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boacvc10
Topic Author
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Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 3:37 pm

Came across a video log of a pilot on her recent solo flight in three stages from Michigan to Califorina, flying her Bonanza with very great detail of the route and ATC.

Videos posted by the pilot can be viewed at https://youtube.com/c/StevieTriesenberg.

Since I posted a few weeks ago about a DIY project for a 410 model GA aircraft, and read comments of how it would be unfeasible and uneconomical - I am coming to know that some of these flying aircraft are way older than me, in the case of N5921C .. 70 years old?

While I can appreciate engineering, repair, refurbishment, servicing, etc., what is the value of keeping these crates up in the air, since surely newer builds and models are being produced ... or what's the deal that these types are flying when cars have changed, electronics are changed, everything is changed. Or is the nameplate the only thing that stays and the rest of the plane has been all changed over time?

As an aside, given that older planes are flying well (how many?) wondering if my son entering ME/AE undergraduate hopefully this year, will be able to buy one of these when he eventually gets a well paid job to support flying and he gets a PPL and follows my first dream of being a pilot? I got divererted after my undergraduate to other fields and then to building systems for spacecraft and never got the chance to take up flight school - and my friends did and became PPL, CPL or A&P so I missed that chance. (I presented my wife a flying lesson some years ago, and she convinced the instructor to let her open the windows at 2500 alt) over Culpeper, VA - you can see swimming pools quite nicely at that height.

But would he be looking at flying 50 year old aircraft. If not 70 year old frames still in service?

Isn't there a lifetime limit for these birds and what are current market price databases?
 
morrisond
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 3:45 pm

Hi - Here you go for used aircraft prices. https://www.controller.com

In general there are no life time limits on GA aircraft. They do get quite extensively rebuilt. The main issue is the age of the electronics - ideally you find one that has been redone/rewired in the last 10 years or so. Engines get overhauled/replaced as per the maintenance schedules.

In general people like the older models as they are lighter and not so much crap in them to fix/go wrong.

New Aircraft prices are crazy.
 
greg3322
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 4:02 pm

Older general aviation aircraft are fine. I regularly fly a 1964 Comanche 400 and 1956 Cessna 182A. These aircraft are not pressurized, so they do not have the cycle issues that pressurized aircraft have. The engines and propellers are overhauled or replaced as needed. Avionics are upgraded throughout its life. During annual inspections, there is a search for corrosion and if any is found, it is dealt with. No problem flying these older aircraft at all.
 
Dalmd88
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 4:08 pm

Part of the equation for the older aircraft is the service history. If the 70 year old aircraft has been continuously maintained, updated and flown for it's entire life, then it's economically feasible to own.

A 'barn find' on the other hand is a money pit nightmare. You know you are doing a full engine overhaul, full avionics overhaul. That is a lot of expense in one shot. On the well maintained and operated aircraft, many of those costs have already been sunk into the aircraft from a previous owner. The engine could be half way between overhaul, many of the avionics components are newer.

Then the barn find really gets interesting, structural inspection. One that has been sitting for 20+ years may have some very costly AD's that need to be dealt with. A flying airplane likely is up to date in that regard. Corrosion, the barn find is most likely filled with cancer. When planes sit they fill with moisture. Then they rot. An older flying airplane can have corrosion, but it's usually found early and can be fixed without killing your bank account.
 
Nordsteve
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 4:11 pm

I'm in a flying club that operates six aircraft. We've found that the sweet spot is operating 1980s era light aircraft. There's not enough marginal performance benefit from newer airplanes to overcome the capital cost difference.

They aren't run out aircraft - have new interiors, good looking paint, well maintained engines. We're doing a G3X upgrade over the next year from GNS430, so fairly modern panel as well.
 
boacvc10
Topic Author
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 8:21 pm

So, which is more costly in used but functional aircraft. The maintenance of the airframe? The avionics? The engines? The control mechanisms? The moving parts? Trying to learn how much of a money pit a used aircraft is, but I do see many flying so somehow it is more better than a car that we buy new and throw away in 10 to 15 years ... and I wonder why we do that when these grand-craft are functional and get up and go? Is this an US only phenomenon as the US is a relatively safe area to fly regularly cross country?
 
masonh2479
Posts: 320
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 8:34 pm

boacvc10 wrote:
So, which is more costly in used but functional aircraft. The maintenance of the airframe? The avionics? The engines? The control mechanisms? The moving parts? Trying to learn how much of a money pit a used aircraft is, but I do see many flying so somehow it is more better than a car that we buy new and throw away in 10 to 15 years ... and I wonder why we do that when these grand-craft are functional and get up and go? Is this an US only phenomenon as the US is a relatively safe area to fly regularly cross country?

I've had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with a maintenance hog in the past two years and the most expensive part was chasing an intermittent vibration from the engine. So in my case the engine was the most costly to work on but it all depends on the aircraft and how it has been previously maintained. If you plan on buying a used aircraft please do a pre buy inspection with an A&P to figure out what squawks the aircraft has to give yourself an idea in advance. Of course when buying used part supply can be an issue. If you buy a used 172 or Bonanza you'll never have this issue though. Any aircraft will inevitable become a money pit, but used unpressurized aircraft with no cycle limit can be a very nice deal.

Regarding older aircraft flying in the US, they certainly exist and fly elsewhere. The US just has a lot of GA aircraft out and about.
 
Dominion301
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Sun Jan 23, 2022 10:38 pm

boacvc10 wrote:
So, which is more costly in used but functional aircraft. The maintenance of the airframe? The avionics? The engines? The control mechanisms? The moving parts? Trying to learn how much of a money pit a used aircraft is, but I do see many flying so somehow it is more better than a car that we buy new and throw away in 10 to 15 years ... and I wonder why we do that when these grand-craft are functional and get up and go? Is this an US only phenomenon as the US is a relatively safe area to fly regularly cross country?


A know this doesn’t apply in a lot of the USA (or around the world), but unpressurized aircraft, in addition to not having to worry about pressurization, don’t have to worry about things like road salt for 4 months of the year that my 10 year old car does in Canada.
 
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kjeld0d
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 12:01 am

Anything burning 100LL should be re-engined, no exceptions. Absolutely no reason to allow lead-burning aircraft to continue to operate.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:01 am

kjeld0d wrote:
Anything burning 100LL should be re-engined, no exceptions. Absolutely no reason to allow lead-burning aircraft to continue to operate.


As of now, there’s no option for re-engining—it’s a very small market for a very expensive conversion. Engine manufacturers can’t make a business case for a new design; petroleum companies don’t have enough market to engineer a fuel replacement, either. It’s being worked, but face it, very minimal impact. Banning tens of thousands on frames isn’t happening.

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all ... aded-avgas
 
beechnut
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:13 am

I sold my plane in 2017, a 1979 aerobatic Beech Sundowner. At that point, it was 38 years old and had nearly 11,000 hours on it, being used by a flying school for all its life before I bought it in 2003. Before that I had a '76 Cherokee 140 and a '72 C150, and a 1980 Beech Skipper. Given enough TLC (read: $), they'll keep going forever. Last I heard the new owner of my Sundowner wrote it off last year in a landing overrun, at the ripe age of 41 years.

The fact is you can get a decent aircraft for $30k. A new C172 is more than 10x that. That is the reason old aircraft still fly. The average PPL can't afford a new C172

Beech
 
Yeastbeast
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:54 am

Some folks are tinkerers; they like working on and fussing with things. I'm in beer industry, and homebrewers like making parts for their homebrew systems as much, if not more in some cases, as they do brewing. Look haw many car guys like keeping cars from the 20's and 30's running, and taking them out for a spin. Boat people too, both power and sail. The wooden boat fans in particular are very enthusiastic.

Same with planes I'd imagine. I doubt that somebody who uses a plane for their work is flying a 1940's plane to their meetings a couple state away. It's the pleasure flyers mostly. The guys who like being around the airport, hanging around with folks that have a common interest, and enjoy the busy work (and cookouts).
 
boacvc10
Topic Author
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:16 am

beechnut wrote:
The fact is you can get a decent aircraft for $30k.
Beech


That's cheaper than a less useful car ... it's got my mind spinning with possible pathways. Two or four seater? And what are some key features to look for in general. If I have an opportunity (damn Covid business downturn) it won't be for a few years.
 
32andBelow
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 4:01 am

boacvc10 wrote:
beechnut wrote:
The fact is you can get a decent aircraft for $30k.
Beech


That's cheaper than a less useful car ... it's got my mind spinning with possible pathways. Two or four seater? And what are some key features to look for in general. If I have an opportunity (damn Covid business downturn) it won't be for a few years.

How is a car less useful? Airplanes are good but a car is more useful than a GA aircraft
 
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Aquila3
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:12 am

Copy all what you said with electric cars. Apart that we did not figure out how to produce all that electricity, end point distribution will be an issue. Just think to all this blocks in old cities, with hundreds of aparments without their own garage or park place.
BTW, why aircraft engines need 100LL?
Is it a technical limatation or only regulatory?
I did not think that aircraft engines had extreme compression ratios.
I mean my early 80s Yamaha XT goes happily with Unleaded 98.
It is a 4 valves air cooled single piston, so possibly a bad combination in itself. Why aircrafts can't?
 
B595
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:31 am

masonh2479 wrote:
I've had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with a maintenance hog in the past two years and the most expensive part was chasing an intermittent vibration from the engine.

What was the verdict with the intermittent vibration?
 
masonh2479
Posts: 320
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:12 am

B595 wrote:
masonh2479 wrote:
I've had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with a maintenance hog in the past two years and the most expensive part was chasing an intermittent vibration from the engine.

What was the verdict with the intermittent vibration?

First saw on a mag check that cylinder 5 EGT dropped dramatically on the right hand side and replaced that spark plug. Afterwards the mag check passed and then the vibration happened again. Turns out the spark plug just failed at the same time and the right hand magneto was failing. Replaced the right side magneto and then the left one completely died. After that happened we figured it would be best to replace the rest of the spark plugs and the plane has been running good since. Well it should be with all new spark plugs and two brand new mags.

Then a couple weeks later we finally got some good weather and I got off work at a decent time and the starter motor died, lol!
 
TheSonntag
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 12:47 pm

kjeld0d wrote:
Anything burning 100LL should be re-engined, no exceptions. Absolutely no reason to allow lead-burning aircraft to continue to operate.


Totally agree. Fortunately, it seems there is finally an 100UL fuel on the horizon.
 
ltbewr
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:30 pm

What about insurance of older GA aircraft ? I wonder if premiums would be higher on an older aircraft vs. a relatively newer one of the same type/model.
 
kalvado
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:00 pm

Aquila3 wrote:
Copy all what you said with electric cars. Apart that we did not figure out how to produce all that electricity, end point distribution will be an issue. Just think to all this blocks in old cities, with hundreds of aparments without their own garage or park place.
BTW, why aircraft engines need 100LL?
Is it a technical limatation or only regulatory?
I did not think that aircraft engines had extreme compression ratios.
I mean my early 80s Yamaha XT goes happily with Unleaded 98.
It is a 4 valves air cooled single piston, so possibly a bad combination in itself. Why aircrafts can't?

As far as I understand, lead acts as a valve lubrication in old valves
 
PhilipBass
Posts: 403
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 2:48 pm

how are they flying? on a wing and a prayer.
 
VS11
Posts: 1881
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 3:49 pm

boacvc10 wrote:
beechnut wrote:
The fact is you can get a decent aircraft for $30k.
Beech


That's cheaper than a less useful car ... it's got my mind spinning with possible pathways. Two or four seater? And what are some key features to look for in general. If I have an opportunity (damn Covid business downturn) it won't be for a few years.



If you are thinking of buying a second-hand aircraft, this is a very useful book:
Mike Busch on Airplane Ownership (Volume 1): What every aircraft owner needs to know about selecting, purchasing, insuring, maintaining, troubleshooting, modifying, and flying light airplanes

https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Busch-Airpl ... 317&sr=1-4

Also, https://www.trade-a-plane.com is a great site to find used aircraft.
 
FlapOperator
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:54 pm

PhilipBass wrote:
how are they flying? on a wing and a prayer.


Hardly. If you look at the thrown together war-expedient aircraft like the B-24, they are still safely flying passengers.

Do things right, and its safe.
 
gtae07
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Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:41 pm

Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Mon Jan 24, 2022 10:05 pm

kalvado wrote:
Aquila3 wrote:
Copy all what you said with electric cars. Apart that we did not figure out how to produce all that electricity, end point distribution will be an issue. Just think to all this blocks in old cities, with hundreds of aparments without their own garage or park place.
BTW, why aircraft engines need 100LL?
Is it a technical limatation or only regulatory?
I did not think that aircraft engines had extreme compression ratios.
I mean my early 80s Yamaha XT goes happily with Unleaded 98.
It is a 4 valves air cooled single piston, so possibly a bad combination in itself. Why aircrafts can't?

As far as I understand, lead acts as a valve lubrication in old valves

That's only a few older engines; most actually run better without lead (assuming equivalent octane) because the oil doesn't get contaminated and the plugs don't foul up. Mainly, the tetraethyl lead is an octane booster, and it's really only the high compression or turbocharged engines that need the octane. Most naturally aspirated modest compression light airplane engines would run just fine on premium automotive gas, except for the ethanol.
Modern cars and motorcycles get away with higher compression because they have things like knock sensors, ECUs, and properly-shaped combustion chambers. The overwhelming majority of light airplane engines (even most brand new ones) are mostly unchanged since the 50s, with manual mixture controls, fixed magneto ignition, and large, poorly shaped cylinder heads.

There are 100 octane unleaded fuels on the horizon but they haven't gained traction just yet. The ones so far aren't a perfect substitute for 100LL (very slight density difference) so they don't have blanket approval yet, and the avgas market is so small you're unlikely to see it in large quantities until there's a clear mass approval.

The light airplane fleet in general, especially in the US, is old. GA production fell off a cliff in the early 70s due to a number of factors (lawsuits/liability, fuel prices, lower demand, etc.) so new airplanes are ridiculously expensive. People just keep flying the old ones instead. There's some movement in light sport aircraft and annual homebuilt completions now rival factory production rates.
 
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ADent
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Tue Jan 25, 2022 1:04 am

A new 2021 Cessna 172 is $486,000. The 1st 172 was sold in 1956 (and a derivative of the 170 from 1948).
An engine overhaul is going to be $25-30K and has a TBO of 2,000 hours or 12 years.
An avionics upgrade will run $10K to $35K or more.

So for $100,000 you can get your old 172 updated and overhauled. Or buy a new one for $500,000 dollars. That is why old planes are still flying around.

---

Imagine you went to the Ford dealer and a 2022 F-150 used the exact same frame and sheet metal as the 1972 F-150. Same engine, still points, but now fuel injected. Same size tires. Same fuel economy. The new one comes with a digital dash and a new grill. No airbags. No smart cruise. How many people would still be driving 1972 F-150s? Oh and the engine needs an overhaul every 12-20 years, used or new.
 
MountainFlyer
Posts: 503
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2005 10:19 am

Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Tue Jan 25, 2022 4:18 am

morrisond wrote:
In general there are no life time limits on GA aircraft.


One GA aircraft that does have a life limit that comes to mind is the Piper Seminole. Piper Seminole's have a life limit of 14,663 hours for the wing, which effectively gives the plane an expiration date.
 
B595
Posts: 287
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 4:52 am

Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Tue Jan 25, 2022 8:26 am

masonh2479 wrote:
First saw on a mag check that cylinder 5 EGT dropped dramatically on the right hand side and replaced that spark plug. Afterwards the mag check passed and then the vibration happened again. Turns out the spark plug just failed at the same time and the right hand magneto was failing. Replaced the right side magneto and then the left one completely died. After that happened we figured it would be best to replace the rest of the spark plugs and the plane has been running good since. Well it should be with all new spark plugs and two brand new mags.

Then a couple weeks later we finally got some good weather and I got off work at a decent time and the starter motor died, lol!

Ouch. Four different failures, compounded. That’s not going to help convince people to buy a used airplane :D
 
masonh2479
Posts: 320
Joined: Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:44 pm

Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Tue Jan 25, 2022 10:05 pm

B595 wrote:
masonh2479 wrote:
First saw on a mag check that cylinder 5 EGT dropped dramatically on the right hand side and replaced that spark plug. Afterwards the mag check passed and then the vibration happened again. Turns out the spark plug just failed at the same time and the right hand magneto was failing. Replaced the right side magneto and then the left one completely died. After that happened we figured it would be best to replace the rest of the spark plugs and the plane has been running good since. Well it should be with all new spark plugs and two brand new mags.

Then a couple weeks later we finally got some good weather and I got off work at a decent time and the starter motor died, lol!

Ouch. Four different failures, compounded. That’s not going to help convince people to buy a used airplane :D

There is risk to anything, it’s been running good ever since. I think the massive price drop over new would be enough to convince most.
 
highflier92660
Posts: 793
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Wed Jan 26, 2022 3:33 am

https://www.airfactsjournal.com/2014/09 ... urbulence/

For anyone who grew-up reading Flying magazine in the days when Richard L. Collins was the editor, they were familiar with his adventures aboard his intrepid 1979 Cessna P-210. Over the years, Collins flew N40RC through endless number of cold fronts, warm fronts, occluded fronts and every other meteorological weather phenomena mother nature could throw. There were times when a reader was treated to a tale worthy of Greek mythology; Collins negotiating a precariously narrow passage between two towering avil heads with tops well above FL400-- call them Scylla and Charybdis-- verses a lonely pilot in a tiny aircraft against the vast forces of nature. His exploits were that good.

Eventually, inevitably, age caught-up with Richard Collins and airframe hours with his pressurized Cessna 210. When he turned his keys in, N40RC had accumulated 8,963.44 hours of total time.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Small GA aircraft made in 1947 onwards how are they still flying?

Wed Jan 26, 2022 4:02 am

And before that P210, a Cardinal RG, before that a Cherokee 6, before that, a C172, the original N40RC. He started flying weather in a Piper Pacer while courting Ann. Dick Collins was one of the great writers and airmen in general aviation.

https://web.archive.org/web/20090907024 ... urney.html

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