Ask Pete!

by Pete Schoeninger

Q: The engine in my Beech A-36 is due for an overhaul. I am wondering about buying a turbine conversion. What do you think?

A: What’s not to like about an engine that offers better reliability, much better takeoff and climb performance, better cruise speed, and less weight than a piston engine? Doing a turbine conversion is very expensive, and fuel range is usually decreased. Be sure to talk to a few owners of the particular conversion you are considering before proceeding.

Q: My 150 hp C-172 is about due for an engine overhaul. During warm summer months, getting out of my small farm airstrip is a struggle. I am considering a 180 hp upgrade, but that costs lots more money than just overhauling the 150 hp engine I have. Any thoughts?

A: Fortunately, yes. Two things you should talk to your mechanic about.

First, before you make a decision on possible engine changes, spend $300 or so on an experiment. Have the prop you have re-pitched to 4 inches less pitch if that’s legal to do. (The prop shop will know.) That may give you about 100 more RPMs for takeoff and climb, but cruise speed will be reduced a little.

Second, converting your 150 hp engine to 160 hp is easy to do and not very expensive. Ask your mechanic about that as well.

Q: I am considering purchasing a 1980 Beech A-36 for about $130K, but I see I could get a B-55 Baron of similar age, equipment, and engine time for the same or a few bucks less. Isn’t a twin worth lots more?

A: Older small twins, which offer a little more speed, but require more maintenance and fuel, have not held their value as well as older high-performance singles. Now, you can equip your high-performance single with backup vacuum and backup electrical sources, which used to be the reason some buyers went to twins. While costing lots more to operate, twins offer better climb with a load of ice, and at least a shot of getting home should one engine conk out over difficult terrain.

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