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Hi,  I'm Sid H,

Looking to buy an aircraft, have a single engine rating w/instrument ticket, 700 hrs in 172s, PA28 180s, PA32s.  
Would like a faster plane because I like to do cross country flight. Mostly fly solo, occasional passenger or two.  Usually fly once or twice a month.  Live in Baltimore, MD., Fly out of Middle River, MD.   Looking at a Mooney or Bonanza platform.  Please provide your thought.  Pros/Cons, etc, Love Flying!!!
Thanks!
21 Replies
Ronald Levy
1230 Posts
When contemplating the purchase of an aircraft, the first step is to establish a mission statement, including range, payload, speed, airport information (runway surface and length, elevation, etc.).  Other factors include your own qualifications and experience, and, of course, your budget for both purchase and continuing ownership/operation.

In your case, it would seem that the 120 knot speed range isn't enough for you, and you're looking at airplanes in the 160-knot and up range.  Clearly you have PA32 experience, and it would appear you have rejected the PA32R models, I would guess because they aren't all that fast.  Also, keep in mind that when you just say "Mooney" or "Bonanza", you're looking at a wide range of performance capabilities, from the very early models to the very latest.  For example, the early Bonanzas were mostly around 225HP and had only four seats, not all of which were usable with full fuel.  OTOH, the current production G36's are 300HP with six seats and speeds around 165-170 knots, but only about 530 lb payload with full 4.5 hours of fuel aboard.

You suggest you'd like to be able to have three people in the plane, so you're looking for around 550-600 lb payload.  In addition, operating out of Baltimore, you aren't going to need turbocharging because you aren't likely to be operating west of Denver.  You mention two retractable gear airplanes, but keep in mind that a Cirrus SR22 carries as much payload as later production (say, 90's and on) 36 Bonanzas and go just as fast with fixed gear.  OTOH, if you want a ton of speed, the big-engine Mooneys like the Ovation can give you 200-knot speeds.

The elephant in the room, of course, is how much money you have to spend.  You can buy an O-470-powered Bonanza or an O-360-powered Mooney for well under $100K, but you'd be at the very bottom of the performance capabilities you suggest you want.  OTOH, you could spend nearly $1M on a new SR22 or G36 Bonanza, and get all the performance you want with all the advantages of the latest technology as long as you can afford it.

The other issue with high performance and complex planes is maintaining proficiency.  If you're only flying once or twice a month, that's really hard to do in a Bonanza or Mooney. You'll need anywhere from 5-25 hours of checkout before the insurers will let you fly it solo, and be paying through the nose until you get 100 hours in type.

Finally, you're talking about airplanes with very different flying characteristics and very different cabin size and layout.  Have you even sat in (or preferably flown in) either a Mooney or Bonanza?

Does this stir any additional thoughts?

Thanks Ron!  I have sat in both airplanes, never flown them, but somewhat familiar.  So, would like to spend no more than 100K, and the insurance was one of my concerns, I personally know several CFIIs in MS where I learned to fly that could help me with the the checkout.  Could have the plane delivered to that airport (KMEI) or (M23) to help me with that issue.  Although I prefer the speed, and for the sake of this discussion, I had an avionics company owner tell me once, while he was working on a club Piper 182, who, by the way owned a 172, tell me that a he preferred the 172 for practical reasons, (price, parts, availability/affordability of maintenance nationwide), what's your take on this his point, and do you have any other suggestions for aircraft platforms that could meet the speed desire, also can you provide anymore specific info on the maintenance (annual) costs for the Mooneys and Bonanzas?
Hi Sidney, 

Small world - I'm located in Columbia, MD and in a similar boat, but have been working with a few aircraft manufacturers in the Experimental Category. I've been in this process for about a year now and for the maximum bang for the buck experimental gets me high cruise speed, 2/4 seats, and 4/5 hr endurance for around 120k all the way to 200k. Any reason you want to go the certified route? Are you planning to use your aircraft for rental? 

If you'd like, give me a call at (443) 936-7931 and I'd be happy to share my experience so far. 

Regards,
Dhruv
Ronald Levy
1230 Posts
Sidney Harris:

Thanks Ron!  I have sat in both airplanes, never flown them, but somewhat familiar. 
They don't at all fly the same -- you really need to fly them. Personally, I much prefer the handling characteristics and control harmony of the Bonanza, but that's just me -- you may feel just the opposite. And if you have a spouse, you'd better make sure your spouse is happy in the plane, too.
Sidney Harris:
So, would like to spend no more than 100K,
So much for a new SR22 or G36 Bonanza. But you can find plenty of nice, older Bonanzas or M20J Mooneys in that price range, as well as some Cessna 182RG's in that price range.
Sidney Harris:
Although I prefer the speed, and for the sake of this discussion, I had an avionics company owner tell me once, while he was working on a club Piper 182, who, by the way owned a 172, tell me that a he preferred the 172 for practical reasons, (price, parts, availability/affordability of maintenance nationwide), what's your take on this his point,
I think you've already made clear that a 172 doesn't have the speed you want. OTOH, a Cessna 182 would have a lot more speed than a 172, albeit less than you seem to want, and would have the advantage of being a simpler airplane and thus perhaps more suitable for someone who only flies once or twice a month.
Sidney Harris:
and do you have any other suggestions for aircraft platforms that could meet the speed desire, also can you provide anymore specific info on the maintenance (annual) costs for the Mooneys and Bonanzas?
I've made a couple of suggestions above. I'd suggest staying away from long-out-of-production aircraft with limited parts support, like Bellancas or Piper Comanches, since the lack of airframe parts availability is causing many aircraft like that to be totaled with comparatively little damage, and that runs up hull insurance costs.  As for annual costs, they're always going to be $500-1000 higher for something like a Mooney versus something like a fixed-gear 182.

BTW, while you can get some fabulous performance out of an Experimental-Amateur Built aircraft like a Lancair or Glasair, I most strongly recommend staying away from one as your first ownership experience.  These planes do not meet the same standards for flight characteristics as certified planes, there can be small but critical differences based on the builder's preferences and skill, instructors for type training may be hard to find, and insurance can be problematic,
Excellent post by Ronald Levy. The factors he brings up need to be thought out thoroughly.

Also be sure to research insurance requirements, and ongoing costs for maintenance and storage, most of which will very depending on the model plane, its age and condition.

Speaking of condition, it is of utmost importance because if you buy a  plane that has not been properly maintained, it can cost a fortune to remedy its shortcomings. I know of aircraft where the repairs needed were nearly as much as the purchase price of the plane. On a scale of 1 to 10, condition is a 12 in importance. Make sure you get a complete prebuy inspection from a shop that knows the aircraft type well, and who has not done maintenance on it before.
Ronald Levy
1230 Posts
Marc Rodstein:
Speaking of condition, it is of utmost importance because if you buy a  plane that has not been properly maintained, it can cost a fortune to remedy its shortcomings. I know of aircraft where the repairs needed were nearly as much as the purchase price of the plane. On a scale of 1 to 10, condition is a 12 in importance. Make sure you get a complete prebuy inspection from a shop that knows the aircraft type well, and who has not done maintenance on it before.

Marc is 100% correct.  And before you get to doing a prebuy, get someone who knows the type well to do a full review of all the maintenance records (not just the logbooks -- check 337's, STC's, engine overhaul work orders, etc.).