of Anywhere.


I don't have the exact numbers off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure there is an initial buy in and then an hourly rate, its more then renting, but will probably still come in under your 25G target. Plus you get the bonus of flying a relativly new machine (2 to 3 years max), You do have to share the plane with a few other owners, but nearly as many as with a club plane. And your not paying to insure an entire airplane, which ought to save a few dollars.


Just a thought.



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Buy a small antique like a T-craft or Champ. You should be able to find good examples of both these types for about 20K. Some of the others, such as the C-140's and J3's, tend to draw 25K or more. They are simple machines with little to go wrong. The Champ, with a C65 in it doesn't even have electrics. A couple gel cel batteries to power a hand held radio and a transponder and you are good to go burning only about 3.5 gal per hour. Go for an airplane with about a 1/2 time engine. Any inherent manufacturing flaws will have already failed and been repaired, and you will still have lots of hours to fly before things start wearing out. The value of the antiques is increasing about 5-10% annually. If you buy an 8/10 airplane today and take good care it (hangered), you can easily sell it 5 years later as 7/10 with having done very little other than keeping it clean and waxed. Assuming you bought it with a 1000 hour engine and sold with 1500 hrs you should expect to get at least 25% more than you paid for it. If you are looking for a shorter turn around, perhaps flying 500 hrs in a year or two, you should still see a small profit on your captial investment. Just remember that you are buying a 55 to 60 year old airplane. Make sure you find out who did the last rebuild on it and what their reputation is in the industry. Get a good inspection done by someone well familiar with antiques and wood spars.


Do not buy a 6/10 or lower rated airplane, or one with a high time or on condition engine. The market for clapped out looking, high engine time antiques in limited mostly to those looking for a rebuild project. The cost of rebuilding a 5/10 aircraft is about the same as a 3/10, so not many will pay more for the slightly better airplane.


I used to have a Champ. Bought it as an 8/10, sold it 10 years and 500 hours later as 7/10 for twice what I paid. Only put about $2500 into repairs and upgrades and flew that little bugger all over western North America. Great time builder as it takes a long time to get anywhere. When all costs were totalled up, it ran for about $30.00 per hour. That was about 5 years ago, so it would be a bit higher now. You will also be getting some tail dragger experience if that matters to you.

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Hi :


I wouldn't sell you one of my 150's if you have a T Craft to fly, I'm not that kind of person.... Fly the T Craft its cheaper, more fun and will make a better pilot out of you.


But if you want to see one of my 150"s just for couriousity go to




That one is for sale because I've decided not to apply for another FTU OC.


I want to spend the few years I have left without having to associate with the calibre of people that have taken over TC. Makes me feel unclean dealing with a few of them.....


The other C150 is a plain 150 with a nose wheel.



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