Ask Pete!

by Pete Schoeninger

Q: My prop (on my Cessna 172L) is marked MTM7653. What do those numbers mean? Could I put a seaplane prop on it for better takeoff performance?

A: The first two numbers are diameter in inches. The second two numbers show how far forward in inches the prop would travel in one revolution with no slippage.  If you look at type certificate 3A12 (peruse the FAA’s website), and  go 172L airplanes, you will see that the seaplane prop has the numbers 80-42. Note the seaplane prop, with bigger diameter, but much flatter pitch, will also turn up about 125 more RPMs, providing more low speed thrust – just what you need to get a seaplane off the water! Note the language SEAPLANE ONLY, so you can’t use that big seaplane prop on your land plane. But you could have your mechanic send your prop out to get the pitch flattened a little, for a bit more zip on takeoff.

Q: I’ve had the itch for a while to sell my older Bonanza and move up to a newer model. Finally, I have the scratch to do it, and I have found a nice one through a dealer. I realize that the dealer will only at best give me wholesale value on my trade in, so maybe I will have a $10,000 loss doing it this way vs. selling it out right. But on the flipside, I don’t have the hassle of selling it myself.

A: The bite might not be that bad if you consider sales tax issues. Sales tax laws and rates vary by state, but in some situations, you only pay sales tax on the “boot” or cash price on top of your trade in. So if you’re paying $200,000 for the newer airplane and your sales rate is 6% in your area, you will have a sale tax obligation of $12,000 on an outright purchase. If the dealer allows you $90,000 on your older airplane, you will pay $110,000 to boot, thus you will have a tax obligation of 6% on the $110,000 difference or $6,600. So maybe you lose $10,000 by trading in your old airplane vs. selling it outright yourself, but you then save $5,400 in taxes by trading. BEFORE DOING ANYTHING LIKE THIS, CHECK TAX LAWS IN YOUR STATE!

Q: I’ve had my 1976 Cessna 172M for sale for a few months for $59,000. I made up a sheet and put it on the sale board at our local airport. I have provided rides to several local prospects, but so far, no serious interest. What am I doing wrong? I thought it would be a popular airplane on the market.

A: Two big mistakes many private sellers make: 1) You’ve got to advertise in at least three airplane sale sites that have internet presence (including a classified ad in Midwest Flyer Magazine). Your chances of selling locally are remote. The average distance of a new buyer from seller is often 500 miles or more. 2) Unless your airplane is way above average, you’re priced out of the market. Be realistic. Remember, it cost you hundreds of dollars a month (reserve for annual, insurance and hangar rent) to own the airplane, so holding on to it for a long time to get a few more dollars is often a losing proposition. People who ask for a ride, want a free ride, and are not interested in buying your plane. And, most people who say, “I’m gonna think about it,” either don’t have the funds to buy your airplane, or don’t have the guts to tell you that your airplane is not quite what they are looking for.

Q: The fabric on my older Maule is getting pretty rough. Can you recommend a fabric shop?

A: You didn’t say where in the country you are, so I can’t help with a specific name. But ask your local mechanic, or inquire at your nearest FAA FSDO and ask for a maintenance inspector. They may know good fabric shops in your area, or call the factory. If you’re near the Maule facility, they, and other fabric airplane manufacturers, sometimes work on older airplanes as well as build new ones.

Q: What does an aircraft title company do, and should I consider using one?

A: If you are making a long distance sale, it is usually worth the expense to use the services of a title company for convenience and peace of mind. Very briefly, title companies take the worry for the buyer in sending a deposit to an unknown seller. The buyer will send the deposit to the seller, and the balance of the purchase price to the title company, not the seller. The seller sends a signed bill of sale to the title company, not the buyer. When everybody says OK, the title company will simultaneously file the bill of sale to change ownership with the feds, and send all funds to the seller via wire transfer. For the package deal including title search, escrow, etc., expect to pay about $600 – $700 or so for a $100,000 transfer, a fee often split between buyer and seller. I have had good luck with Debbie King at King Aircraft Title Company: 405-376-5055.

Q: Last fall, I over-flew my home airport at night, and noted some wisps of fog through the runway lights. But on short final, I suddenly found myself in the fog and could no longer see runway lights…all this at about 20 feet above the runway. I quickly did a go-around, but it scared the heck out of me. What happened?

A: When you looked straight down at the runway lights, you were looking through perhaps 10-20 feet of fog. But when you were close to the ground about ready to flare for landing, you were looking ahead through several hundred feet of fog. Fog is very possible in the fall, especially on cool, clear nights when temps drop quickly after sunset. Have a plan to get to another airport, preferably at a higher elevation, if needed.

Q: I just lost a bet. A fellow airport bum told me he could tell without looking in the cabin if an old Mooney departing our airport had a manual or electric gear retraction mechanism. And it turned out he was right! Tell me his secret if you know it, please.

A: Some old Mooneys had a large manual gear lever. It was a bar between the front seats. When the bar was flush on the floor, the gear was up, and when the bar was moved by hand to the vertical position, the gear was down. The bar had a mechanical lock to hold it in either the up or down position. On takeoff, when a pilot wants to retract the gear, you grasp the gear handle, and lower the handle from vertical, toward the floor. Very few pilots are able to complete this 90 degree change of position without changing their hand position from palm up to begin the retraction process to palm down to finish the movement to horizontal on the floor. At the point where most pilots have to change position of their hand, the gear is about halfway up. So if you watch an old Mooney take off, you may see the gear retract quickly to about the halfway point, then a slight hesitation during change of hand position on the bar, then it retracts fully and quickly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger is an aviation consultant and aircraft appraiser who lives in Wisconsin. He is an experienced fixed base operator, aircraft salesman and airport manager. Email your questions about all things aviation to: For assistance with aircraft appraisals or fixed base operator and airport management consultation, call 262-533-3056. Any answers provided in this column are the opinion of the author and not necessarily this publication, or its editor, publisher, owners and affiliates.

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