The Perfect Single-Engine Piston Airplane for You

A great first airplane for many budgets is the new Texas Aircraft Colt. Texas Aircraft

When you and your bank account finally decide it is time to buy a new airplane, the choices vary widely in price, features and mission. Every make and model has specific mission capabilities that offer the owner-pilot the most efficient return on investment, and where you settle on the “mission” question ultimately determines the price you pay and the feature set you require.

The choices of single-engine or multiengine piston- powered aircraft range from small two-seat models for pure affordable recreational flying to high-end luxury models, with a price tag to match. Let’s take a look at a few makes and models currently available.

A great first airplane for many budgets is the new Texas Aircraft Colt. With a manufacturer’s base price of $167,000, it’s an affordable light-sport choice that sips fuel as you go have some fun in the sky. However, with the choice of a Dynon SkyView HDX or Garmin G3X and GTN 650 avionics, all-aluminum construction, and stout landing gear, the Colt is suitable for flight training use as well.

Pilots who have been around aviation for a while will be drawn to the new Cessna Skyhawk, Skylane and Turbo Stationair HD from Textron Aviation. All three models deliver a lineage born from decades of dependable aviation manufacturing, and while the Skyhawk, Skylane and Stationair might look like your granddad’s Cessna 172, 182 or 206 from afar, these new models are supremely refined. The Skyhawk of today is flown behind a capable Garmin G1000 NXi glass panel, with an interior look and feel that is far superior to the well-loved 172 you might have trained in back in the day. The Turbo Stationair is equally refined with a similar G1000 NXi avionics suite, and it will carry the exceptional load that has always drawn owner-pilots to the legacy 206. Room for six people on upgraded seating plus the model’s signature double aft doors make loading all those people and cargo easy. The Skylane 182T hits the sweet spot in the middle, in terms of mission, with four seats and substantial flexibility in both payload and performance. You will pay a premium for today’s Cessna models compared to decades ago but will enjoy the same legendary performance, serviceability and dependability.

If flying the backcountry is your desired mission, the CubCrafters XCub or Aviat Husky A-1C-200 will suit that mission well. The XCub is designed for exceptional STOL performance, and while it is designed to be rugged, plenty of passenger comforts have been added. With the panel centered around Garmin’s 10.6-inch G3X flight display, pilots will be able to wind their way safely through canyons with ease.

The Aviat Husky A-1C-200 is also designed to get in and out of the smallest, most-demanding backcountry strips by offering the pilot plenty of horsepower from the Lycoming IO-360-A1D6 engine while sipping just 7.6 gph at 55 percent power. If you want to conduct extreme STOL operations, this backcountry hot rod makes it happen.

For owner-pilots focused on long-range cruising, Beechcraft’s Bonanza G36 should be a strong contender for your dollars. Like the decades of Bonanzas that came before, the G36 is fast, comfortable and well-built. The Garmin G1000 NXi panel allows serious IFR flying, which makes the G36 a great choice as a first business airplane. Another solid cruiser is Piper’s Archer LX, which draws heavily on the familiar Cherokee family. With its fine leather seats and G1000 NXi panel, pilots who have previously flown an older Cherokee will quickly realize this is a seriously upgraded airplane.

One model that percolates to the top of many a pilot’s wish list is Diamond Aircraft’s DA40. The company is known for engineering a high level of safety into each model, and the DA40 is a super stylish, well-built airplane for the first-time owner or seasoned IFR aviator. The sexy ramp appeal of the DA40 comes as standard equipment.

When your budget is on the higher end, the Cirrus SR22 series is the logical choice for a perfect blend of speed, safety, comfort and capability. Available in many package levels starting at $654,900, you pay for the privilege of flying one of the most capable single-engine airplanes available today. The Cirrus Perspective Plus avionics suite by Garmin, 310 hp Continental IO-550-N engine, Cirrus Airframe Parachute System and gorgeous premium interiors make the SR22 family about as good as it gets in personal or business flying.

This story appeared in the November 2020, Buyers Guide issue of Flying Magazine

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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