Which light planes are best for....

StraightnLevel

Pre-takeoff checklist
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StraightnLevel
1- or 2-person XC travel from Houston to SE Wisconsin? I'm a dual resident, working on PPL, and want an option for my commute that doesn't involve TSA every....single.....week. Parameters are:

> Range. Runway to runway is 900 NM, so 1,000 seems reasonable to cover the distance without having to make an intermediate stop.
> Speed. Don't need a speed demon, necessarily, but don't want to be trundling along at 140 knots, either. Altitude capability helps, obviously.
> IFR/Weather capability. FIKI cert would be nice, some sort of de-ice is probably a firm requirement.
> Reliability/maintainability. I'm more interested in flying than wrenching, so not really looking for something that's in the shop more than in the air.
> Needs to be within BasicMed limits for future-proofing, so no 8-seat corporate re-treads.

The list I have so far is:

1) Cirrus SR22/SR22T. Expensive, but parts and maintenance should not be a problem. There are local rentals available for "fly-before-buy", too. G1 and G2 prices are becoming more reasonable.....
2) Beech Baron 58/58P . Less expensive to buy than the Cirrus, probably more expensive to own. Looks well-suited to the task, but my price range limits me to older examples.
3) Mooney M20, K version or later (or Acclaim). Looks like a good fit, but is it really suited for XC flying? How maintainable are they when you get out into the rural GA airports?
4) Diamond DA40. These look expensive for anything that hasn't been beaten to death or needs an engine. Am I missing something?
5) Bonanza with tip tanks. A friend of mine is selling his V-tail for less than $100K. A few more $$$ into avionics and interior upgrades would make it a decent deal....???

Thoughts on these? Are there any in this category that I have missed?
 
As someone who has commuted weekly for a couple decades in a Lancair, I would suggest global entry. Your desired flights are ambitious even for someone with experience.

Right off the bat your statement of "Runway to runway is 900 NM, so 1,000 seems reasonable to cover the distance without having to make an intermediate stop" catches my attention. 100nm cushion likely lacks the fuel reserves for IFR, quite possibly VFR, and most certainly my own personal reserves after cutting it close one winter at midnight flying home into a headwind.
 
Right off the bat your statement of "Runway to runway is 900 NM, so 1,000 seems reasonable to cover the distance without having to make an intermediate stop" catches my attention. 100nm cushion likely lacks the fuel reserves for IFR, quite possibly VFR, and most certainly my own personal reserves after cutting it close one winter at midnight flying home into a headwind.
Thanks for the response.

My assumption (perhaps incorrect) is that the ranges quoted generally assume a 45-minute reserve, correct? So, my thinking is 45 minute reserve plus another 10%. I should have been more clear in my initial statement.
 
My bladder and needing to stretch range is about 650 miles...or 4 hours. Whatever comes first.

Also, including the Baron seems a bit odd. What would insurance be for a low time pilot if it's even attainable?
 
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IFR/Weather capability. FIKI cert would be nice, some sort of de-ice is probably a firm requirement.

Remember there’s a difference between “IFR” and “all-weather” capability, and it’s a BIG difference for the small planes you’re considering.

Let me suggest that you evaluate the weather over that route every day for a couple of months and see what percent of the time you could actually do the flight. Discuss your hypothetical go/no-go decisions with your CFI. I suspect you’ll find a small plane isn’t going to be as dependable a means of transportation as you hope. At the least, it will give you some data to decide what capability you will need.
 
See post #2.

It’s infeasible week-to-week because of certain weather that is simply unflyable in the kind of equipment that you’re proposing. You’re going to miss business meetings or family events or you’re going to come to grief trying to make it (or your family and friends will).

Sorry to be so brutal. It’s not something you have to believe a guy on the internet like me, but it will become more clear as you progress in certificates, endorsements, hours, and near-misses.

However, keep aiming high as you are. Maybe you have more money in the future, more financial success, and can afford more plane (or even a pilot) in the not too distant future.
 
My bladder and needing to stretch range is about 650 miles...or 4 hours. Whatever comes first.

Also, including the Baron seems a bit odd. What would insurance be for a low time pilot if it's even attainable?

A large mouth bottle fixes one of those. Fatigue sets in around the 3 hour mark where I need to have feet on the ground for a few minutes.
 
A large mouth bottle fixes one of those. Fatigue sets in around the 3 hour mark where I need to have feet on the ground for a few minutes.
I don't have the precision necessary to control the firehose. I've got a bottle if I absolutely must.
 
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My bladder and needing to stretch range is about 650 miles...or 4 hours. Whatever comes first.

Also, including the Baron seems a bit odd. What would insurance be for a low time pilot if it's even attainable?
Driving I'm good for as much as 5-6, which is about a full tank anyway.

I put the Baron on the list just because it's possible to acquire under $250K, and certainly has the range. I'm not sure about a twin, though, for a variety of reasons which are probably obvious. Thanks for pointing out the likely insurance feasibility (or lack thereof).
 
Amazed no one has asked about your budget yet. TBM or PC12 come to mind.
Ummm....yeah.....not even close, I'm afraid. I'm aiming high, but not THAT high.

I'd prefer to pay cash, or as close to it as possible, which means $200-250K for an "experienced" model, assuming no major work needed to get it airworthy. That also generally cuts out "projects" that don't have a current annual.

It's a stretch, I know.
 
Driving I'm good for as much as 5-6, which is about a full tank anyway.

I put the Baron on the list just because it's possible to acquire under $250K, and certainly has the range. I'm not sure about a twin, though, for a variety of reasons which are probably obvious. Thanks for pointing out the likely insurance feasibility (or lack thereof).
Operational cost of twins are substantially higher than for comparable singles. Learjets can be had for cheap these days. But....
 
Ummm....yeah.....not even close, I'm afraid. I'm aiming high, but not THAT high.

I'd prefer to pay cash, or as close to it as possible, which means $200-250K for an "experienced" model, assuming no major work needed to get it airworthy. That also generally cuts out "projects" that don't have a current annual.

It's a stretch, I know.

For any used airplane you buy, best factor in 10% of the purchase price for maintenance and fixing what the previous owner neglected. So for a $250,000 airplane you will need an additional $25,000 available.

Insurance will be breathtaking for a low time pilot. Also factor in the planes you are looking at are sub 200 knots, making your trip no wind at 4.5 to 5 hours each way. And we know it's rare to have zero wind, so those times will increase as will fuel burn and time enroute.

Then you have weather. There will be days of convective weather you won't be able to go, as well as icing. And those two conditions are not for a low time pilot to venture into.

In the beginning it will be exciting to make the trip. But 4 to 6 hours of flying is fatiguing, even more so in weather.

TSA sucks for sure. But being able to sit back and relax, or even nap in a ride above the weather and running on a schedule, plus doing the trip in under two hours or so? I know my choice.
 
...and Global Entry does mitigate much of the TSA hassle.

I spent the last few years of my career traveling between Orlando and Dallas twice a month, with occasional visits to other sites in between. As much as I hate airlines, it was tolerable with Global Entry and preferred seat selection. Maintaining a schedule would have been impossible were I trying to use a small personal plane.
 
In the beginning it will be exciting to make the trip. But 4 to 6 hours of flying is fatiguing, even more so in weather.

TSA sucks for sure. But being able to sit back and relax, or even nap in a ride above the weather and running on a schedule, plus doing the trip in under two hours or so? I know my choice.
The problem is the commercial schedules don't get me there in 2 hours, because nonstop flights effectively don't exist to MKE, and MKE and IAH are both a long way away from my residences. In reality what has been happening is that I end up leaving the office at 4, drive across Houston to IAH, take off at 6-7, short layover in Dallas/ATL/MSP/DET, then get in to MKE at midnight, then another 45 minutes to finally get to a bed. ORD means a 2+ hour drive and dealing with getting into and out of ORD (thanks, but no).

Yeah, I realize that weather will make this impossible part of the time and I probably won't want to fly into KETB in Jan-Feb. Keeping a backup refundable commercial ticket booked with an eye on the weather would be a necessity.

All of that being said, taking control of my commute timeline is the single most viable excuse I have come up with to explain to my wife why I need a plane.
 
Mooneys don’t require that much more maintenance than any other plane you are looking at. Turbos (M20K) and gear maintenance require a little more but generally it can be scheduled as part of your annual.
If you don’t need a turbo, I would recommend a J. Are you going to be flying above 12000’ regularly? Although Js with deicing capability are rare. I would consider an Ovation or Bravo (turbo Lycoming), but they are more expensive.
No matter what you fly, expect more maintenance the first year.
 
Mooneys don’t require that much more maintenance than any other plane you are looking at. Turbos (M20K) and gear maintenance require a little more but generally it can be scheduled as part of your annual.
If you don’t need a turbo, I would recommend a J. Are you going to be flying above 12000’ regularly? Although Js with deicing capability are rare. I would consider an Ovation or Bravo (turbo Lycoming), but they are more expensive.
No matter what you fly, expect more maintenance the first year.
I saw this K that has TKS installed, and it had me wondering... Looks very nice.

 
I saw this K that has TKS installed, and it had me wondering... Looks very nice.


Yeah, that looks pretty nice, be aware of the lower useful load because of the O2 tanks and TKS.
 
In reality what has been happening is that I end up leaving the office at 4, drive across Houston to IAH, take off at 6-7, short layover in Dallas/ATL/MSP/DET, then get in to MKE at midnight, then another 45 minutes to finally get to a bed.
In reality, this is earlier than you’ll get home if you fly yourself. Fatigue is probably going to be a more consistent problem than weather.
 
I end up leaving the office at 4, drive across Houston to IAH, take off at 6-7, short layover in Dallas/ATL/MSP/DET, then get in to MKE at midnight, then another 45 minutes to finally get to a bed.

Instead, with your own 170 knot plane, you'll leave the office at 4, drive to the airport, preflight your plane and get it out of the hangar, get a weather briefing, file a flight plan, and with luck you'll be airborne by 5:00 to 5:30. You'll spend 6 hours (or more) in the air, land at MKE at 11:00 (or later), get the plane tied down and pick up a rental car, then be at the hotel and in bed around 12:00 or 12:30. Later, if the winds aren't favorable or if you have to fly around some weather.

Bear in mind that night flight is riskier than flying during the day, that you will have already put in a full day at the office, and that flying itself is tiring.

Doesn't seem to me like the game is worth the candle.

...taking control of my commute timeline is the single most viable excuse I have come up with to explain to my wife why I need a plane.

Unless your wife is incapable of basic arithmetic and can't read a clock, I think you'll need to find a different argument. (Try increasing your life insurance; she might encourage you to take up any number of risky activities. ;) )

Airplane ownership very seldom makes any more economic sense than getting married or having kids. Personal aircraft are bought to give us pleasure or to get us to places we couldn't otherwise reach, and those reasons have associated costs.
 
1- or 2-person XC travel from Houston to SE Wisconsin? I'm a dual resident, working on PPL, and want an option for my commute that doesn't involve TSA every....single.....week. Parameters are:

> Range. Runway to runway is 900 NM, so 1,000 seems reasonable to cover the distance without having to make an intermediate stop.
> Speed. Don't need a speed demon, necessarily, but don't want to be trundling along at 140 knots, either. Altitude capability helps, obviously.
> IFR/Weather capability. FIKI cert would be nice, some sort of de-ice is probably a firm requirement.
> Reliability/maintainability. I'm more interested in flying than wrenching, so not really looking for something that's in the shop more than in the air.
> Needs to be within BasicMed limits for future-proofing, so no 8-seat corporate re-treads.

The list I have so far is:

1) Cirrus SR22/SR22T. Expensive, but parts and maintenance should not be a problem. There are local rentals available for "fly-before-buy", too. G1 and G2 prices are becoming more reasonable.....
2) Beech Baron 58/58P . Less expensive to buy than the Cirrus, probably more expensive to own. Looks well-suited to the task, but my price range limits me to older examples.
3) Mooney M20, K version or later (or Acclaim). Looks like a good fit, but is it really suited for XC flying? How maintainable are they when you get out into the rural GA airports?
4) Diamond DA40. These look expensive for anything that hasn't been beaten to death or needs an engine. Am I missing something?
5) Bonanza with tip tanks. A friend of mine is selling his V-tail for less than $100K. A few more $$$ into avionics and interior upgrades would make it a decent deal....???

Thoughts on these? Are there any in this category that I have missed?

How much time have you spent in a small general aviation aircraft? Legs of 4+ hours can be quite uncomfortable.
 
Thanks for the response.

My assumption (perhaps incorrect) is that the ranges quoted generally assume a 45-minute reserve, correct? So, my thinking is 45 minute reserve plus another 10%. I should have been more clear in my initial statement.
I think that most quoted ranges for small aircraft are, like the quoted cruise speed and number of passengers, more aspirational than real, and also omit reserves.

Don't listen to the naysayers too much. If you are flexible and patient, you can fly that route in a small plane without an instrument rating. More ratings and more equipment give you both more options but also more responsibility to decide when to stay on the ground, and nothing at all will get you a 100% dispatch rate.

My longest single leg by miles is 860 nm, which is basically the same as your Houston to Milwaukee run. This is much better done with a stop in anything that burns avgas and isn't pressurized. It is long enough to start mattering how fast you go, though, unlike shorter trips like 200 miles. In a Cherokee at 105 knots, you're looking at 4 x 2 = 8 hours plus the preflight, fuel stop, and post-flight time on the ground. And headwinds will be murderous as a percentage of your speed. In an Arrow at 130 knots, it goes down to 3.3 x 2 = 6.6 hours in the air, which is much more doable but still a long day. Get into a Bonanza or Cirrus that can cruise at 170+ and it's 2.5 x 2 = 5 hours. Equipped with in-cockpit weather information and a decent autopilot and flown in VMC, that's not so bad.

You will end up spending the night somewhere in the middle of the country. You will end up canceling some trips and either going commercial or staying where you are. You will sometimes hate owning an airplane. But if your dream is to fly and this is a mission you can afford to do, in both dollars and flexibility, then get out there and live your dream. You're not getting any younger.
 
Get one of the higher performance Van's RVs. You should be able to get a 200 mph plane, well built, with great avionics for your budget.
The problem comes in at night when clouds are hard to see and easily blundered into. How many months out of the year is the temp at cruise altitude below freezing?
 
If you are flexible and patient, you can fly that route in a small plane without an instrument rating.

Sure. If you're patient enough you can walk the trip. But he's talking about business, where he leaves work at 4pm and wants to be in his hotel later that same night. That's a bit different than casual recreational travel where you can afford an unplanned overnight.

Get-there-itis has killed way too many pilots.
 
Instead, with your own 170 knot plane, you'll leave the office at 4, drive to the airport, preflight your plane and get it out of the hangar, get a weather briefing, file a flight plan, and with luck you'll be airborne by 5:00 to 5:30. You'll spend 6 hours (or more) in the air, land at MKE at 11:00 (or later), get the plane tied down and pick up a rental car, then be at the hotel and in bed around 12:00 or 12:30. Later, if the winds aren't favorable or if you have to fly around some weather.
That's missing part of the issue - flying out of IAH and MKE (commercial) is a major part of my current problem. I have GA airports 5 minutes from my place in Wisconsin (ketb) and 15 minutes from my place in Galveston County (kefd). That's nearly 2 hours of driving cut out of the picture.

That said, I get your point. Increasing my life insurance might be the best approach.....
 
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For 2 people?
It's a bit slower than a Cirrus, but the prices are cheaper, it's fairly stable, flies a lot like a Cherokee, useful for more than just the cross-countries. I used to fly with a student who had one and it was a pretty good ship for flying from Central Texas to Kansas and back in a day.
 
Sure. If you're patient enough you can walk the trip. But he's talking about business, where he leaves work at 4pm and wants to be in his hotel later that same night. That's a bit different than casual recreational travel where you can afford an unplanned overnight.

Get-there-itis has killed way too many pilots.
Hence the flexibility side of the equation. We don't know how strict his work and home schedules are. It does have some of the ingredients of a case of terminal get-there-itis, but not all of them. That being said, adding the missing ingredients isn't a stretch.
 
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