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    Thread: I purchased my first bird, yes an airplane!

    1. #1

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      gnishan's Avatar
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      I purchased my first bird, yes an airplane!

      Hello Gearheads. I know this is a forum mainly focusing on automobiles, bikes, scooters etc. and may feel slightly an off-topic to some. But since my first airplane that i purchased also has a 4 cylinder piston engine and a geared prop, it sure would interest many Gearheads Also, i wanted to write a detailed report on how to buy a first airplane in USA and show the freedom of roaming the wide open skies when you have your own airplane. This thread is also mainly intended to create awareness on general aviation (private pilot license/private flying) for us Indians living in USA and have interest in aviation since childhood or something that they developed recently or will do in future. My future posts in this thread will be related to maintenance, repairs/costs, trip reports in my aircraft.

      Yes, i purchased my first airplane, it is a 4 seat piston engine Piper PA 28-161 Warrior II. Piper PA 28 and Cessna 172 are typically the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry of aviation. These 2 airplanes are the most common ones for a first time buyer looking for a 4 seat aircraft. Both these aircraft are economical to buy/maintain and fuel efficient in aviation terms. To some of you who has seen my other thread on "Flying is FUN", i have posted many flying videos and pictures of different types of single engine airplanes. I used to flying all types of single engine airplanes that i can get hold off or rent just to get a feel of how it performs and to see how i like it before i can shortlist 2 or 3 models that i want to consider buying.

      NOTE: Im from Chennai originally but have been living in the USA for past 8+ years. Therefore, this aircraft review is based on buying/flying a used airplane in USA. I used to travel to Chennai every 6 to 8months for a period of 30 to 60 days but now due to COVID and stuff not sure when i can travel to Chennai.

      HOW DID I DECIDE WHICH AIRPLANE I WANT:
      Typically a first time buyer will surely look at buying the most easiest to maintain and economical to fly single engine airplane. Insurance for such an airplane will be very cheap even for a pilot with just 100hrs flight time and will typically cost less than a entry level luxury or sports car. The parameters i considered and would recommend to consider while purchasing the first aircraft are below and they are based on my experience, extensive analysis and talking to many aviation people.
      NOTE: It is always recommended to financial evaluate yourself based on the 'cost' numbers involved in your segment of interest in aviation (first time buyer) at-least on a very high level before deep diving into the below parameters to buy an aircraft.

      1. MISSION: The most important factor is to decide the mission of the aircraft. In other words, decide how will you be using that aircraft. My usage is strictly for leisure/hobby. So, i would be using the airplane for some local 1 to 4 hour flights in the weekends, some occasional weekday usage if the sunset is beautiful and one cross country trip in a month which will typically be anywhere ranging from 150miles to 500miles distance from my home base.

      2. HOURS PER YEAR: So realistically, based on my usage as mentioned above, i would be flying anywhere between 100hrs to 150hrs in a year as PIC (pilot in command) in this aircraft that i buy. A simple math, lets say you fly approx 10 hours every month which is at-least 2 hours or more per week. That translates to a perfect/ideal 120 hours per year which is the typical usage of many private pilots flying single engine aircraft.

      3. WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR PLANE: There are many factors and it is extremely flexible based on each and every person's needs since airplanes are highly customize-able. And you should always remember, an airplane cannot be called as 'old model' just depending on the model year or manufactured year. Even a 60 year old airplane can be made as good as 2 year old model with all modern avionics, clean maintenance history and engine. Below are some of the points i considered and wanted to have in my airplane.
      > Four Seat airplane: I wanted to buy a 4 seat airplane. But all the time during my search, i also kept a wide open eye on some good condition Cessna 150 / 152 (2 seat aircraft) just because they were so cheap and felt excellent VFM. But my heart said "go for a 4 seat airplane only" And i wanted the aircraft to have a useful load of at-least 830 lbs which will be good for 3 people + full 100% fuel or 4 people +70% fuel.
      > IFR Certified / At-least IFR capable: Since i have plans to get my "instrument Flight Rules" (IFR) rating, i wanted an aircraft that is capable or already certified. Getting a VFR only airplane and converting it to IFR can be quite expensive. Im currently a VFR day/night pilot.
      > DECENT Avionics and GPS: I wanted the plane to have a Garmin 430 WAAS or 530 WAAS GPS already installed in it. Installing one in a plane that does not have it will cost you at-least $8000 in that alone. And i was looking to have a dual radio set-up which my aircraft has. Yes, the previous owner installed a Garmin 430 WAAS and it already had a dual radio. Finally i was looking for a ADS-B out and ADS-B In capabilities. This will constantly broadcast our aircraft position while in air and can capture near-by air traffic location and its metrics. ADS-B out has been made a mandate by FAA since Jan 2020 in order to operate an aircraft in Class D, C and B airspace. If the ADS-B was NOT installed by previous owner who kept his plane in a class E or G airports (where ADS-B is not required), you will have to spend approx $3000 to get it installed.
      > Low to Mid time Engine: Every 4-cylinder airplane engine typically has a 2400hours usage time limit before it has to undergo a major overhaul. A Major engine overhaul will set you back by anywhere from $17,000 to $25,000. So, i wanted to buy an airplane that has anywhere from '0' time to '500 hours' engine time since major overhaul (SMOH). So, if i use the aircraft for 500hours to 600 hours (which is typically 4 to 5 years), my aircraft will still be a mid-time engine after 4 to 5 years and will be easy to resale it at that time when i want to upgrade to another airplane or relocate to India permanently. (nothing decided yet )
      > NO Flight School Aircraft: I was very particular in looking to buy an aircraft that has not been used majority of its life in a flight school training pilots. If it was in a school for 2 or 3 years, that should be ok. Most of the high-time flight school aircrafts are always beaten-up, handled very roughly and will surely have damage history or missing airframe/engine log books. The airplane i purchased has only 2 owners and the original 1st owner was a delta airlines captain. This aircraft does not have any damage/accident history, kept always inside a hangar and has been flown mostly by only 2 or 3 people its entire life.
      > FINANCE: I wanted to spend anywhere between $40,000 to $75,000 for a 4 seater aircraft. This is the best and most common price range any first time aircraft buyer will look at. (unless the buyer is a multi-millionaire and wants to buy his/her first single engine aircraft for $500,000 like Cirrus SR-22). If it was a Cessna 150 / 152 (2 seater), my budget was anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000. (You can get many good condition Cessna 150 2 seat aircraft in this price range). But again, my heart said, 4 seater only!!!

      4. AIRCRAFTS THAT I CONSIDERED BUYING:Below are some of the aircraft that i considered buying and i listed those based on my order of preference.

      A. Cessna 172 : It is a 4 seat aircraft with 4 cyl Lycoming 0320 engine with power ranging from 150hp to 180hp. Most famous and high demand version of 172 is from years 1972 to 1979 models '172L, 172M, 172N, 172P'. Useful load ranges from 790lbs to 900lbs.
      PROs: Lot of options in used market. Most spacious rear seats in the segment. Easy availability of spares. Cheap to insure. Reasonable maintenance costs (not the cheapest). Reasonable cruise speed of 115 knots while burning 8 to 9 gallons per hour.
      CONs: OVERPRICED and surely not VFM!!! a decent/well equipped 172 with low to mid time engine sells anywhere from $70,000 to $90,000. Not the best climb performance. (except the 180hp variant). Spare-parts and labor are slightly more expensive than Piper.

      B. Piper PA-28 series: All the aircrafts in this series were 4 seaters. The oldest Piper PA-28 series was called the Cherokee 140. Then came the Cherokee 160 and 180. After that, PA-28 Archer I, II, III, PA-28 Warrior I, II, III was introduced with a longer fuselage, high efficiency wing design and far better interior space, especially the rear seats. These also had the same 4-cyl Lycoming engine producing anywhere from 140hp to 180hp. Useful load ranges from 825lbs to 980lbs.
      PROs: Excellent Value for money. Can get a decent/well equipped one from $35,000 to $70,000. High useful load. Piper Warrior and Archer has the 2nd best rear seat space in the segment. Cheapest to maintain in this segment. Cheap insurance. even a 160hp version climbs and handles very well with 127 knots cruise speed while burning 8 to 9 gallons per hour.
      CONs: Good condition Piper Warrior II and Archer are very tough to come across in the used aircrafts market. Very cramped rear seats in earlier versions of PA-28 which is the Cherokee 140, 160, 180. The PA-28 Warrior and Archer are far more spacious inside. Only one side entry/exit door in all PA-28 models. Manual flaps extension unlike the electric controlled flaps in Cessna 172.

      C. Beechcraft Sundowner: This is kind of a German car quality in aircrafts. It has the same 4-cyl Lycoming o320 engine producing 180hp. It is a 4 seat airplane, cruises 105knots while burning 10 to 11 gallons per hour with a useful load of 830lbs to 930lbs.
      PROs: Decent Value for Money. Can get a decent/well equipped one from $35,000 to $55,000. Good useful load. Bigger in overall size and bigger interiors, so increase space all around.
      CONS: Quite difficult to get a good one in used market. Slow performance (105knots) while burning more fuel (10 to 11 gph) than the other 2 planes mentioned above. Expensive parts and service.

      Now, few facts of the aircraft that i purchased;
      # It is a Piper PA-26 Warrior II with 160hp Lycoming 4-Cyl engine.
      # IFR certified. Garmin 430 WAAS. Dual Nav/Comm Radios.
      # Excellent paint condition (9 out of 10). Very good interior condition. (7 out of 10)
      # Total airframe time 5200 Hours Total Time Since New.
      # Total Engine time since new (after Major Overhaul) is 215 hours. Time before Overhaul (TBO): 2400hrs.
      # Useful Load : 905 lbs.
      # Cruise speed 125 knots @ 9 Gallons per hour. (100LL aviation fuel).
      # Range with one full tank 650 NM or 1045 kms.
      # Cost: prefer not to answer. This aircraft falls in the range of $45,000 to $65,000.
      # Insurance Cost (Full coverage) : $900 per year.

      Below are the pictures of my metal bird!
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    2. #2

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      gnishan's Avatar
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      Traditional Indian Pooja for my aircraft :)

      Below is a short video that i took during the day i bought my plane to home base airport. No matter which part of the world you are located, the Indian in you kicks out and as per our tradition, we have performed Indian style pooja for the airplane as well. The below video also includes footage of our traditional "lemon under the tires" moment as well

      Enjoy, Like, Share and Subscribe for more to come


    3. #3

      ^ BHP = Torque X RPM
       
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      bhpistorqintorpm's Avatar
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      Wow! Congratulations gnishan!

      Edit:
      I have few queries::
      Say you decide to fly to a nearby place - can you decide impromptu or do you have to apply for route and landing rights/permission before hand?
      How is the landing/fuel and handling charges handled at the destination airports? Do you have some kind of account/card where you'll be charged for these services or is it like fueling a car where you pay for the service used in real time.
      Last edited by bhpistorqintorpm; 28th Jul 2020 at 14:15.
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    4. #4

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      Quote Originally Posted by bhpistorqintorpm View Post
      Wow! Congratulations gnishan!

      Edit:
      I have few queries::
      Say you decide to fly to a nearby place - can you decide impromptu or do you have to apply for route and landing rights/permission before hand?
      How is the landing/fuel and handling charges handled at the destination airports? Do you have some kind of account/card where you'll be charged for these services or is it like fueling a car where you pay for the service used in real time.
      If you want to fly to nearby destination, you just hop in to your plane, load the gps and fly away to your destination. There are no mandatory requirements to file a flight plan etc. If flying IFR, you just need to get an IFR departure clearnace from the nearest control tower and that can also be done real time after you hop into the aircraft and not required to be filed early.
      In USA, there are many local county airports falling under class E (non towered) and class D (control towered). Typically those airports are used by private pilots. None of the airports charge a landing fee, its free and you can do how many landings or touch and gos you want. Some airports may charge just an overight parking fee if parking for more than 48hours and that too a very low cost like $10 per 24hrs which is payable directly at the front office. I would say, 75% of such class E airports do not charge an overnight parking fee. If you fill fuel at that class E or D airport even those 24hr overnight parking charges are waived off.

      Almost all such airports have a self serve fueling option. So you just taxi your plane to the fuelling area, swipe your credit card and fuel it yourself. If you need assistance you can call the front desk and they will send a fuel truck. Typically, the fuel is 30 cents to 50cents more per gallon when you call a fuel truck. In my home base airport, self serve is $4 a gallon and fuel truck service is $4.30 a gallon.

    5. #5

      Good cars take you to Point A
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      abhi_tjet's Avatar
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      This was unexpected in the forum, at least to me! Hearty congratulations gnishan.

      Well, I can't give any point of view since I don't have any on the topic of planes. Happy flying hours and keep us posted

    6. #6
      Fiat da Best
       
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      Congrajulations gnishan. Thread Subscribed for more updates.
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      Hearty Congrats gnishan ! That's a first time for a Flight ownership thread. Thanks a lot for sharing the information about the options and its surely an eye opener for many. Have many happy miles with your metal bird !

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    8. #8
      ironically a remapped tdi is
      faster than the next segment
      tdi at lesser price.
       
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      legendracer's Avatar
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      What did I just read on gearheads? keep it coming. Do update the ownership costs...
      Why do people post I want the best for my car... When there isn't anything that is the best on the car to begin with.

    9. #9

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      gnishan's Avatar
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      There were a few items to be repaired or checked by AP/IA (certified aircraft mechanic) which were already identified during our pre-buy inspection. Just listed a few things that im going to get it fixed within the first month of ownership;

      1. Incorrect weight was screwed on the propeller's fly-wheel during the last propeller balancing done by the previous owner. - Got this corrected last week. Took it to a nearby mechanic shop which was a 30min flight from home base airport. They did re-mount the propeller and performed a superb propeller balancing job. Now she is butter smooth and even the minor vibrations it had earlier due to improper balancing was completely gone! It was a 3 hour job and im extremely happy with the outcome. Total change including taxes for the re-mounting and balancing was $340.

      2. The yoke (control wheel) alignment was customized to the previous owner's preference. I did not like that alignment and had to re-align the left side yoke (Control wheel). This will be take care by my home base airport's AP/IA (Mechanics) next week. However, upon inspection we noticed that a 'U" clamp holder which connects the 2 yokes were hard drilled to customize or suit the previous owner's preference. So, in order to reset it to default and since it was hard drilled, the full U clamp unit has to be replaced. My AP/IA estimated the total cost for that job to be $700 where the part cost is $380 and rest for labor.

      3. The 2 piece front windshield was already due for replacement and the replacement cost was partially negotiated in the purchase price itself. My airport mechanic have ordered the 2 piece wind shield from Piper and that will arrive in 10 to 12 days from now. Total cost for that is $1545 where the part cost is $545 and labor is $1000 since it is a 10 to 15 hours work effort which also involves re-sealing the new windshield.

    10. #10

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      Quote Originally Posted by gnishan View Post
      1. Incorrect weight was screwed on the propeller's fly-wheel during the last propeller balancing done by the previous owner. - Got this corrected last week. Took it to a nearby mechanic shop which was a 30min flight from home base airport. They did re-mount the propeller and performed a superb propeller balancing job. Now she is butter smooth and even the minor vibrations it had earlier due to improper balancing was completely gone! It was a 3 hour job and im extremely happy with the outcome. Total change including taxes for the re-mounting and balancing was $340.
      Attached is the picture of the incorrect weight on the fly wheel behind the propeller.
      Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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