by Pete Schoeninger
Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2018/January 2019 issue
Confession: In the previous issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, I incorrectly stated that there were 517 Cessna 172 Skyhawks built in 1986. I switched numbers by mistake. The real number is 157 aircraft. We hope you find the following questions and answers informative and sometimes entertaining.
Q: You recently wrote that used Cessna 172s have risen in value. Is this true of other similar airplanes, such as the Cessna 172RG, Cessna 172XP, and the Piper Warrior?
A: The similar airplanes as referenced have risen in value, but not as much as comparable used Cessna 172s. On average, a 1980 Cessna 172 will have a value around $55K, a 1980 Cessna 172RG would be about the same, a 1980 Cessna 172XP would bring about $65K, and the 1980 Piper Warrior would bring much less at around $35-40K. That continues to make the Piper Warrior, in my opinion, a very good value.
Q: Follow up question on Warrior value. Why do you think the Piper Warrior underperforms in valuation against the Cessna 172?
A: In my opinion, the demand for used Piper Warriors is less than used Cessna 172s for three reasons: 1) Many people learn to fly in Cessna 152s, and the C-172 is an easy and natural first step up. 2) Cessna 172s in the utility category may be legally used to teach spins; Warriors cannot. That fact gives an edge to the C-172 for flight schools. 3) The Piper Archer (very similar to the Warrior, with a little more power, speed, and useful load) can be had for roughly the same price as a C-172. 180 hp Piper Archers are good performers, and some view the Warrior as a weak sister with 20-30 hp less. But is a 20-30 hp increase worth $1,000 per horsepower? You decide.
Q: While many new cars, and new airplanes, now have fuel injection, I wonder why older cars with carburetors do not get carburetor ice like older airplanes do?
A: The main reason is location. Heated air rises into the car carburetor, which usually sits just a couple of inches above the hot engine block versus cold outside air going directly into the airplane engine carburetor, located below the engine.
Q: A friend swears that his Cessna 182 Skylane is a couple of miles an hour faster with his wife sitting in the backseat, rather than next to him up front. Is that possible?
A: Sure, and probably true. You’ll remember that the center of gravity on almost all airplanes is ahead of the wing’s center of lift. The tail on the C-182 (and other airplanes) needs to produce a downward pull to keep the airplane level. Within reason, the further aft the center of gravity is, the less downward pull the tail needs to produce, reducing drag, and reducing the weight the wings need to carry. Some airliners have fuel tanks in the tail and computers to move fuel around to keep a relatively rear (but within safe limits) center of gravity for optimum efficiency.
Q: My instructor insists that I drain fuel samples from each drain before our flight lesson. Frankly, this is getting absurd. Sometimes the fuel tanks on my rented Cessna 172 must get drained several times a day. I am close to my private pilot check-ride and I have never seen one bit of water in the fuel samples I take. When challenged, my flight instructor’s only response was “The book says to do it.” Can you do better for an answer?
A: I’ll grant you, it would be unusual for you to see water in fuel in the circumstances you describe. Airplane fuel tanks can be exposed to large changes in temperature (remember the sun shines directly on them heating them up during the day) in a very short time, which can produce some condensation inside the fuel tank, particularly if the fuel tank is low on fuel. Another possible water source that cars do not have are airplane fuel caps, which usually sit on top of a cabin or wing. During rain – or when snow melts – a small amount of water can enter the tank if the cap seal is not perfect. I have seen as much as a quart of water drained from airplanes that have been inactive for a little while. In a few airplanes, the manufacturer may suggest rocking the wings a little to make sure any possible water contamination gets to the drain plug area.
Q: A customer of mine (I operate a small FBO in Indiana) has asked us to sell his Piper Dakota. He has given me his bottom dollar, which I feel is a competitive price. But he will not leave the signed bill of sale with me. I think he is being way too cautious, but I am reluctant to tell him that. How would you handle this situation? EDITOR’S NOTE: The bill of sale is the document usually used to transfer airplane ownership.
A: I have a $9,000 lesson to share with you. A long time ago, I had a similar scenario with a very nice Piper Saratoga we had listed for sale. A guy called and inquired about it, and a week later with no notice, he showed up bright and early with his mechanic. They looked at the airplane for about two hours and the prospect said OK, let me see the bill of sale and I will telephone my bank and wire transfer funds today, and we will fly it home. The seller was out of town for a week and he would not leave an open bill of sale with us. Thus, I was unable to produce a bill of sale for them on the spot. They left in a huff, and bought another Saratoga the next morning. That was a $150,000 sale my company missed, and a 6% commission I didn’t get.
In later years, I began asking that owners provide our company with an open signed bill of sale in exchange for a signed receipt for it. If the owner will not give an open signed bill of sale to you, have him send one to an airplane title company with instructions not to release the title until money is received. You will have to convince the owner that sometimes airplane sales are impulse situations, and you (the salesman) have to have maintenance logs and a bill of sale readily available.
Q: I have a Cessna 180 on straight floats. The engine is at TBO, and when it was in for an annual inspection last week, my mechanic told me the engine compression was too weak to pass inspection, but he would be willing to sign a ferry permit to allow the airplane to be flown somewhere for an engine change or sale. I am probably going to move up to a C-206 for more room, so I am considering selling the C-180. Do you think I should try and sell it as is, or overhaul it, and if I overhaul it, should I go with one of many optional horsepower increases available?
A: Since the airplane can be flown away (with a ferry permit from your mechanic), you could advertise it for sale and describe the “runout” condition. Since it is a floatplane, it is possible someone might want to install a larger engine. If there are no takers and you decide to overhaul the engine, I would go with the stock horsepower, and not do an engine upgrade. If you spend say an extra $15,000 to $20,000 for a big horsepower increase, I don’t think you would get that back at resale time, as relatively few buyers would pay the big premium for more power.
Q: With snow season upon us, any tips for landing on slick runways?
A: Some instructors will recommend if landing on a slippery runway, or on a snow-covered runway with unknown braking action, that you make sort of a soft-field landing, and you keep some power on, and use half flaps or less. If after touching down things immediately get too slippery, you can almost immediately (with full power) return to the safety of the sky. And be extremely careful with brakes, using very little if any, unless absolutely necessary.
Q: My neighbor – a veteran pilot – says you can get vertigo while flying in snow at night if you turn on the landing light. Why?
A: If you are flying in snow at night and turn on your landing light, you will get the illusion that snow is coming nearly straight at you. It is possible that your mind can think that means you are going straight up, which is not the case. You may wish to ride with your flight instructor in these conditions so you can experience it firsthand before you attempt to experience it as pilot-in-command.
Q: I am considering buying a 40-year-old Cessna 172 and putting it on floats for next summer. Would I be better off buying an airplane with floats, or buying an airplane, then buying floats separately?
A: Usually the package costs less than a sum of the pieces, so to speak. I would aggressively look for an airplane that has floats that go with it. And remember that most older C-172s DO NOT have structural modifications (called a float kit), so if you do buy a stand-alone C-172, be sure it has a complete float kit. You might be well advised to consider a higher horsepower airplane for better load carrying capability, as a C-172 on floats (especially if on amphibious floats) has pretty limited payload.
Q: A friend asked me to do an Internet search for a YouTube video entitled “16-Year-Old Girl Solos Stinson.” Sure enough, there is a video of a young lady doing a great job of her first solo flight on her 16th birthday in a Stinson. My friend said that it might have been a Piper product. I thought Stinsons were made by the Stinson Division of Consolidated Vultee in Michigan?
A: Near the end of the production run, Piper did buy assets of the Stinson and continued production for the last 300 or so airplanes, out of a total of about 5,000 aircraft built.
Q: As a follow up, can you add any comments on Stinsons?
A: Sure, I like them. They are high-wing tail draggers, originally covered with fabric, but many were metalized in the late 1940s. Many can legally carry four full sized adults and full fuel. But the newest Stinson is nearing 70 years old, so a mechanical inspection by a knowledgeable aircraft mechanic is mandatory if you are considering buying one. Originally produced with Franklin engines, some owners prefer conversions to other engines including the Lycoming 0-360 or Continental 0-360 or 0-470. Univair of Colorado owns the type certificate and sells parts when needed.
Q: Many people – including you – recommend a pre-purchase inspection before buying a used airplane. I could not find anything on the FAA website about pre-purchase inspections?
A: There is not an FAA mandated pre-purchase inspection unlike 100-hour or annual inspection requirements. But it is a good precaution to have a mechanic you trust inspect an airplane you are considering buying. Usually it is a good idea to let the knowledgeable mechanic look at an airplane until he is satisfied it is in good mechanical condition. This can take a few hours or a few days depending on the complexity of the airplane, and how orderly the maintenance records are, and other factors.
Q: My partner (we share ownership of a Cessna 172RG) says I am a “throttle jockey” and always drag the brakes a little and thus run the engine at higher than needed RPMs. I don’t think I do. How can I check up on myself?
A: You should be able to taxi most airplanes on most airport surfaces at an idle speed of under 1000 RPM.
Q: On the ramp, and sometimes on the runway, the ball in my turn and bank indicator is very slightly left or right of center. Is it possible the instrument is installed with a bit of a tilt?
A: Possible, yes. Probable, no. Most airplane ramps have a slight incline to them for water drain off. Many runways have a slight crown for the same reason. For some airplanes you can put a level on the floor, or on the bottom of the door frame, and on the bottom of the other door frame, and add or subtract a bit of air in one main tire until the airplane is exactly level. Then look at the ball…it should be in the center.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger appraises airplanes for estates, divorces, and partnership buyouts. He is a 40-year general aviation veteran, starting out as a line technician as a teenager, advancing through the ranks to become the co-owner and manager of a fixed base operation, and manager of an airport in a major metropolitan community. For aircraft appraisals, contact Pete at PeterSchoeningerLLC@gmail.com or call 262-533-3056 (peterschoeningerllc.wordpress.com).
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others, and refer to aircraft owner manuals, manufacturer recommendations, the Federal Aviation Regulations, FAA Aeronautical Information Manual and instructional materials for guidance on aeronautical matters.