Aztez.. Pretty Freaking Cool Plane

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Tantalum, Mar 31, 2021.

  1. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Long story short:
    I love the thing and I want one.. hopefully sooner (ish) than later I can make that a reality



    Short story long:
    As you know I'm a "Cirrus guy" and still contend that for single engine piston it's the "best" .. some missions it's not ideal for, but it does most of them pretty well. There are a few Cirrus clubs in San Diego and Plus One has a couple Cirri but for a number of reasons I went and got my multi. As cool as the plane is I'm of the opinion that nothing can replace the security of a second engine. Over mountains, desert, open water, seeing a donk out on each wing is HUGE piece of mind

    So I went and got my multi back in October and have been building time since then

    I recently finished my checkout in our Aztec.. which is rarely flown. It's not open for training so that shrinks the pool to a very small group of people. That's good for me =D



    What I love:

    It just feels "big" .. but not dumb. It goes where you point it and won't surprise you, it does what you ask it to. But, it's not light, it is heavy, you had to trim, and the plane will respond well to conviction. Like riding a big, young horse.. sorta

    This is true with all twins, but really stands out in the Aztec.. I haven't had it at max gross yet with 6 folks, but so far the climb rates I'm seeing are bananas.. so that's really cool.

    My landings in the Aztec are the best landings I've ever had. Not sure if it's the gear design, wings, or maybe's it's just "right for me" but these are consistent greasers

    Front and rear luggage, with respectable weight limits.. this means you can really work the CG range to stay within parameters. Oh and the baggage compartments are huge.

    The overall "steam punk" classic nature of it. Big toggles for mags. A proper hydraulic pump. Everything on the plane just seems overbuilt. None of that dinky C-172 stuff

    EVERY. SEAT. IS COMFORTABLE. I have sat in all three rows.. and each row has plenty of leg room and headroom (I'm 6 foot). Even the rearmost seat is plenty wide for two adults to sit back there. None of that C-210 nonsense where the third row is largely decorational

    The gasper vents and lights for each passenger, awesome.

    The fact that is does not have club seating. Hate that about Saratogas and Beech.. who wants to fly facing backwards? Maybe it's just me but this always bugged me

    It's fast.. very fast. This plane will get right up into the yellow arc no problem, atleast down low (under 6K) without a problem

    The big "all flying" horizontal stab

    It just feels strong. Everything about it feels overbuilt.

    What I don't love:
    One door. It's a big door and the plane is big enough that you can almost walk right in.. but I do love that big rear door on the other Pipers and the huge swing out doors on the Beech

    Sucks that there's nothing else like it out there and that Piper stopped building them. It has real pretty lines. The later Pipers, including Navajo, etc., just look too boxy and "corporate" - this things looks like it was drawn on a piece of paper by someone who cares

    Anyway.. that's enough. But I love it. This is my new "go to" plane for trips.

    Sometimes the size of a plane is hard to scale.. I thought the FJ made for a good reference

    Oh, before I forget, @GRG55 .. really cool plane! This one is an Aztec C.. so one (left) hydraulic pump.. however it's got a later installed electric aux pump that the gear handle flicks on when you retract it
    upload_2021-3-31_23-29-47.png
     
  2. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What does it cruise at at say 8k?
     
  3. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Line Up and Wait

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    Cool info on a plane you don't hear a lot about. It would be great to see some panel pics.
     
  4. 86Aviator

    86Aviator Pre-takeoff checklist

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    gorgeous plane. great review.
     
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  5. Justin M

    Justin M Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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  6. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    man, if only someone on poa who owns and aztec had done a write-up with all this info.................................................
     
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  7. charheep

    charheep Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Whats the rental rate?
     
  8. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    I'm curious about these words you used in the same sentence. "Aztec" and "fast". I think you're the first person to make such an accusation in the history of aviation. ;)

    Are you flying a turbo or N/A Aztec? All my time is in the N/A one I used to own.

    They really are great and underappreciated aircraft.
     
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  9. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    I'd figure about 12 - 16 gal per hour [/edit - per side] in cruise depending on how you lean it and how fast you want to go. I haven't flown them in awhile but I think we used to flight plan them for 155ish.
     
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  10. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    Great ships. Heavy on the controls is good in my book. Will carry anything you can stuff in it. Affectionately an AzTruck. I did my multi in an "F" model and was chief pilot for a freight operation with several earlier models. Great for funeral homes. I saw one down at Lakeland, FL which was modified with a larger cargo door so they could just slide the big box in and out.
     
  11. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    155 is what I planned for in my D model. I ran it LOP and would do 20-22 GPH combined.
     
  12. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You know, it seems to me, if I were going to delve into a twin, I'd want faster. My concern is proficiency, getting there and maintaining it. But if I ever get to the point where I feel I can maintain proficiency, I'm thinking a twin cessna.
     
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  13. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Twin Cessnas are faster, no doubt. But it does depend on your mission.
     
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  14. aftCG

    aftCG Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'm still hung up on "it has real pretty lines". Then I saw it was April 1st and it all made sense.
     
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  15. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Agree. Though it was a big change for me so the difference stood out
     
  16. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Somewhere between 165 and 175 knots. It's a wet rate, so fuel is "less" of a concern that an owner maintained. I imagine most people directly paying for gas probably plan for 150-160.. but in my experience 168-170 ish at 8K when reasonably leaned seems typical. This is very close to the NA SR22 we have.. so I categorized in the "fast" realm

    $315.. which puts it in the range of what Cirrus around here rent for, actually "cheaper" than the turbo G5 at SEE. But, what you lose in some (wait, all) of the modern accoutrements you make in the ability to take two (or three) couples and luggage.. vs "what you do you mean it's a million dollar plane and we can only take one friend and 15 lbs of bags each?!"

    haha! I guess it's all relative. Outside of the Cirrus it's the fastest thing I have access to. I mean.. it flies north of 150 knots even when dialed back and will give you 170 if you ask for it. What else can do that and load up all six seats?

    This is NA as well.

    Yes! I knew very little about them up until a year ago

    Very pretty planes too.. awesome ramp presence the way the sit high on their gear

    I agree. Most of my pilot friends were raised with the mentality that a second engine simply gets you to the crash site quicker.. that's why this has become my "go-to" for going places. It's comparable (actually slightly cheaper per hour) to the Cirrus

    I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like the swoopy round lines.

    see below.. everything works and the 530 has XM weather.. otherwise it's quite a step back in time! Also, reminder that it's a club plane, but here's what it has. Like I said, it all works. But it's old. Check out the marker lights on the top left!

    upload_2021-4-1_10-58-34.png
    upload_2021-4-1_10-58-55.png
    upload_2021-4-1_10-59-26.png
     
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  17. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    My 1979 naturally aspirated 'F' trues out at 165 knots at 10,000 ft, burning 28 gph +/- 0.5 gph all in (taxi, climb, cruise, decent, taxi). In cruise if I dial back the engines to 2250 rpm (about 155kt TAS) I can get the fuel flow down to 11 gallons per side in cruise once properly leaned (I flight plan for 24 gph all in and that's been verified repeatedly with fuel tank measurements on numerous cross country trips). I generally fly between 8,000 and 13,000 ft, more often on the high end of that range (my home airport is 4000 ASL).

    The 'C' model @Tantalum is flying is likely a bit faster (the 'C' is consistently reputed to be the fastest of the Aztec models).

    LOL. You really got spoiled by the MU-2. You know that, don't you!

    Bingo! It's one of the few true 6-seat piston airplanes out there. And by true 6-seater I mean it can carry 6 adults (without the rear seat passengers sitting with their knees around their ears), baggage for everyone and fuel for at least 4 hour legs with IFR reserve.

    The Cessna 310, the higher horsepower 55-series Barons and the Cherokee-6 are about the only other non-pressurized piston airplanes that come to mind that can do that.

    Apparently almost everybody wants faster, no matter what they fly. As with every airplane I've owned it's all a matter of economic tradeoffs. Faster is certainly available, but it will cost you a LOT more in initial capital investment and probably more in fuel burn as well. I'm also flying with a pair of solid 2000 hour TBO injected, naturally aspirated Lycomings - in the "understressed" 250 hp version on the Aztec it's one of the more bulletproof motors out there. Finally, I don't hesitate to take my Aztec into comparatively short fields and grass airstrips. The high lift Supercub wing and the tough airframe/gear are more than up to doing that regularly. With that wing comes a speed penalty.

    I've run the numbers repeatedly to upgrade. Every time I look at it I've decided I'm not willing to give up the comfort and safety the Aztec offers. I am 6'4", 240 lbs; I don't fit comfortably in a Baron or 340, so that reduces the number of alternatives I'll even consider. In addition, I live in the Rockies, so any twin without de-ice/anti-ice capability is a non-starter after enjoying the impressive performance the Aztec offers in that situation.

    As @Ted noted, the Aztec is an underappreciated (almost unloved) model of airplane. Except by those that fly them and own them.

     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
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  18. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Your speeds seem quite fast for an Aztec. I'm assuming you're running it fairly wide open for that. I think that the fastest I ever got from my D model was 175 KTAS, running at 25 squared at 5k feet. Normally, I would run at 2300 RPM and wide open throttle, or maybe higher RPMs at higher altitudes to account for the loss of manifold pressure.

    Now with that said, my D model needed a lot of optimization and although I improved it quite a bit, I could've done more. This C you're renting may be in a better state of repair in many ways.

    The airspeed indicator could also be wrong. ;)
     
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  19. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Very true. But the GS seems to largely tie out. From what I've read the Aztec C was "the fastest" of the group getting some refinements from the A and B and still retaining the "correct" horizontal stabilizer

    https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraft-and-ownership/aircraft-fact-sheets/piper-aztec
    ..AOPA contends that the C had a 181 knot cruise speed.. that does seem a bit too fast.. but maybe when they were brand new? I can't find it now but I read something about the stabilizer design getting some changes between the models that lead to different speeds and different pitch control sensitivities

    I forgot to mention before, the amount of down trim needed with the flaps is rather larger. You really need to hit that down trim switch the minute you touch the flaps and keep it there
     
  20. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    I think AOPA is using book numbers in that article. Oh, here's another article about Aztecs in AOPA. ;)

    https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/march/pilot/budget-buy-piper-aztec

    It's important to remember that the book numbers in those days tended to be on the optimistic side in all counts. I think some of it had to do with instrumentation, and some of it had to do with marketing. But the planes were also new all around - new props, new engines, all the gaps and seams supposedly lined up, and all of those things add up significantly.

    The flaps and trim I think was that way until the F model, where they did some sort of interconnect between them. You learn to hit the flaps and push the yoke forward while the trim catches up.
     
  21. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    You are correct about the stabilators. Piper played around with them quite a bit.

    The 1979 'F' I own has a different stabilator with external counterweights and it is linked to the flap system to moderate the pitch up tendency on initial flap deployment. But my plane still needs a firm push on the yoke to counter the ballooning.

    There's a definite loss of a few knots because of that stabilator. In fact part way through the 'F' model production (1976-1981) Piper switched back to the internal counterbalance stabilator, produced a few airplanes, and then switched back to the stabilator I have before ending production permanently in 1981.
     
  22. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Nice!! Great article. Now I just need to convince Mrs.Tantalum that buying one makes sense............

    Especially love:
    upload_2021-4-1_13-22-55.png

    Even at 155 knots I would say that's not bad. What do most people flying 60s and 70s planes actually cruise at? Sure there is faster.. but if you can get a light piston twin over 150 knots I would say you're doing alright..

    I think part of my "it's fast!" was the perception shock based on what people told me to expect vs what it felt like. I've never heard it was a "fast plane" either.. so I guess I was expecting something to maybe do 150-155 when you really push it.. I wouldn't consider this MP and RPM (2200) pushing it.. per the POH that's 65% power (this picture I *think* was at 4K)

    Sorry for picture quality.. I still consider myself "green" so keep any photo taking to the quick minimum!

    upload_2021-4-1_13-22-0.png

    upload_2021-4-1_13-22-21.png
     

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  23. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Really does go to show the "trial and error" nature of plane design. I only recently noticed when flying right seat with a friend in a T-Tail Arrow the slots (slats?) on the leading edge of the stabilizer
     
  24. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Glad you liked the article. :)

    The Aztec's real "competitors" in the 60s and 70s were the 310s and Barons. Both of those were significantly smaller planes on the inside, and of course the 310Rs and 58 Barons had 520s so made more power. However if you compare the Aztec to a 470-powered 310 or Baron, either one of those is generally considered a 170-175 knot airplane at normal cruise settings. While you may be seeing those numbers from the Aztec, I'd say that if you're running a 310 or Baron as hard, you'd be going faster. A Twin Comanche, while much much smaller, will also be as fast or faster than an Aztec, on much less fuel. But it's a completely different airplane.

    So really, the speed you're seeing for a piston twin is nothing remarkable. But it is faster than most piston singles.

    The hardest challenge I think most people face in finding an Aztec these days is finding a good one. So many of them were flown so hard as working planes, and were undervalued for so long, that it's hard to find truly good ones. But they're out there.

    Would I own an Aztec again? Probably not. But not because it's not a great plane, just because I've been there done that. If I were to buy another family hauler, the Aztec would actually be a great pick.
     
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  25. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    I keep waffling back and forth in my belief that this is an april fools posting. :D

    wat? o_O Aren't you coming from SR22s dude? 150 is fast for a 180hp mooney. 300hp class singles AND twins should do better. Our 160hp twin comanche did way better.

    I'm in LA next week and have zero Aztec time, but you've got me piqued now. Any interest in a mutual pepsi challenge with a Baron? I'm parking at RAL but it's trivial enough to bop down to the SD area.
     
  26. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    haha I am! but my biggest "peeve" with the SR22 was, even with the G5's 200 lb increase, that it really isn't a 4 person plane. If I have a friend in town then I can't realistically take myself, my girlfriend, and other two friends from here to Page or Sedona for a day.. not without fudging the WB figures or stopping for gas. Even a quick trick to AVX is dubious given that there is no gas there

    The Aztec changes that.. I'll get there slower, but the 10-20 knot difference in cruise speed over 300 nm is somewhat inconsequential

    ..would love a pepsi Challenge.. I'm sure the Baron is probably faster but I'll take a look at my calendar. I've only met a few POA'ers.. I'll look at my schedule
     
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  27. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    Amen. "Useful load?" is always my first question to an airplane seller, and I'm annoyed when it's omitted in the listing. It's right there in the name, is this plane going to be *useful* at all? :D
     
  28. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    I don't agree completely with this observation.

    The 55-series Barons are much smaller than an Aztec and were marketed as personal step up airplanes, the ultimate expression of which was the limited production 56TC, which I think is the airplane every twin piston speed demon on PoA should really lust after (two x 280 hp turbocharged Beech Duke Lycoming engines hung on a short body C55 Baron airframe :eek: :cool:).

    I think the evolved Twin Comanche 'B' model, that came out in 1966, was Piper's effort at a personal twin to compete with the B55 short body Baron's performance at a lower price point and a more economical operating cost.

    By the time the larger cabin 58-series Baron was introduced in 1969 the Aztec had been around a long time and the 'C' model, which included most of the important evolutionary improvements for the design, had been in the commercial/charter market for some years.

    Speed is just one performance parameter. Apparently the only one that seems to count for some folks on this forum. But as you and I both know from experience there's a lot of other things that make a particular airplane suitable for a particular set of mission criteria. And for me the Aztec checks off more of those boxes than almost all of the faster twins out there. I know because over the 9 years I've owned the Aztec I have run that exercise, in detail, numerous times. Each time I've come to the conclusion I'm just not willing to give up what it does really well for a bit more speed.

    Finding a good one requires patience. But I am seeing more of them landing in private hands as people discover how capable they are. I've come to know two retired wide-body captains that decided they were going to build up their own personal Aztecs. They could own practically anything I expect, but chose an Aztec (one naturally aspirated, same year as mine, the other an older turbocharged 'E').

    And I remember Flying magazine columnist Thomas Block writing a series of columns, circa 2000, about building up his turbo-Aztec after he retired from flying Boeings for US Airways.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
  29. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    The 56TC had two 380 HP TIO-541 engines off the Beech Duke, not 280 HP. ;)

    Correct. I was just responding to his point about the Aztec being fast and thinking that if you were going that fast you were doing pretty well.

    As far as the competition aspect, I do agree with your point that the Aztec when compared to the 310 or 55 Baron is not a good apples to apples comparison. It wasn't until the 310R or the 58 Baron that you were still a lot smaller than an Aztec with a lot less load carrying capacity, but closer. However the 310 and Baron are the closest as far as competitors go from the other manufacturers. Piper considered the Seneca to be the replacement for the Aztec as I'm told, and I laugh at that thought. But, when people are shopping for piston twins, that Aztec/310/Baron lineup is normally what people compare.

    Even comparing the MU-2 to the Aztec in terms of load capacity, it was more, but not as much more as you'd think. It was, however, a lot faster. The 414 held more than the Aztec (and the MU-2, but still not a ton more) but the 310 held a lot less. If I could've gotten my hands on that lone PA-41P (and made a few other changes to it), I would've had a hard time beating that as a near perfect airplane for Cloud Nine. And if I'd bought a turbo Aztec instead of an N/A version, that would also present an interesting question, since that would've gotten me some more speed and altitude performance.

    Fun thought experiments.
     
  30. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    Whoa, I had no idea there was a P-Aztec concept. Same TIO-540 motors?
     
  31. Brad W

    Brad W Line Up and Wait

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    I have always thought fondly to that bird's predecessor, the 1957 model Apache that I did most of my multi work in. In fact I like the look of the old round nose and round tail significantly better than the aztek needle nose.
    As the OP said...big comfortable, stable airframe
    My only real beef with it was the anemic 150HP engines. I have a little time in the 160HP version...and that was still too underpowered
    ....well and there was an off again on again issue with the door not latching that prolonged my time to get ready for the checkride..... and of course the dry rotted fuel bladders that I discovered preflighting for my checkride & prevented me from finishing my multi rating.... yeah those things are bitter in my memory....
    still I would love to have a clean apache with overpowered engines.....

    Don't know if this will work...I googled the tail number...can't believe it actually came to me.... and found a photo online. Looks like the same paint job as when I knew her....
    hopefully it'll attach
     

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  32. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    The first Navy flying club I was in had an ancient, well worn Aztec that saw a lot of use for multi training. More than a couple Navy mechs helped defray flying costs by keeping that old beast in the air. I think maintenance man-hours and flight hours were just about 1:1 there for awhile. It finally got salvaged out and towed away on a flatbed.
     
  33. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    As I recall it was still a 250 HP parallel valve (T)IO-540 like every other Aztec produced. Since it was pressurized it probably had a bigger turbo on it to feed the pressurization.
     
  34. kyleb

    kyleb Final Approach

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    Whoa, now.

    Pictures, please.
     
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  35. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf En-Route

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    I've dabbled with the thought of an Aztec but can't justify the opex. I can barely justify the opex of my Lance.
     
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  36. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    Aztec Flyer
    Thanks for the correction! I don't know how I did that. Fat fingers? Alzheimer's? Denial of a lost opportunity?

    All I know is that airplane was a screamer. I had a chance to buy one a few years back. Second owner, who had it for decades and flew it a lot. 300 hour overhauled engines. Owner was in his early '80s and decided to stop flying voluntarily due to age and pressure from his wife (who was not a pilot). I went up to have a look at his well equipped Cessna 180 that he was also selling. Saw the Baron in his hangar. Like a moth to a flame (or maybe a hormonal teenager chasing a short skirt?).

    Man, you could tell he was in love with both his airplanes, but I have to admit he was firm that he had already done his last flight when I tried to beg a ride in the Baron from him. I really thought seriously about selling the Aztec and buying the Baron, but I am a tight fit in a Baron and there's a bunch of one-off parts for that specific model, such as the exhaust systems, that are near impossible to buy and have to be fabricated at major AMUs if you ever need to replace them.

    In retrospect I should have done a double upgrade (Aztec-->56TC, Husky-->180) and bought BOTH those airplanes right on the spot and then told Mrs. GRG55 (Secretary of the Treasury in our household) she needed to write a big deficit financing check (mandatory economic stimulus, of course) and make up some for sale signs for the outgoing airplanes. :D

    Agree completely. Those were on my comparison spreadsheet (310R, with the front baggage compartment, 58-series Baron, and the Seneca II) and I researched all of them, and a few others as part of the original analysis. Remember, this was immediately after coming off my disappointment to find a Bonanza A36 is not a true 6-place airplane (and I don't fit in the front of one of them anyway).

    Indeed. I still go through that, as happy as I am owning the Aztec.
     
  37. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    Justification has nothing to do with airplane ownership...it's all about how close can you come to the edge of the insolvency cliff without going over. ;):D
     
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  38. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    iFlyNothing
    You want an Aztec. Scott will agree with me. And seeing as how he sold me mine, I’m sure he’ll have no problem selling you one too! ;)
     
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  39. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies En-Route

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    Or it didn't happen.
     
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  40. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf En-Route

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    These days I'm sure he'd prefer to sell me a Twin Commander.
     
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