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Old January 13th, 2013, 03:27 PM   #1
elmetal elmetal is offline
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Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

Ok so first off let me just say this is all PRELIMINARY as in brainstorming, just having a hotel day off thinking about this stuff.


I am fascinated by champs and j3 cubs. With that said let's get down to details.

What kind of costs would I be looking at nowadays to own one of the two aircraft mentioned? What kind of yearly upkeep would I be looking at?


I want something that is extremely affordable yet allows me to have some fun flying. Ideally I'd want an RV3/4/8 but that is just outside of my price range.

I just want something I can fly completely VFR and sputter around 500AGL having some fun.

Of course, this is all preliminary.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 03:34 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I have no experience with Cubs....but I suspect that while both aircraft are similar in overall operating cost as long as you get a good one, the Champ will be a bit cheaper to acquire and thus you'd have more money available to fly it.

Lots of other low cost airplanes to consider as well - Aeronca Chief, Cessna 120/140, Luscombes, EABs like Pietenpols..etc that will do your mission.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 03:52 PM   #3
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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I have no experience with Cubs....but I suspect that while both aircraft are similar in overall operating cost as long as you get a good one, the Champ will be a bit cheaper to acquire and thus you'd have more money available to fly it.

Lots of other low cost airplanes to consider as well - Aeronca Chief, Cessna 120/140, Luscombes, EABs like Pietenpols..etc that will do your mission.
This is exactly what I wanted! more options. Of course there is something romantic about a nice yellow J3, but to be honest as long as it is extremely simple (bare minimum VFR) and a conventional gear aircraft, I don't mind much as long as it gets off the ground. I don't need to have it IFR capable, hell I don't even want radios. I want this to be a fun craft.

it would obviously be a huge plus if it could perform like an animal (say a carbon cub ss), but that is by no means a requirement. I plan on having this for myself only and for nice florida weather.

note: there is a chance I may need an electrical system for a XPDR, since I'm near KHWO, but I could just base it elsewhere

EDIT: oh yeah, the 2 biggest necessities: stick (not yoke), and conventional gear
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:03 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

The two certificated planes with the lowest TCO would likely be the Taylorcraft BC12 variety and the Luscombe 8 series. Some of the Luscombes have electrical systems, and some do not. Some of the Luscombes have metal wings, and fuselages, some have fabric wings. These would be my choice for low buck tootling around.

Note that the 30NM mode C xpndr requirement applies to 'aircraft with engine driven electrical systems'(don't want to look up the exact wording). You can operate out of that airport with a handheld radio if you want. Don't go into class B or C and you're good.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:03 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I know how ya feel. There's just something special about a cub, but the 35-45k price tag is a bit steep (and by a bit I mean very) considering what it is. You could buy a nice 172/archer or even an older Mooney/Bonanza. I know those aren't the kind of airplanes the OP is looking for but I mean just from a price comparison perspective. A taylorcraft is a nice airplane I've heard, a friend (and fellow board member) Ryan Short just bought one and seems to be very happy.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:32 PM   #6
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I recommend a Taylorcraft L2 (the military version of the DC-65). It has several advantages over a J3 IMO. You can get a very nice one in the $25k to $30k range, cheaper than a cub. They cruise faster than a cub on the same gas (about 85mph). They can have unique military history, and you own a warbird. I love the military paint schemes. The rear seat has a huge bubble observation canopy and a seat that rotates 180 degrees so the guy in back can ride backwards, with a small observer's map table behind him. Not something you'll do a lot, but still neat. Tandem seating gives good room for both people and you can open the side window in flight.

If you buy right (i.e., good condition) and know an A&P that will work with you, maintenance will probably be in the $300/yr range for the annual. "Bad" years you might be looking at $1k to $2k, and those should be pretty rare...there simply isn't that much to break. This should be true for most Cubs, Tcrafts, Champs, Chiefs, etc.

Also, if the place was certificated without an engine-driven generator, you don't need a transponder unless you actually plan on ENTERING class B or class C airspace. You can fly under Bravo without a transponder.

Planes like my Pietenpol are on the same level of fun, maybe even better as they are more unique and the open cockpit is a lot of fun. They certainly have less leg and elbow room than a Champ, for example. I'm 6' and 170lbs and my Pietenpol is fine. It is barely a two person plane though. With two adults I want to be low on fuel and only fly on a cool, calm day. Nice ones can be had for $10k to $15k, and you can do ALL of the maintenance yourself, you just need an A&P for the annual condition inspection. I've put over 400hrs on my Piet, including a 25hr round trip to Oshkosh. Loved it. My avatar picture is my wife and I flying it before we got married.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:33 PM   #7
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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The two certificated planes with the lowest TCO would likely be the Taylorcraft BC12 variety and the Luscombe 8 series. Some of the Luscombes have electrical systems, and some do not. Some of the Luscombes have metal wings, and fuselages, some have fabric wings. These would be my choice for low buck tootling around.

Note that the 30NM mode C xpndr requirement applies to 'aircraft with engine driven electrical systems'(don't want to look up the exact wording). You can operate out of that airport with a handheld radio if you want. Don't go into class B or C and you're good.
The luscombe is also a good contender. the book Zero 3 Bravo is a good reason as to why I want this aircraft. I work 7 months of the year straight and have 5 months off. I want this aircraft to be my home for the 5 months as I travel around or do whatever seems good. I don't have a home or a car. Just a motorcycle.

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I know how ya feel. There's just something special about a cub, but the 35-45k price tag is a bit steep (and by a bit I mean very) considering what it is. You could buy a nice 172/archer or even an older Mooney/Bonanza. I know those aren't the kind of airplanes the OP is looking for but I mean just from a price comparison perspective. A taylorcraft is a nice airplane I've heard, a friend (and fellow board member) Ryan Short just bought one and seems to be very happy.
I agree for sure. You're really paying for the j3 name and history, not for the aircraft itself. Coincidentally I am working with Ryan on getting my TW this coming February! I may or may not do it in the taylorcraft. I am leaning towards the J3 simply because of what I bolded above.

But yeah I want something that is cheap to maintain and cheap to acquire. With that said, it can even be an experimental so long as it is a proven airframe (like an RV). I think the 2 suggestions you made, docmirror, are spot on to the direction I want to take this.

If you haven't read zero 3 bravo, I recommend it. That and Flight of Passage are 2 books that make me want this to be my off season plan to just, travel around aimlessly camping wherever I may end up. They have an extremely similar idea but 2 very different stories.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:35 PM   #8
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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I recommend a Taylorcraft L2 (the military version of the DC-65). It has several advantages over a J3 IMO. You can get a very nice one in the $25k to $30k range, cheaper than a cub. They cruise faster than a cub on the same gas (about 85mph). They can have unique military history, and you own a warbird. I love the military paint schemes. The rear seat has a huge bubble observation canopy and a seat that rotates 180 degrees so the guy in back can ride backwards, with a small observer's map table behind him. Not something you'll do a lot, but still neat. Tandem seating gives good room for both people and you can open the side window in flight.

If you buy right (i.e., good condition) and know an A&P that will work with you, maintenance will probably be in the $300/yr range for the annual. "Bad" years you might be looking at $1k to $2k, and those should be pretty rare...there simply isn't that much to break. This should be true for most Cubs, Tcrafts, Champs, Chiefs, etc.

Also, if the place was certificated without an engine-driven generator, you don't need a transponder unless you actually plan on ENTERING class B or class C airspace. You can fly under Bravo without a transponder.

Planes like my Pietenpol are on the same level of fun, maybe even better as they are more unique and the open cockpit is a lot of fun. They certainly have less leg and elbow room than a Champ, for example. I'm 6' and 170lbs and my Pietenpol is fine. It is barely a two person plane though. With two adults I want to be low on fuel and only fly on a cool, calm day. Nice ones can be had for $10k to $15k, and you can do ALL of the maintenance yourself, you just need an A&P for the annual condition inspection. I've put over 400hrs on my Piet, including a 25hr round trip to Oshkosh. Loved it. My avatar picture is my wife and I flying it before we got married.

that sounds fantastic! The lack of need for an A&P annual aside is a big plus as well, I love working on cars, so in theory I should love working on planes had I ever been allowed to do it!
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:47 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I've flown, owned, and worked on Champs, Cubs, Taylorcraft,
Luscombe, Citabria's, and Cessna 140's.
All great airplanes, find the nicest one that's close.
My C85 Vagabond costs me $700.00 a year for insurance,
$760.00 for hangar, and parts for the annual under $100.00.
I do my own annuals. 5 gallons of gas an hour and a whole lot of fun.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 04:54 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I've flown most of the planes mentioned in this thread. The Cub is the most fun for local flying, it just is. The Champ is a close second, and has the advantage of being soloed from the front seat.

The Taylorcraft suffers from side-by-side seating and control wheels. It's a sweet flyer though.

Luscombes are ground loops waiting to happen, and very crowded.

I'd go with either a Cub or a Champ, the Champ will probably be a bit cheaper.

Edited to add: I have not flown an L-2 Taylorcraft, but if has tandem seats and flies as nice as the side-by-side TCraft then that would be an awesome airplane.

Last edited by JimNtexas; January 13th, 2013 at 04:58 PM.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 05:08 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

Based on my shopping, you pay a premium for a Cub - at least $10K to $15K compared to some of the other aircraft mentioned.

Typically, LSA goes for more than similar not LSA aircraft so you can get more airplane for the dollar if you are willing to go with a Cessna 150/152. I have not checked Cessna 120/140 prices recently.

If you don't need a certificated aircraft there are lots of E-AB options in the same speed / capacity range - Avid Flyer and the various clones spring to mind (like Kitfox or Merlin GT (what I own)). You should be able to pick something up for on the order of $25K. Less if you are willing to go with a two stroke (I'm not, fwiw). Preceptor Ultra Pup seems to be a nice design but the original company is quite defunct.

No electric may seem romantic, but personally I find a starter to be convenient. I haven't been impressed with the hand held radio plugged into a portable intercom arrangements that I have seen.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 06:53 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I've owned Champs and Luscombes and flown just about all of the rest. When it comes to which one to own now, I'd still go with my first love the Champ, but this time around I'd look for one with either 85 or 100 hp and I'd want one with the aluminum spar. I guess I would also consider a good PA-11 if I could find one. I've flown a J-3 a bit and other than the folding door and window, there's not really that much going for it. I don't really like flying it from the back seat, but I understand there are ways around that now. The Luscombes aren't ground loops waiting to happen, they actually fly quite nicely, but like all taildraggers you do need to pay attention during takeoff and landing - no different than any other taildragger. Talk like that comes from folks who have little or no time in them. I didn't like the restricted visibility in the Taylorcraft or the flight control system on the Ercoupes. (The Mooney M-10 and the Alon variants with conventional controls flew much better in my opinion). It all boils down to whatever floats your boat. If you're a J-3 fan then nothing but a J-3 will ever do. If you're not, then there are plenty of classic aircraft out there that you can own comparatively inexpensively and have a ball flying.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 07:04 PM   #13
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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I've owned Champs and Luscombes and flown just about all of the rest. When it comes to which one to own now, I'd still go with my first love the Champ, but this time around I'd look for one with either 85 or 100 hp and I'd want one with the aluminum spar. I guess I would also consider a good PA-11 if I could find one. I've flown a J-3 a bit and other than the folding door and window, there's not really that much going for it. I don't really like flying it from the back seat, but I understand there are ways around that now. The Luscombes aren't ground loops waiting to happen, they actually fly quite nicely, but like all taildraggers you do need to pay attention during takeoff and landing - no different than any other taildragger. Talk like that comes from folks who have little or no time in them. I didn't like the restricted visibility in the Taylorcraft or the flight control system on the Ercoupes. (The Mooney M-10 and the Alon variants with conventional controls flew much better in my opinion). It all boils down to whatever floats your boat. If you're a J-3 fan then nothing but a J-3 will ever do. If you're not, then there are plenty of classic aircraft out there that you can own comparatively inexpensively and have a ball flying.
Now it's just a matter of finding something within reasonable price range. This would probably go down in about spring 2014.

I typically live in florida, so finding a decent plane here will be impossible due to all the sun beat down.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 08:21 PM   #14
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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Edited to add: I have not flown an L-2 Taylorcraft, but if has tandem seats and flies as nice as the side-by-side TCraft then that would be an awesome airplane.
I think they are great. A real joy to fly, and significantly faster than a Cub for what that is worth (i.e., more MPG), which is nice when you actually want to go somewhere.

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that sounds fantastic! The lack of need for an A&P annual aside is a big plus as well, I love working on cars, so in theory I should love working on planes had I ever been allowed to do it!
Working on planes is actually easier than working on cars, in general, IMO. Excluding fabric work or things like that which are a completely new skill. Continental and Lycoming engines are dirt simple.

I'll add that anything with 85hp or better will give you significantly more performance than 65 or 75hp. A C-90 or O-200 is ideal in any of these planes, IMO.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 08:34 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

It sounds like solo will be your 90% or so mission so the cramped quarters aren't as big a deal unless you're huge. None of these planes are spacious that's for sure. The J3 rear seat solo is a bit of a hassle to me, but thousands of people do it fine, just another quirk to get used to.

My choice for mostly solo time would be the Luscombe 8E or 8F with metal wings and the C-85. With a small amount of massaging, you can get 100HP out of it, and try to find one with the Silflex gear to make landings at least a bit easier. Still a challenge if you get lazy.

The other option that I've always liked is the BC-65 from Taylorcraft. They have these big round yokes that look like a ship wheel and are rather hilarious. After you laugh at them, you realize that the larger yoke makes aileron control rather nice, and the elevator bellcrank has been sized to match, so you can make some very nice landings with that big yoke.

Of course, as we move up in features and airframes we also move up in price. I've seen flying examples of the T craft and Luscombe for ~ $15k, but that's not a restored plane of course. One thing to be aware of is the nasty strut AD on many of these airframes. They require a regular inspection or replacement of the struts on many older planes. Have it verified before buying or it could be a $4k or more price tag.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 08:41 PM   #16
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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It sounds like solo will be your 90% or so mission so the cramped quarters aren't as big a deal unless you're huge. None of these planes are spacious that's for sure. The J3 rear seat solo is a bit of a hassle to me, but thousands of people do it fine, just another quirk to get used to.

My choice for mostly solo time would be the Luscombe 8E or 8F with metal wings and the C-85. With a small amount of massaging, you can get 100HP out of it, and try to find one with the Silflex gear to make landings at least a bit easier. Still a challenge if you get lazy.

The other option that I've always liked is the BC-65 from Taylorcraft. They have these big round yokes that look like a ship wheel and are rather hilarious. After you laugh at them, you realize that the larger yoke makes aileron control rather nice, and the elevator bellcrank has been sized to match, so you can make some very nice landings with that big yoke.

Of course, as we move up in features and airframes we also move up in price. I've seen flying examples of the T craft and Luscombe for ~ $15k, but that's not a restored plane of course. One thing to be aware of is the nasty strut AD on many of these airframes. They require a regular inspection or replacement of the struts on many older planes. Have it verified before buying or it could be a $4k or more price tag.

The luscombe sounds perfect for the job it seems like. I don't particularly want it to get anywhere any faster than I would in a car.

I need to find a working luscombe somewhere in the US so I can fly it!
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Old January 13th, 2013, 09:49 PM   #17
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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My choice for mostly solo time would be the Luscombe 8E or 8F with metal wings and the C-85. With a small amount of massaging, you can get 100HP out of it.......

One thing to be aware of is the nasty strut AD on many of these airframes. They require a regular inspection or replacement of the struts on many older planes. Have it verified before buying or it could be a $4k or more price tag.
The Luscombe also has some nasty spar and spar carrythrough ADs:

http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Gu...light=luscombe

http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Gu...light=luscombe

These apparently have to do with aluminum alloys that suffer intergranular corrosion due to aging and so on. An airplane with corroded spars or other such primary structure could turn out to be worthless. Be careful.

The C-85 tricked out to 100 hp is little more than an O-200, which, I believe, doesn't really produce 100 hp. I have flown many O-200s, and none of them pulled as well as the C-90 in a final version of the Ercoupe. To get the extra horses, one raises the redline RPM and feeds it more fuel. Much of the extra horsepower generated goes into fighting increased drag on the prop at the higher RPMs instead of into more performance.

As far as the Champs: Nice, fun-to-fly airplanes but those wooden spars are prone to cracking in numerous places and there's an expensive AD on those, too. Some of the cracking is due to the inevitable shrinking, across the grain, of the spar planks, and since the aluminum ribs are held to the spar by three brass nails through the rib flange, the nails force the grain apart as the wood narrows but the aluminum rib flange stays the same dimension. More cracks can be found on the top and bottom of the spars at the ends of the plywood strut attach doublers, and around the fuselage attach bolt bushings in the spar roots. It's just another issue that can make an airplane worthless.
http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Gu...F?OpenDocument

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Old January 13th, 2013, 10:09 PM   #18
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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As far as the Champs: Nice, fun-to-fly airplanes but those wooden spars are prone to cracking in numerous places and there's an expensive AD on those, too. Dan
Lots of the Champs have 60+ year old (original) spars. Recent restorations and current projects (mine included) show that many (most?) of them are due for replacement. But if a Champ has a recent restoration, those spars should be good for 30-40 more years.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 10:17 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

Bummer about the corrosion ADs, that's a good catch. As for the increase in HP of the C-85, anything is better than nothing. I'd like to have 2450 or whatever revs over 2300. Not sure how much better, but better, is still better, even slightly.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 11:29 PM   #20
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

I probably have no street cred in this thread because I have no tail wheel endorsement, but I do have an observation. The OP said he would really like to have an RV3-4-8. That means he is not adverse to a low wing.

First, I think he may be able to find an RV-3 in the price range. If it's about low cost, open air motoring, what about a Grumman AA-1? An Ercoupe, Or a Mooney Mite? Fly around with the canopy back. There's also the Rans EABs out there and lots of other low and slow options. Very affordable flying.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 11:55 PM
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

+1 for Champs or Luscombe if you if you want a stick, nothing wrong with the J3 other than premium price. J4 might be a good option as well.

Wood Spar AD is not expensive unless it finds a bad spar. Not sure I would want a 50+ year spar but it it inspects good really no reason not to.
I really haven't noticed much difference in performance between 65,75, or 85 horse engines in the these planes. I have flown a couple 0-200 conversions and they tend be heavy and don't really fly as well as the lower horse power planes.

I would look for a fairly original model. They tend to fly the best.

I am partial to the Champ it has more room inside than a J3, is one of the easier ones to get in and out of. It is probably the easiest to land by only a small margin.

If you can go for a yoke instead of stick a C-120/140 can be had for very economical prices since it doesn't qualify for LSA.

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Old January 14th, 2013, 12:59 PM
Posted in reply to elmetal's post "Buying an aeronca champ or j3?"
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

Champ Champ Champ Champ.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 01:55 PM   #23
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe View Post
No electric may seem romantic, but personally I find a starter to be convenient. I haven't been impressed with the hand held radio plugged into a portable intercom arrangements that I have seen.
I have yet to encounter any difficulty hand propping the cub, hot or cold start. 90% of the time it starts on the first flip of the prop.

We are using a handheld radio mounted to the top of the frame in the cockpit, with a portable 9v powered intercom. The PTT switch is mounted on the stick in the rear. Keeping up with batteries can be a pain, but if you can handle that - it works really well.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 02:35 PM   #24
whifferdill whifferdill is offline
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

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Originally Posted by dell30rb View Post
We are using a handheld radio mounted to the top of the frame in the cockpit, with a portable 9v powered intercom. The PTT switch is mounted on the stick in the rear. Keeping up with batteries can be a pain, but if you can handle that - it works really well.
Yep, the key to these airplanes and handheld radios is a shielded ignition harness and an external antennae. Have those two things and you can't tell the difference over the air between a handheld and a "normal" radio installation. My old Champ had neither at first, and radio reception and especially transmission wasn't good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by elmetal View Post
You're really paying for the j3 name and history, not for the aircraft itself.
Not altogether. Cubs do have the nostalgia and look going for them, but also, nothing flies like a light, stock J-3. Most Cub lovers get over the nostalgia and love them for their flight and handling characterstics. Many prefer the ergonomics of the Champ (it was designed around many of the Cub's "faults"), but you rarely hear anyone say they prefer the flying qualities of the Champ. Some actually PREFER the less "modern" attributes of the Cub. No reason to write more about that. You can google "Cub vs. Champ" and find plenty. I learned to fly in a Champ and owned one, but I'll take a Cub anyday just to fly.

Last edited by whifferdill; January 14th, 2013 at 02:48 PM.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 06:59 PM
Posted in reply to elmetal's post "Buying an aeronca champ or j3?"
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Re: Buying an aeronca champ or j3?

Each of the aircraft has it's finer points.

The Cub is a classic, and will be a fun aircraft to fly. It's got the open cockpit nostalgia and handles well. It's major draw back is that it's about slowest of the lot - doing well to push 70 mph on it's 65 hp. It's fairly stable in yaw and probably has the best slow-speed characteristics. It's going to be the priciest of the lot.

The Champ is probably better than the Cub for visibility. It's a bit more unstable in yaw, and isn't as "fun" from the open cockpit standpoint. It's marginally faster than the Cub and also has better forward visibility. Good Champs seem to hold their value in price pretty well.

The Chief is a side-by side version of the Champ and is probably the cheapest aircraft you'll find if you are patient. It's about the same airspeed as the Champ and is side-by side as well as having a yoke. This isn't always a drawback as some find it easier to teach in side-by-side and some people like my wife prefer being side-by-side.

The Taylorcraft is my favorite of the lot. It's significantly faster (95 mph) on the same hp and fuel burn - which is really nice if you want to fly on a windy day or go somewhere, and is a bit more stable in flight - which is also nice on a longer flight. It also seems to be easier to keep straight on the ground (in my experience so far). It, like the Chief, is a side-by-side trainer and has a yoke. It's probably the second cheapest of the lot. My biggest gripe with the Taylorcraft is that the view, while adequate, is not nearly as good as a Cub.

The Luscombe is a nice aircraft and probably the fastest. It's a bit more pricey, but not much more so than say a Champ. Some are LSA, while others are not and you may find a non LSA qualified Luscombe for cheaper. They are nice and responsive with an average view from the cockpit. They can be a little more squirrely on the ground, but not terribly so.

That's my two cents.

Ryan
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