What do I look for when buying an airplane?

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PistolPete037

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So, I've done the math and I've concluded that after this deployment is over with I'll have enough money to buy a small airplane with cash. If I'm going to pay for the whole airplane with cash, then a Cessna 150 is the most likely choice ('67 G model or later). The amount of money that I'm setting aside (~$20k) would make a rather impressive down payment for a larger, more capable aircraft, but I've also taken into consideration fuel and maintenance costs. I'd be nice to have a Baron, but if I can't afford to put gas in it or get the annual done, then there's not much point, and I doubt that Cessna would have made almost 24,000 C150s if they were maintenance hogs. I also really don't want to get into any more debt right now.

What I'd like to know is, do any of you guys have experience in buying an aircraft? What are the red flags in a Trade-a-Plane ad? What do I need to look for in the maintenance logs? Is it acceptable to get an aircraft with an engine that is close to/past TBO, or should I avoid? Are there any expenses beyond sticker price that I should take into my calculations? How much does the "average" annual cost (I imagine that depends on who does it, but what's a good ballpark figure)? How much does an engine overhaul cost, anyway? Are there any questions that I haven't asked here that I should?

Spending $20,000 cash in one lump sum may be an inconsequential amount of money if your name is Bill Gates, but for me this is the most expensive thing I have ever purchased and I want to get it right the first time. Since I have 0 experience in this matter, even the tiniest tidbit of information is helpful. I know you guys will pull through.

Thanks in advance, Pistol Pete.
 
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bdewoody

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Let me start by saying I don't own a plane but this is what I would consider.

How much flying will i be doing?

How much will reasonable insurance cost.

How much will the eventual engine and airframe overhaul cost.

How much will it cost to eithe hangar the plane or park it on the ramp at the closest general aviation airport?

How much does fuel cost?

Should I join an owners association instead where all of these exoenses are shared.
 
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steve82

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Don't worry too much about what's in the maintenance log because the mechanic you hire to do the pre-buy inspection will take care of that and verify the maintenance and AD compliance.
You can get a good deal buying one past TBO but then expect to spend another $20k overhauling it. Realize that as soon as you open the cowl to overhaul, you'll start to find lots of other old things that need to be fixed that will add up the bucks.
You can do a 337 search through AOPA to look for major mods or damage history. The 337 is the form that has to be submitted after a major modification of repair and it's tied to the N-number.
Check that all the avionics work. They will be old and obsolete, and probably the first thing that will need replacing but if they still work at all that means the plane is being flown-you need to get out to the hangar and turn all the radios on for 15 minutes every month or so in a plane that isn't flying just to head up all the electronics and keep the corrosion out.
It's a nasty job but if your mechanic can get the headliner off during his pre-buy-the 150's wing box up there is where you find a lot of corrosion that never gets noticed at annuals, it could be a make or break decision on the plane.
Make sure it has been flown. I'd rather buy a plane with 10,000 hours on it that's been flown and maintained a lot than a plane that's only acquired 800 hours in 20 years.
There's lots of other little things but I can't think of them right now. Just expect on an older plane you'll have at least what you paid for it additional invested after about 5 years. THat's ok though, as long as you're flying it.
 
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scottb50

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PistolPete037":1hl7ckyq said:
So, I've done the math and I've concluded that after this deployment is over with I'll have enough money to buy a small airplane with cash. If I'm going to pay for the whole airplane with cash, then a Cessna 150 is the most likely choice ('67 G model or later). The amount of money that I'm setting aside (~$20k) would make a rather impressive down payment for a larger, more capable aircraft, but I've also taken into consideration fuel and maintenance costs. I'd be nice to have a Baron, but if I can't afford to put gas in it or get the annual done, then there's not much point, and I doubt that Cessna would have made almost 24,000 C150s if they were maintenance hogs. I also really don't want to get into any more debt right now.Baron or C-310 is worthless without turbo-charging and even more expensive up front. A Twin Comanche is good too, no matter what they say. I always liked flying one. I would look into the modified 150's. 180 hp. engine, big tires, stol kit, surprisingly good speed. Get one already modified to beat the paperwork, the STC is the expensive part.

Maintenance on the engine can't be much more expensive, both engines are supported pretty well last I heard. Most upgrades to the bigger engine are pretty much firewall forward and probably pretty fool proof.


What I'd like to know is, do any of you guys have experience in buying an aircraft? What are the red flags in a Trade-a-Plane ad? What do I need to look for in the maintenance logs? Is it acceptable to get an aircraft with an engine that is close to/past TBO, or should I avoid? Are there any expenses beyond sticker price that I should take into my calculations? How much does the "average" annual cost (I imagine that depends on who does it, but what's a good ballpark figure)? How much does an engine overhaul cost, anyway? Are there any questions that I haven't asked here that I should?I brought and sold a few but couldn't make enough to get by, mostly for fun and some profit. Trade-a-Plane has always been pretty much straight forward, or used to be. As far as flying past TBO if it is running alright and doesn't have any problems it's fine. Need a head replaced and it's better to overhaul the engine.

Are there any expenses beyond sticker price that I should take into my calculations? YES

How much does the "average" annual cost (I imagine that depends on who does it, but what's a good ballpark figure)?

A Lot.

How much does an engine overhaul cost, anyway?

Quite a lot more.




Spending $20,000 cash in one lump sum may be an inconsequential amount of money if your name is Bill Gates, but for me this is the most expensive thing I have ever purchased and I want to get it right the first time. Since I have 0 experience in this matter, even the tiniest tidbit of information is helpful. I know you guys will pull through.

Thanks in advance, Pistol Pete.
 
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PistolPete037

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bdewoody":3kpwe8qw said:
...
How much will it cost to eithe hangar the plane or park it on the ramp at the closest general aviation airport?
...
Forgot about hangar and tiedown costs, thanks.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
steve82":1o6kw56o said:
Don't worry too much about what's in the maintenance log because the mechanic you hire to do the pre-buy inspection will take care of that and verify the maintenance and AD compliance.
Well, that's one less thing that I have to worry about. I already knew of the pre-buy inspection but don't know much about it. Is it somewhat similar to an annual? I imagine that if this is the case, then it would cost about the same, meaning that one is only done if you are very serious about buying the airplane.

steve82":1o6kw56o said:
You can get a good deal buying one past TBO but then expect to spend another $20k overhauling it. Realize that as soon as you open the cowl to overhaul, you'll start to find lots of other old things that need to be fixed that will add up the bucks.
When I first saw that number, I thought that I misread it, then upon closer inspection I thought that it must be a typo. A Google search reveals that $15-20k is about average. This makes a strong case for spending the extra few thousand dollars to buy one with low TSMOH. From my POV it makes sense to do this because the aircraft that I buy, I am going to keep for quite a few years. If I'm going to have to basically re-buy the aircraft a year after I buy it because the engine has to get overhauled, then it is not worth it.

From what I've been able to scrounge on the Internet, Teledyne Continental states that the engine should be overhauled every 1,800 hours. Advice from one certified A&P that I read says that there is no problem flying any engine past the recommended overhaul time as so long as compression and oil tests indicated that the engine was still good. It's possible to get 500 or 1,000 extra hours out of an engine before it really should be overhauled. Of course, the longer you go after the recommended overhaul time, the more often you should conduct the engine tests. Eventually, you're going to be paying for tests so often, that you might just go ahead and overhaul it.

If I buy an aircraft with 500 hours, run it 500 hours after the recommended overhaul time, and fly it an average of 100 hours a year, then I could fly it for 18 years before having to overhaul the engine! Of course, this number drops if I fly it more often, especially if I'm flying it to build up hours for ratings and certifications. Still, even at twice that average rate, it will take me nine years to reach my estimated overhaul point. At that point I may end up paying for the overhaul and then immediately sell it for the price of the overhaul just to recoup that cost.

Comparing the price of a low TSMOH Cessna 150 with the average cost of an overhaul, I get the feeling that I'm not the first person to have this idea. :D

steve82":1o6kw56o said:
You can do a 337 search through AOPA to look for major mods or damage history. The 337 is the form that has to be submitted after a major modification of repair and it's tied to the N-number.
Thanks, didn't know that.

steve82":1o6kw56o said:
Check that all the avionics work. They will be old and obsolete, and probably the first thing that will need replacing but if they still work at all that means the plane is being flown-you need to get out to the hangar and turn all the radios on for 15 minutes every month or so in a plane that isn't flying just to head up all the electronics and keep the corrosion out.
A quick glance at Trade-a-Plane or Barnstormers.com reveals that there seems to be no standard avionics set for the '150. Boy do they run the gambit! I've seen everything from dual Nav/Coms with dual OBS (one with a GS needle) and the latest Garmin hand-held GPS, to one Nav/Com (sometimes not even a Nav, just the Com) with an ADF that looks like it uses vacuum tubes! The average seems to be one Nav/Com with one OBS and maybe a GPS. Used Nav/Com/OBS combos don't seem to cost that much (average: $500) but I imagine the labor costs to install it are several times that much. Yoke mounted GPSs are about as expensive, but I imagine that you don't need an A&P license to install one, so I have that going for me.

steve82":1o6kw56o said:
It's a nasty job but if your mechanic can get the headliner off during his pre-buy-the 150's wing box up there is where you find a lot of corrosion that never gets noticed at annuals, it could be a make or break decision on the plane.
Wow, more stuff I didn't know! Thanks.

steve82":1o6kw56o said:
Make sure it has been flown. I'd rather buy a plane with 10,000 hours on it that's been flown and maintained a lot than a plane that's only acquired 800 hours in 20 years.
Sounds pretty common sense to me. I'll keep that in mind.

steve82":1o6kw56o said:
There's lots of other little things but I can't think of them right now. Just expect on an older plane you'll have at least what you paid for it additional invested after about 5 years. THat's ok though, as long as you're flying it.
With fuel, annuals, ADs, upgrades, and other unforeseen expenses, I imagine that even under a best-case scenario, this is not far from the truth.
 
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PistolPete037

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scottb50":quzmbpkg said:
I would look into the modified 150's. 180 hp. engine, big tires, stol kit, surprisingly good speed. Get one already modified to beat the paperwork, the STC is the expensive part.
I think I saw one like that at Barnstormers.com with a MOGAS STC as well. It was going for $16,500, not a bad price.

scottb50":quzmbpkg said:
As far as flying past TBO if it is running alright and doesn't have any problems it's fine. Need a head replaced and it's better to overhaul the engine.
I've heard that elsewhere, as well. And I'll take the cylinder heads into consideration when deciding when to overhaul the engine.

scottb50":quzmbpkg said:
Are there any expenses beyond sticker price that I should take into my calculations? YES

How much does the "average" annual cost (I imagine that depends on who does it, but what's a good ballpark figure)?

A Lot.

How much does an engine overhaul cost, anyway?

Quite a lot more.
Well no kidding, Einstein! Maybe after I buy this airplane, what do you say you and me get together and solve this whole "Theory of Everything" situation. With our combined brainpower we should have it figured out in a week. ;)

All kidding aside, of course I understand that everything to do with an airplane is expensive. However, even in aviation expensive is a relative term. What would be a cheap repair on one aircraft might be too expensive to be worthwhile on another. The problem is that I am a total novice at this. Even a SWAG from somebody who has actually owned an aircraft is infinitely more information than I currently posses.

Don't get me wrong, I really do appreciate your help, I'm just trying to clarify what I want to know. At this point I'm an information vacuum, I'm trying to absorb as much data as I can.
 
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scottb50

Guest
PistolPete037":34kj4dsa said:
Well no kidding, Einstein! Maybe after I buy this airplane, what do you say you and me get together and solve this whole "Theory of Everything" situation. With our combined brainpower we should have it figured out in a week. ;)

All kidding aside, of course I understand that everything to do with an airplane is expensive. However, even in aviation expensive is a relative term. What would be a cheap repair on one aircraft might be too expensive to be worthwhile on another. The problem is that I am a total novice at this. Even a SWAG from somebody who has actually owned an aircraft is infinitely more information than I currently posses.

Don't get me wrong, I really do appreciate your help, I'm just trying to clarify what I want to know. At this point I'm an information vacuum, I'm trying to absorb as much data as I can.
With a 150 or similar airplane you could be pretty self sufficient, find a shop you like for inspections and any work you can't do yourself. As stated before corrosion is a major issue, most Cessnas have problems in the main gear area and tail, the upper cabin is not a high stress area. With the bigger engines firewall damage from the nose-gear may also be an issue to watch closely, a common problem on all the Cessnas that started with tailwheels especially.

There are also many ways to reduce costs if you aren't using it for commercial purposes. Older Cessna voltage regulators could be had at NAPA for a fraction of Cessna's cost. The alternator on a Cherokee 180 is the same as a Dodge truck. I needed a florescent tube light for the instrument panel in a Lear 25, $1800.00 from Lear $8.00 at an RV dealer.

There are plenty of AP's who will do very reasonable annuals when they know how you maintain your aircraft yourself, key is to make sure everything is completely compliant, AD's, applicable service bulletins and paper work for any STC's, repairs or other alterations. If the shop or mechanic you have signs off on the purchase insist on a fresh Annual as part of the inspection.

A mid-time or even higher time engine, depending on maintenance history, is actually a good think. A happy engine is a good engine and if it runs just fine and hasn't had too many major problems, cylinders especially, it will last a long time. I would feel safer with that engine then a new or overhauled one.

Depending on what you want to do the panel could accommodate pretty much anything available, or installed equipment might be just fine for hard vfr. Add some soundproofing, probably lighter then the older upholstery. Or you could take the doors off and go commando. Land and takeoff in 500 feet or less, cruise, restricted by established red line, big tires would help slow you down.
 
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newsartist

Guest
I would suggest that you join the EAA, and spend at least a week at Oshkosh, next month. (Camping on the field, not day tripping.)

Answers to just about everything in aviation are on that airport!
 
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scottb50

Guest
newsartist":1iftx28n said:
I would suggest that you join the EAA, and spend at least a week at Oshkosh, next month. (Camping on the field, not day tripping.)

Answers to just about everything in aviation are on that airport!
I would heartily agree, good time for all. It would be like a college course in a week.
 
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steve82

Guest
This thread got me looking through some old records. We bought our plane in 1996 and here are the expenses we had that year:
Airplane purchase price (1976 Cessna 172) $29,995.
Tires and Tubes $297.
Replace tires $120.
New fuel drain plug $50.
Stainless steel screws $69.
Replace ELT antenna $109.
Strip and repaint $6635.
New main gear strut fairings $147.
Insurance $821.
Hangar rental $135./mo.
New Seat rails, Wing tips, stabilizer tips, Wing strut plastics,
Air filter, Air filter Brackett Wheel bearings, plugs, etc. $2,205.
Annual Inspection (labor) $1,280.
Check plugs and replace cowl shock mount $156.
Title Search $55.
Install PTT switch $93.
Purchase wheel pants $300.
Replace old intercom and install front and rear jacks $839.
Work on old Cessna radios before giving up $202.

So we put an additional $14998, roughly half, into our $30k plane the first year. Bear in mind we bought it knowing it needed new paint, but the other expenses are, I think, typical and they don't really involve any major avionics upgrades, either. We also put about 200 hours on it that first year burning 7.7 gallons/hour.
We still have the plane, it runs like a top, although we've also put in a lot of upgrades at one time or another. We put in a factory new engine and tuned PowerFlow exhaust (about 27 extra horsepower) a few years back rather than overhaul because, although the compressions stayed good until about 2,200 hours, by then we were looking at needing a new cylinder and the exhaust manifold was coming apart too. We were doing a lot of volunteer flying and wanted to keep the engine up so we swapped it out for a new one. The GPS we put in a few years back (We have a 30-year old Cessna radio that still works fine!) is finally giving up the ghost and we're going to replace it as soon as I figure out whether I'm still going to be working next month as I'm about to get laid off from the Orion program.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
scottb50":2yz55o7e said:
With a 150 or similar airplane you could be pretty self sufficient, find a shop you like for inspections and any work you can't do yourself. As stated before corrosion is a major issue, most Cessnas have problems in the main gear area and tail, the upper cabin is not a high stress area. With the bigger engines firewall damage from the nose-gear may also be an issue to watch closely, a common problem on all the Cessnas that started with tailwheels especially.
I'll keep those corrosion-prone areas in mind. I've had some very expensive experience with the infamous Cessna nose gear. It's the Achilles heel of all Cessna single-engine pistons.

scottb50":2yz55o7e said:
There are also many ways to reduce costs if you aren't using it for commercial purposes. Older Cessna voltage regulators could be had at NAPA for a fraction of Cessna's cost. The alternator on a Cherokee 180 is the same as a Dodge truck. I needed a florescent tube light for the instrument panel in a Lear 25, $1800.00 from Lear $8.00 at an RV dealer.
Is that, strictly speaking, legal? I remember about 9 months ago Southwest Airlines got into some hot water with the FAA because they used some parts that were not deemed acceptable by the FAA. In reality, these parts weren't unsuitable for the aircraft, they just weren't authorized on the type certificate. Is the difference that that involved a commercial operator?

scottb50":2yz55o7e said:
There are plenty of AP's who will do very reasonable annuals when they know how you maintain your aircraft yourself, key is to make sure everything is completely compliant, AD's, applicable service bulletins and paper work for any STC's, repairs or other alterations. If the shop or mechanic you have signs off on the purchase insist on a fresh Annual as part of the inspection.
Just re-read Part 43 Appendix A again. That's a rather extensive list of stuff I can do myself. I think I should sign up for some aviation maintenance classes at my local community college just so that way I don't screw it up.

scottb50":2yz55o7e said:
A mid-time or even higher time engine, depending on maintenance history, is actually a good think. A happy engine is a good engine and if it runs just fine and hasn't had too many major problems, cylinders especially, it will last a long time. I would feel safer with that engine then a new or overhauled one.
I'll take that into consideration.

scottb50":2yz55o7e said:
Depending on what you want to do the panel could accommodate pretty much anything available, or installed equipment might be just fine for hard vfr. Add some soundproofing, probably lighter then the older upholstery. Or you could take the doors off and go commando. Land and takeoff in 500 feet or less, cruise, restricted by established red line, big tires would help slow you down.
I definitely want to go for my instrument rating, maybe even a commercial and CFI certificate one day. To me, it would probably be worth maxing out the avionics as much as possible.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
steve82":349z4a1s said:
This thread got me looking through some old records. We bought our plane in 1996 and here are the expenses we had that year:
Airplane purchase price (1976 Cessna 172) $29,995.
Tires and Tubes $297.
Replace tires $120.
New fuel drain plug $50.
Stainless steel screws $69.
Replace ELT antenna $109.
Strip and repaint $6635.
New main gear strut fairings $147.
Insurance $821.
Hangar rental $135./mo.
New Seat rails, Wing tips, stabilizer tips, Wing strut plastics,
Air filter, Air filter Brackett Wheel bearings, plugs, etc. $2,205.
Annual Inspection (labor) $1,280.
Check plugs and replace cowl shock mount $156.
Title Search $55.
Install PTT switch $93.
Purchase wheel pants $300.
Replace old intercom and install front and rear jacks $839.
Work on old Cessna radios before giving up $202.

So we put an additional $14998, roughly half, into our $30k plane the first year. Bear in mind we bought it knowing it needed new paint, but the other expenses are, I think, typical and they don't really involve any major avionics upgrades, either. We also put about 200 hours on it that first year burning 7.7 gallons/hour.
We still have the plane, it runs like a top, although we've also put in a lot of upgrades at one time or another. We put in a factory new engine and tuned PowerFlow exhaust (about 27 extra horsepower) a few years back rather than overhaul because, although the compressions stayed good until about 2,200 hours, by then we were looking at needing a new cylinder and the exhaust manifold was coming apart too. We were doing a lot of volunteer flying and wanted to keep the engine up so we swapped it out for a new one. The GPS we put in a few years back (We have a 30-year old Cessna radio that still works fine!) is finally giving up the ghost and we're going to replace it as soon as I figure out whether I'm still going to be working next month as I'm about to get laid off from the Orion program.
Very informative list. I hope the guy you bought it from knocked off a few thousand off the price because of the paint job. The paint job alone is about half of what you put in to it in the first year.

BTW, sorry to hear about you loosing your job with the Orion Program. I'm a big Newspace fan, but I disagree with the outright cancellation of the Constellation Program. A restructuring, yes, but an outright cancellation just seems to be wasting more money than it is saving. I've always believed that if NASA had followed through with the bill of goods it sold Congress to begin with (a truly Shuttle-derived launch vehicle, as opposed to the bloated monstrosity that was Ares I & V), the program probably would have come in at least close to being on budget.
 
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bdewoody

Guest
I'm surprised that no one else has suggested joining or forming a small group who jointly own an airplane.
 
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scottb50

Guest
PistolPete037":yklpu541 said:
Is that, strictly speaking, legal? I remember about 9 months ago Southwest Airlines got into some hot water with the FAA because they used some parts that were not deemed acceptable by the FAA. In reality, these parts weren't unsuitable for the aircraft, they just weren't authorized on the type certificate. Is the difference that that involved a commercial operator?That depends on how strict you look at it. Commercially it's required and monitored pretty closely. When it's a personal machine it's more don't ask and don't tell. An insurance company could get out of a claim, if the part caused a problem.



PistolPete037":yklpu541 said:
I definitely want to go for my instrument rating, maybe even a commercial and CFI certificate one day. To me, it would probably be worth maxing out the avionics as much as possible.
That's why you need the bigger engine and fuel injection. Any of the available flat screens would work, if they are approved in the C-150 to begin with. Don't forget the high gross STC, 200+ pounds.
 
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Kerberos

Guest
In addition to all the good info above, I strongly suggest that you join AOPA (the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). They have a plethora of information on buying aircraft and other services.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
Kerberos":3qvgf7rw said:
In addition to all the good info above, I strongly suggest that you join AOPA (the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). They have a plethora of information on buying aircraft and other services.
You know, that's been something I've been meaning to do for the longest time...

Screw it, I'll do it now while I'm thinking about it.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
bdewoody":22ydmuuh said:
I'm surprised that no one else has suggested joining or forming a small group who jointly own an airplane.
You know, I've considered it but it just never appealed to me. Logic and reason dictates that this might make a good option for a first-time buyer, but there's something psychological about owning something outright. This is probably the only chance I'll get in my life to buy an airplane outright with cash (I'm tired of paying off loans), so if it means settling for a less capable aircraft to meet my budget, I'll do it.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
scottb50":3fafacqr said:
That's why you need the bigger engine and fuel injection. Any of the available flat screens would work, if they are approved in the C-150 to begin with. Don't forget the high gross STC, 200+ pounds.
The FAA's web site lists multiple STCs for MFDs that can be installed on the '150 including the Bendix/King 550 and the Garmin GMX 200.
 
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scottb50

Guest
PistolPete037":2r56o0zj said:
The FAA's web site lists multiple STCs for MFDs that can be installed on the '150 including the Bendix/King 550 and the Garmin GMX 200.
An autopilot would be nice too, especially with the Garmin or some of the others, GPS is definitely the way to go. I doubt many are certified for the 150. I do hate those air vents though, but they do work great.

What I would really like is a 150 with a turbo-charged 180 engine, pressurized cabin, retractable high flotation landing gear with a Red line at 250 kts. Perfect for getting around the neighborhood, a jeep without the bumps, or 4 or five hours away cross country at 200+ kts. Land pretty much anywhere, a short road, trail or back yard.

But, a 150, with a 180 engine, would come pretty close. You could still use the roads and trails and go faster at your peril.
 
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PistolPete037

Guest
It's been a couple of months and I thought I'd give you guys a bit of an update on the search. A lot has happened in the last two months and all of the advice here has been very helpful - especially the advice about joining the AOPA (thanks Kerberos). The amount of money that I have saved due to AOPA discounts on various services relating to purchasing an airplane has already exceeded the annual membership dues, and I haven't even bought an airplane yet!

I came very close to buying an airplane last week, but decided to nix the deal when it became obvious that he was either an idiot or he was trying to scam me (either alternative is bad when the person selling the airplane has also been the A&P for the airplane for the last 10 years). I've been perusing web sites such as Barnstormers.com, Trade-a-Plane, and Controller.com to keep a pulse on the used airplane market while I'm in Afghanistan. I wasn't looking to buy until I go home on leave in October. I've noticed that most of the good deals seem to be on the west coast or otherwise more than 1,500 miles away from where I live. These deals seem great until I add in the cost of flying across the country as well as hotel, meal, and rental car expenses. All together, this could easily tack on several thousand dollars to the cost of these planes, making them practically not worth it - especially for a plane that I might not end up buying.

So when an ad for a 1967 Cessna 150G in Rockingham, NC appeared on Barnstormers.com for $17,000, I thought that I may have found the deal that I was looking for. I contacted the seller and asked him if he was willing to pull down the for sale sign if he was also willing to wait until October for me to get back to the states and deal with the transaction in person. He responded that he was unwilling to do this. There haven't been many adds for planes in my region for this price and in this condition. So, not willing to let a deal get away, I contacted my flight instructor back in the states to see if he would be willing to take over the task of making arrangements to have the plane inspected. I've flown with this guy for a while and I trust his opinion on airplanes. If he told me that the plane was a piece of junk, I'd take his word for it. He wouldn't actually be paying for anything, he would just make the arrangements and then I'd wire the money to him, if necessary.

I gave my instructor the seller's contact information. In my discussions with the seller prior to this, the seller (who did not own the plane, but was selling it for a friend who had become too ill to fly anymore) disclosed that he was a certified A&P and had been doing the maintenance and annuals on the airplane for the past 10 years. He was also very adamant about doing the annual before selling the airplane. While the annual wouldn't cost me anything, after talking about it with my instructor, we both came to the conclusion that doing an annual and then doing a pre-buy inspection would be rather redundant. On top of this, I was very adamant that I wanted a pre-buy inspection before I gave the guy so much as a dime, but he wanted to do the annual before anyone else got a hold of it and wasn't willing to do the annual unless I gave him a $500 deposit on the plane. We seemed to be at an impasse, and I hoped that my instructor could talk to the guy and sort things out (my schedule and the fact that I was 8,000 miles and 9 time zones away meant that there was a significant lag in communication).

No dice. In fact, when my instructor send me an e-mail the day after talking to the seller, he was very adamant that I shouldn't buy the plane because he got a bad vibe from the seller. The seller disclosed to my instructor that recently he had sold a Mooney but refused to do $900 worth of work to make the plane more sellable. Making the plane as sellable as possible is the whole point, especially in this buyers market. All of the sudden, little things that the seller had put in the original ad as well as things that he relayed to me in the e-mail exchanges I saw in a whole new light. In the original ad he said that several screws on the engine cowl would need to be replaced. He also said that he would do the annual before he sold the plane to me, so I simply assumed that he would fix the screws during the annual. This offhand comment in the ad made a lot more sense now. If he wasn't willing to spend $900 to make a Mooney more sellable, he wasn't going to fix those screws during the annual and was expecting me to fix them. If he wasn't willing to fix a few simple screws, what else wasn't he going to fix. I began to realize that there was a very real possibility that there might be something seriously wrong with the pane that he would try to hide by doing the annual himself and hoped that it would slip past the pre-buy.

Until recently, I've never seen 17,000 in relation to my bank account (hell, I've never even seen $17,000 before), so I wasn't willing to let that much money go unless I was absolutely certain that it would be well spent. While I had no proof that this guy was trying to scam me, this wasn't a court of law and I didn't need proof. I also didn't need to tell him why I didn't want the plane, but I chose to at least be honest with him and sent him an e-mail explaining my decision while being as diplomatic as possible. The point that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this guy was trying to scam me was when he replied to this e-mail. He stated that it was just as well because he wasn't going to sell me the plane anyway. He stated that he had taken off the cowling and found that the plane was a piece of junk and that the owner had snuck in maintenance deficiencies over the years. Now hold the phone just a minute, I thought. Didn't this guy in an earlier e-mail say that he had been doing the maintenance and annuals on the plane over the last 10 years? Either this A&P was completely incompetent, or he thought that I was the biggest idiot in the world.

Now, if he was an honorable man, after finding that the plane was a piece of junk, he would have changed the ad to either show a lower price, or to more accurately indicate the state of maintenance on the plane, or both. Yet, the ad sits unaltered on Barnstormers.com. I've included a link to the ad so that no one here will fall for this scam.

Barnstormers.com: 1967 Cessna 15G

Now, while I do believe in God in a general concept, I don't subscribe to any one particular religion per se. Nevertheless, I know that there is some sort of diving being that knows that I exist and, while he doesn't exactly like me, he will at least toss me a bone every now and then after messing with me for a while. Case in point: No sooner did I get off of the phone with my instructor after discussing that the Cessna was a bad deal, than one of my platoon mates happened to mention, apropos nothing, that he had just learned that he had inherited an airplane from his father who had died last year. The guy is not a pilot and said that he had no idea what to do with the plane other than sell it. He barely got that last sentence out before I commented that I was in the market for an airplane. He didn't know much about it other than the lawyer handling his father's estate said it was worth between $15,000-20,000. Exactly the price range I was looking for. But that price could literally be for any plane depending on the condition.

I asked him if he could get more info on the plane and gave him a list of specific things I was looking for (ie: TTAF, TSMO, ect.). After a few days, he said that the lawyer had been busy in court and, not knowing much about airplanes himself, was having a hard time finding the information. I asked my friend what his father's name was and where he lived before he passed away. He knew that information and I began scouring the internet to see if I could find anything. The FAA's web site actually has a lot of info on it for anyone to grab if they know how. I didn't know the N#, but I figured that I might be able to access info about his Airman Certificate and maybe use that to backwards search for the N#. It took a while and I had to go off of the FAA's web site, but I found it. Turns out it's a 1961 Piper PA-28-160 Cherokee. I don't know anything about it other than that, but I'm working on getting the FAA form 337 for the plane. I also asked my friend to see if the lawyer could take pictures of the plane, including the instrument panel, with close in shots of the Tach and Hobbs meters. With all of that info I can at least get an idea of where the plane is, maintenance wise.

I'll be honest with you, a Cherokee is a bit more airplane than I was looking for. It will raise my projected hourly operating cost from ~$50/hour to ~$75/hour, but if it's already IFR certified (most '150s aren't, but most Cherokees are) and the plane doesn't require its own price in maintenance just to get it airworthy again (a real possibility if the engine needs to be overhauled), I may actually buy it from him. It's been sitting for a year which doesn't bode well for the maintenance side of things, but even if I choose not to buy it, I'll at least help my friend out by getting the plane ready to be sold. I don't know much about buying or selling airplanes, but what I do know is infinitely more than he does. If he tries to put a plane onto the market without knowing anything about it, he could easily be swindled by someone like the guy who was trying to sell me the Cessna.
 
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steve82

Guest
I'd get a Cherokee over a 150 any day, and I don't partifcularly like Cherokees, but it's more airplane and will be easier to sell later on. But mainly I wouldn't worry about it until I got back stateside. It's definitely a buyer's market now and promises to remain so at least another year as the economy gets worse and the parts of the middle-class that were previously partly insulated from the recession start to feel it and divest themselves of their planes. I know a couple guys who just got a '91 Aerocommander with all the bells and whistles for a hundred thousand-way below blue book.
 
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scottb50

Guest
steve82":2xv1bo8x said:
I know a couple guys who just got a '91 Aerocommander with all the bells and whistles for a hundred thousand-way below blue book.
If it's a twin they are nice flying but pretty hard to keep up. I never had any experience with the singles Flew a Turbo Commander a few times. A Cherokee is definitely a more comfortable airplane and at least as easy to maintain as a Cessna. Gas is a little more, but it's also faster, so probably not a huge factor.
 
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roguesaint

Guest
Get a Bonanza it's what you are going to end up with anyway. :)

If you are any taller than 5-9, I would do everything I could to dissuade you from a 150 or a 152. I did my training in a 152 II, and as soon as I got my private I stopped flying it. You might want to look at Grumman Yankees, Cherokee 140s, and even and old straight tail 172 might be had for not much more than what you are looking to spend. As far as adding an MFD to a 152 (or any of the aforementioned), that's like installing hydraulics and a 5000W stereo system to a rusted out 83 Volare with a blown engine.

First question to ask and answer is what is your mission going to be with the plane 80% of the time?

I currently own a Piper Comanche, and previously owned a Cherokee 180.
 
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scottb50

Guest
roguesaint said:
Get a Bonanza it's what you are going to end up with anyway. :)

I flew a lot of Bonanza's, Barons and never felt comfortable in the cockpit, the rudder pedals were in the wrong place or something. An older Mooney would be a good buy and a lot are around. Not really roomy but pretty fast, electric gear is a plus.

As for adding avionics I'd want the best I could get, plus the stereo system.

I flew a couple of Comanches and a few of Twin Comanches back in the 60's and early 70's. My dad had a Cherokee 180 on lease back and it crashed. By then I was flying bigger stuff.
 
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