Talk Me Out of Upgrading to 6 Seats

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by iamtheari, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    I know that there are 100 threads on similar subjects already. But none of them were started this month and it's already the second, so here we go! I am still working on building the RV-14 that you all couldn't talk me out of building a couple years ago. I'm hoping to have better success with this thread.

    The RV-14 is still the perfect fit for my primary mission. Two seats, fast, efficient, and fun. (Efficient and fast enough that, other than seating capacity, it meets the mission described below and saves money compared to airlines even if I fly solo.)

    I am a 500-hour instrument rated private pilot working on finishing my commercial license in ASEL. I enjoy flight training and I try to fly professionally regardless of what I'm doing. Most of my time is in my Piper Arrow. The rest of it is mostly in various taildraggers. I fly 100-150 hours per year with a variety of personal and business travel.

    I would consider the 9 hours per day I spend shopping for airplanes instead of getting any work done a total waste, except I now have a family member who is moving farther away from the rest of us. It is currently a 5-hour drive or a 200 nm flight. It will turn into an 1,100 nm flight. I need to get one reluctant passenger on board with flying in small planes to make this work, but I am nearly at the tipping point there and anticipate some help from the airlines in the near future.

    For the new mission, the airline alternative is simply unpalatable. Basically, you spend $750 per person to drive 3 hours, give yourself 2+ hours or, more often, overnight in a hotel as a buffer for highway, parking, and TSA delays, spend 8-12 hours in a combination of regional jets and airport terminals, and arrive well after dark for another half-hour ride in a car. For a weekend holiday like Easter or Thanksgiving, you spend 5 days away from home to get 2 real days with family. And you are fatigued on both ends due to driving on possibly icy roads and eating too much airport or drive-through food. The lost productivity of traveling that way also weighs in favor of flying myself.

    Since the main mission is personal travel, we can be flexible and accept the "time to spare, go by air" rule. That is how we do it when we drive to visit now, anyhow. The point is not to match the airlines on dispatch reliability or beat them on cost. It is to beat them on total misery.

    We are not looking at turbines, and for a piston this trip will require a stop to stretch our legs. So what we need is a range of about 600 nm plus IFR reserves. The trip is basically north-south, so winds are less of a factor than for an east-west trip. We don't need to cross mountains, so pressurization is an unnecessary expense.

    The loading would be a maximum of four adults and two children (age range 5-12 will cover the foreseeable future). More often, it would be minus the children or minus two adults, and possibly plus one or two dogs. The worst-case luggage situation would consist of the adults packing for a 4-day weekend and the kids packing for a 2-week visit. Based on the people involved and how I have seen them pack, this tops out around 1,000 lbs.

    Known ice certification would be very helpful to get in and out of the northern end of the trip. We have a relatively dry winter, but there are days (especially in the spring) when there are icy clouds to get through. I recognize the difference between a PIREP of "light rime during descent," which is "known ice" that a properly equipped plane can safely and legally penetrate, versus a forecast sounding showing -5C temperature and dewpoint from the surface up to 10,000 MSL, which is not "known" ice but which even a known ice certified airplane should probably avoid.

    We don't have a defined budget for purchase price, but we don't want to spend so much on the plane that it would make more sense to dry-lease a turboprop.

    So here is what I have distilled the mission to:
    1. Block speeds 160-180 knots
    2. Six seats
    3. Useful load of 1,000 lbs plus 4-1/2 hours of fuel
    4. Operating costs of $150-250/hr (including insurance and maintenance, but not opportunity cost or hangar rent)
    5. Certified for known ice

    Nice-to-have:
    1. Tolerant of turf runways
    2. Available or standard with a decent two-axis autopilot
    3. Longer range when lightly loaded
    4. Club seating so the younger kids can be tended by the back-seat adults

    Every plane is a compromise, so I'm not married to any of those numbers. For example, even at $320/hr operating costs, it is cheaper to fly ourselves than buy 6 airline tickets. What planes should I be looking at, and what compromises do I have to make with each of them?

    The mission seems to call for a twin. So that raises more questions:
    1. How many hours per year do you need to fly a light twin to maintain proficiency in type, assuming you are also getting recurrent training for emergencies?
    2. Other than investing everything I have in a mutual fund with a guaranteed 300% annual return, what can I do now to prepare for owning and flying a light twin?

    Planes that could meet the mission, but I don't know enough about, probably include at least the following:
    1. Piper Saratoga
    2. Cessna 210
    3. Cessna 310
    4. Piper Aztek
    5. Beech 55 Baron

    Educate me. It'll be fun! :)
     
  2. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    4.5 hours of fuel (assuming you mean 4.5 flight time, not including reserve) won't leave you with 1,000 lbs. remaining in very many planes, including the 210 (which was my target at one time.)
    Some Azteks meet the requirement; I didn't check into anything else.
    'Saves money compared to airlines' ... I've told myself that, often. But unless you replace a LOT of airline flying with a smaller plane, it's just not so. 'Saves time compared to airlines or driving' is more likely to be true, for shorter trips. I used to support a certain piece of software, with all clients within a 220 nm radius, using a Skyhawk. In three years, I only got it 'stuck' once (airport ramp wasn't cleared of snow and freezing slush). That setup saved huge time, clients loved to pick me up at the closest GA airport.
     
  3. wilkersk

    wilkersk Cleared for Takeoff

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    Time to spare, go by air. Why buy a station wagon, when fun flying with yer best bud only needs 2 seats!
     
  4. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    sounds like you should keep building the -14 and join a club or partnership for the 6 person flights.
     
  5. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    Assume clubs aren’t an option and partnerships are undesirable. :)


    Sorry for the ambiguity. The 4.5 hours figure is including reserve. On a slower plane we may need more, but not much more. The difference between 160 knots and 180 is not as big as people think.
     
  6. alfadog

    alfadog Final Approach

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    Did you put your purchase budget number in there? I am thinking you will want to drop the FIKI requirement.
     
  7. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    I am day dreaming so there is no set purchase budget. FIKI isn’t an absolute requirement but I want to be sure I am considering it to improve (but obviously not guarantee) the chances of making the trip at least somewhat predictably.
     
  8. JScarry

    JScarry Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Our Turbo Cessna 210L holds 89 gallons and we plan for 20 gph—you can do less if you fly LOP. That’s 4 1/2 hours. Empty weight is 2313, full fuel is 2862, and gross is 3800 for a full fuel payload of around 940 lbs. It easily does 160 kts up high.

    If you want to play with the weight and balance, you can use my on-line calculator. https://touringmachine.com/Cherokee/W&B.php?plane=T201L
     
  9. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I would think, given the distances and time-in-air, that you'd want pressurization back into the mix. You and you pax are going to feel like dogsh!t after being in the air for 7 hours to make an 1,100-mile trip. Pressurization may limit those effects as well as help decrease block time by flying at higher altitudes yielding a better TAS.
     
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  10. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    That's 4.5 hours until you are a glider; I assume that the OP wants 4.5 + reserves. Still, good useful on that plane, nearly six FAA [skinny] passengers with full fuel (and no bags). So a true four-seater.
     
  11. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Cleared for Takeoff

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    With exception of the FIKI requirement, you described our Lance quite well.

    It's my wife and I with two small dogs and the occasional passenger. At this time in our life we'd go no smaller.
     
  12. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    It's 4.5 including reserves. At a block speed of 160 knots, we need 3.75 hours of fuel to go 600 nm and a 0.75-hour IFR reserve brings it to 4.5. A faster plane or lighter load will allow for a longer reserve fuel but I find it easier to think about fuel in terms of total amount carried against useful load rather than thinking about reserves separately.
     
  13. JScarry

    JScarry Pre-takeoff checklist

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    He’s said that "The 4.5 hours figure is including reserve." My brother would fly it with his family and two friends until his kids were in high school when he and the kids got too big to fill all six seats. I have flown it with full fuel, an instructor in the right seat, my brother and his wife in the middle, and two kids in the back with luggage for a week. We fly mostly at sea levelish airports and have a turbo so we don’t usually worry about density altitude.

    You can put two 190 lb guys, their 130 lb wives, and two 100 lb kids in the plane with 100lbs of luggage. I have gone into the hangar and found water bottles, jars of peanuts, and oil bottles in a pile where the airplane used to be, so I know he loads it to max weight lots of times.
     
  14. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    I'm okay with pressurization but it's not a requirement. The key is a plane that is affordable enough to operate that we operate it affordably, rather than one that is always in the shop so it never flies and therefore needs to go to the shop even more. :)
     
  15. Arnold

    Arnold Pre-takeoff checklist

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    1. Saratoga - you get club seating but not FIKI
    2. Cessna 210 - no club seating, FIKI very hard to find.
    3. Cessna 310 - no club seating, FIKI - I don't know - maybe a few out there with it.
    4. Aztec - no club seating, FIKI on later models - "F" I know it was available.
    5. Baron - no club seating except 58 model. FIKI probably not or very hard to find for 55 model. FIKI you'll find on 58 model.
    6. Piper Matrix - club seating and FIKI
    7. Seneca - club seating and FIKI - but not the 1 the 2 or newer.
    8. Cessna 303 - lovely airplanes - club seating and FIKI if you can find one and they ain't cheap.
    9. Aerostar - no club if it has six seats the five seat interior has what I'll call a pseudo club. FIKI hard to find on the un-pressurized models.
    10. Commandeer 700 - club seats and FIKI - very thin market.

    Disclaimer this is all from memory either past research or having flown the airplanes.
     
  16. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    This is out of the running because I'm 6'2" and the one time I tried to get into a PA-46 (a Meridian), I got wedged with my back against the ceiling, one foot trapped between the front seats somewhere, and the other leg flopping around wildly in the air. Also they are probably out of our purchase budget, regardless of where we set it. Great planes if you fit into them. :)

    Thanks. Now I'm on a search for the Holy Grail all thanks to a plane I didn't even know existed this morning.

    It seems like I am in general going to have an easier time finding FIKI than club seating. And that's probably okay. People who post in-air selfies in their six-seaters all seem to have happy families all the way to the back row.
     
  17. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    My first impression is that you are brainstorming for the max mission and max payload. Ice would be nice and the kids always come, need to touch down on grass occasionally, etc.

    While in reality the average or normal mission will not include a few people and will be ice free.

    Since it’s not a commercial mission, you have flexibility. No reason to plan and pay like you are putting scheduled service in.

    So I’m thinking a turbocharged Bo’ with ice would be nice. Would get you 80-90% there.

    You should be building a ‘10 which would get you say 60-70% there.

    That last 10-25% of the mission will cost you a fortune to acquire and operate.


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  18. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    I don’t care if you have 6 kids, there are very few times when all will want to & be available to fly.

    That’s my main point against a bunch of seats, 4 ‘viable’ seats is enough for the vast majority. There are airliners out there, usually cheaper too.
     
  19. j1b3h0

    j1b3h0 Line Up and Wait

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    Always fun doing mental gymnastics of how to spend another’s money! So, if I read it right, you’d like an aircraft that can SAFELY perform the mission of a 600nm trip with 6 seats, day or night, IMC, with possible icing, yes? Are there mountains to cross? Hostile terrain, bodies of water? Most of the aircraft you’ve mentioned could do the mission, sometimes. One can paddle a canoe across the San Francisco bay,...sometimes. Personally, I would want a machine that would make easy work of such a mission - Not one that could barely do it, on a good day.

    Slow airplanes that might work in terms of cabin size, like a Piper Lance, or 206 won’t work (no ice protection) and I can tell you from experience SOME of those passengers will have to pee; faster airplanes not so much. Are there any piston singles with 6 seats and fiki? A 1984 or later fiki equipt Baron 58 would barely do the job, but a cabin-class twin would be better, 402 or Navajo or Chieftain, perhaps. Most such aircraft are well set up to fly real IFR, with ice protection, etc,. They’re turbocharged to give a little altitude flexibility (and, hopefully AVOID ice) and have a potty, just in case. All of which require a pilot who really knows his craft, an ATP.
     
  20. Arnold

    Arnold Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The contortionist rating is required.

    I did my ATP in one, and it has been a long time, but I don't remember it being as difficult to get in and out of as the PA-46 is. I do remember that it was an absolute joy to fly.
     
  21. wheaties

    wheaties Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Matrix seems the only one that, on paper, does the job. I think what you really want is a wife with her CPL. Then you could get the -14 and a 4-seater. See? That's the best of all worlds.
     
  22. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Pattern Altitude

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    I think you need to figure out if filling those 6 seats with people is going to be 80% of time or more. If not then a lot of less relatively expensive singles are in. If so then you need a cabin class twin to make 6 plus stuff and fuel work.
     
  23. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    you're gonna need a PC-12 for all that....
     
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  24. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    "Need" is the wrong word. I really "want" a Pilatus, but it's not in the cards.

    She only needs a CPL if she is compensated for flying my airplane. Not gonna happen! Otherwise, you're probably on the right track. :)

    The mission that makes the plane make sense at all may be less than 80% of its use, but it does 100% eliminate smaller planes. We can, of course, stick with the airlines for the full-crew travel scenario, but as described above it really is unpalatable. That's what happens when one part of the family lives in the hinterland and the other side moves across the Mason-Dixon Line: You spend all day in cars, regional jets, and airports instead of with each other. While I am just day-dreaming for now, there may come a day when a plane upgrade will make sense for this trip and I am going to be day-dreaming anyhow, so why not do it with a purpose?

    Going back to this... What plane would you recommend if I did find a small group of suckers co-owners to partner with?
     
  25. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    you won't "need" six seats....trust me on that. I just sold a Six....cause I rarely had six to take.

    Cut your losses....and buy something a little more sporty and faster. boo-bo-Bo-nanza. V-tail :D
     
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  26. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    If I missed your budget I’m sorry but the first thing off the top of my head would be a Saratoga. A 210 would also be a good fit but maybe a little more maintenance. If you can pass up on speed a 206 is a great all around airplane that can haul what you can fit pretty much. The 6 seat bonanzas are nice but usually can’t haul as much as a 210 or Saratoga.
     
  27. Snowmass

    Snowmass Pre-Flight

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    A 4+2, 190 MPH cruise, very good short field performance (not bush plane), 21,000 ceiling, 1000 mile range, enormous CG range tolerance, very stable IFR platform $50K or so. A 1964 C-210 like mine which I have had for 48 years (not for sale). FYI the gear has NOT been expensive nor a problem.
     
  28. JEB

    JEB Filing Flight Plan

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    Is there a reason you left the Beech A36, B36 or G36 off your list?
     
  29. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    Not a valid reason that I can think of just now. I think I left it off the list because it’s too obvious to mention. I know nothing of the B36. I know that the A36 is the king of the Beech singles and the G36 is probably beyond any budget we set. If we are always willing to outright cancel for a thin layer of icing, a Bonanza is a great choice. The real question is whether another plane can flip that consideration around. It’s a tough competition when there are Bonanzas involved.
     
  30. iamtheari

    iamtheari Pattern Altitude

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    Which model do you have? How much fuel will it carry and how fast does it burn it in the non-oxygen altitudes?
     
  31. Katamarino

    Katamarino Cleared for Takeoff

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    If you upgrade to 6 seats, just think how many 1/8" ball bearings you could fit in it.
     
  32. Gmonnig

    Gmonnig Pre-takeoff checklist

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    How about the Cessna 335? Its a non-pressurized Cessna 340. Useful load over 2000lbs, no complicated pressurization, de-iced, full fuel useful load at around 1000lbs, 200-215KTAS, cabin class and checks all your boxes above. Might be really close to your $250hr
     
  33. Fracpilot

    Fracpilot Pre-Flight

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    I have a 310Q. The Twin Cessna Community is great and they’re all willing to assist. The 310Q will do everything you’ve asked. I just did a trip with 5 pax (2 of them kids) and had 5 hours of fuel.

    The FIKI 310Q and more powerful 310R will do what your looking for easily. The useful load in the 310 is about 1700 lbs.

    The pressurized, FIKI and club seating Cessna 340 is a lot of airplane for a very reasonable price that definitely meets all of your requests. The useful load on the 340 is about 1850 lbs.


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  34. TCABM

    TCABM Cleared for Takeoff

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    Aerostar.
     
  35. Gmonnig

    Gmonnig Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Piper PA31 Navajo would work too. I've never flown one but I hear they fly great and aren't crazy on maintenance (at least that's what my A&P says).
     
  36. Sluggo63

    Sluggo63 Line Up and Wait

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    Seneca II
     
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  37. Snowmass

    Snowmass Pre-Flight

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    The D model. I am very frugal and slow cruise it at 150 KNOTS burning about 12 GPH I usually cruise between 10,000 to 12,000. It is almost impossible to get the 210 out of CG range no matter how you load (or overload) it. There are so many advantages to flying high since emergency landing area increases by the square of the height. Also the strutted 210s do NOT have any wing spar AD nor other major AD. 84 gallons. On a trip to France I sat next to a FAA test pilot who felt that the C-210 was one of best GA airplanes ever.
     
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  38. Jim Carpenter

    Jim Carpenter Filing Flight Plan

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    Yes, PC-12......or why not G650? Seriously, with the stated budget range, any of the cabin class twins, nice as that would be, are out of reach, Navajo, 340, Aerostar, etc. $400-$500/hr or more. The 335, while a nice enough airplane, will cost nearly as much as the 340, say $390/hr instead of $400, why not have pressure at that point. For twins, that leaves the Seneca, Aztec, or 310, and the smaller Barons. IMHO, the 210, Saratoga, Bonanza are more in the realistic range for consideration. You may have to rethink the FIKI "requirement" and simply accept a (slightly) more limited mission capability. In some ways, philosophically, not having FIKI might just be the "good excuse" to cancel/postpone marginal weather trips anyway, not necessarily a bad thing. (Seems like the older, more experienced I get, the more I'd be okay with every trip limited to day-VFR only!)
     
  39. Gmonnig

    Gmonnig Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I did state that the 335 would be the upper end of the budget, for sure. Figure 32gph @ $5/gal = $160hr, $6000 annual at 125hr/yr = $48hr, insurance (obviously varies)$4000yr at 125hr = $32hr all of which is $240hr. This doesn't include prop reserves or engine reserves, but unless you are renting this thing out who really wants to know those things. It's gonna be expensive as hell. Any airplane with these stats will cost a lot. The PA31 I was referring to was the non turbo 310HP, which could still hit the numbers and cost less to operate than the 335 and keep the cabin class. The stated mission cannot be done in a single, maybe an early model turbo 210 only. 1000lbs and 4.5hr fuel in a Bo, no way. Block times 160-180kts in a Saratoga, nope.
     
  40. Crashnburn

    Crashnburn Line Up and Wait

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    Well, you're already building a E-AB so why not another one that fits your mission? Comp Air http://compairaviation.com/ has the Comp Air 9 http://www.compairaviation.com/ca9.html which will meet your basic requirements. No pressurization, nor FIKI, but you can fit a turbine to some of them. You can also do club, or conventional seating. No idea on price.