(August 2011) It's certainly not hard to understand the allure of a new airplane. There’s nothing quite like the smile on the face of a buyer who has just been handed the keys to a brand-new bird. There’s an undeniable pride of ownership there, along with other advantages. New airplanes have the latest features, they’re known quantities with no damage history and (one hopes) no surprises, and they confer certain tax advantages, as well as warranties and often other perks, from free flight training to bonus equipment.
Likewise, the upside of used airplanes is obvious. They’re great deals. You can buy a decent used Skylane, for example, for about one-quarter the cost of a new one. But with that come uncertainties as to the provenance of the airplane, the way its engine or engines were treated, the mystery ailments that might be lurking within only to emerge full-blown five hours after you’ve taken delivery.
The solution to this is to get a used airplane and put it through a complete makeover. While you can’t really get down to the bucked rivet level, you can get awfully close to that. You can also add a lot of features, like LCDs and terrain avoidance systems that a 1966 Mooney, for instance, would have lacked because those systems had not yet been invented.
The airplanes we’re featuring here — there are more on the iPad edition of Flying — run the gamut from a modernized multimillion-dollar bizjet to a gussied-up grass strip classic. And not all of them are museum pieces. Some are works in progress, with clear room to get even shinier. We want to celebrate the fact that, when it comes to refurbishing good used airplanes, you don’t have to do it all at one time. In most cases, the installment plan works just fine.