The Most Fuel-Efficient Piston Singles

Fuel economy is always a hot topic amongst airplane owners, but which are the go-to aircraft when you’re talking piston singles?

[Courtesy: Cirrus Aircraft]

Many pilots enjoy talking about fuel economy because it is among the factors in aviation over which we have some degree of control. Carefully adjusting power settings and other elements of our flight profiles can cut fuel expenses significantly.

It also pays to consider fuel consumption when buying an aircraft. Like cars, some airplanes seem to sip fuel while others guzzle. More so than with cars, though, finding an airplane with a minimal appetite for fuel often comes with compromises that affect your mission or even scuttle it altogether.

While an individual pilot’s technique—and variations even among aircraft in the same model line—can affect fuel consumption, it is clear that certain models have advantages over others. 

Using information from operating handbooks, manufacturers’ data, pilot reports and industry analysts, including Conklin & de Decker and others, we compiled the following list of piston singles and their fuel economy in nautical miles per gallon.

[Photo: Buzz Bot]

Mooney M20G: 15.8 nmpg
The Mooney M20 series was around for so long that not everyone agrees which model is the best. However, the 180-horse versions were famous for squeezing the most speed out of limited power.

[Photo: Douglas Mahn]

Cessna 172P: 15 nmpg
Being slow is among the many things for which the classic 172 is known. Fortunately, it uses very little fuel in the process, so its efficiency is still higher than for most GA airplanes.

Cirrus SR20: 12.9 nmpg
The less-powerful Cirrus piston model is still no slouch. Stepping up to the brawnier SR22T would get you there faster but would also use more fuel per mile.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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