Budd Davisson, Plane and Pilot, August, 2000

Under Valued Aircraft



Another of Johnson's favorites was the old Beech Queenair. Here again, geared engines bring the price way down. The earliest 1960 versions go for $53,000 while the last one was produced in 1977 and goes for $160,000, with most in between clustering around $74,000. Not bad for an old gal that will cruise from 186 to 200 knots, depending on the version and can carry as many as eight passengers (3,000 pounds useful).

Barron Thomas in Scottsdale, Arizona decided to compile a list of more "normal" and user friendly airplanes. His started out with what many would term as the "lowly" Piper Tomahawk. He feels the fact that the airplane operates at C-152 costs, but is faster and more comfortable gives it at least the same utility, but for a much lower cost. The Tomahawk was produced from 1978-1982 and ranges from $16,000-$18,500, while the Cessna of the same years runs $23,000-$27,000. This is a major difference and is probably based on brand identification and a reputation problem with the first Tomahawks.

He feels the same way about the 140 Cherokees. Same engine and performance as a C-172 but, in most cases will actually carry more. Still the Blue Book says they aren't worth as much. They range from $21,000 for a 1964 model to $29,000 for the last ones produced in 1977. C-172's for the same year run $25,750 to $44,000. Big difference!

Another airplane he thinks is under-rated as competition for the C-172 is the original 150 hp Cardinal which was introduced in 1968 with a fixed pitch prop. It was immediately upgraded with a 180 hp/constant speed prop combination before anyone noticed that with the same 150hp engine, it was 2 knots faster than its cousin, the 172, at 117 knots and carried almost exactly the same load. Today, the two airplanes cost almost exactly the same (Blue Book $30,000) but the Cardinal has a much roomier, more modern cabin and, many think, better handling.

It seems as if the Cessna 182 has always been a standard to judge things by. However, when Barron Thomas pointed out that the Blue Book value of a 1980 Cessna 182 was $2,000 higher than the twin engine Cessna Skymaster of the same year ($94,000), the disparity between over and under valued became obvious. The Skymaster was first produced in 64 with fixed gear then retracted it's gear the next year. During the 16 year production span on the airplane (ended 1980), the cruise speed increased from 167 knots to 195 knots for the turbocharged, pressurized versions. Think of that: a turbocharged, pressurized twin for $94,000 that'll carry 1700 pounds useful load. Sounds like a value to us, regardless of what it's detractors say.

Last, but not least, Thomas pointed to the 180 hp (STC'd conversion) Apache as a great value. There aren't many out there, but they are half the price of a Duchess and will do and carry more.

So, what have proved here? For one thing, we've proven that even though used airplane prices seem to be going out of sight, there are still some real values to be had. We've also seen that there are lots and lots of airplanes that are right now bordering on being valueless simply because the market has changed its perceptions. The drop in value attached to geared engines is a case in point. When they came out, they were hot stuff. Now, they've cooled considerably, but the utility of the airplanes hasn't changed a bit.

As is almost always the case, the market eventually changes, or maybe "wises-up" might be a better description, and those airplanes that are undervalued slowly move into the spot light. The trick is to catch them while they are still standing in the wings, so to speak, waiting to be discovered.

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