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Affordable light twins?

I’ve noticed some interesting light twins for sale recently for very attractive prices. However, I wonder how they fare in terms of affordability once you own them.

I’m not in the market myself being happy to just about afford my M20, but I’ve been discussing with some people who might have use for a light twin.

My arguments pro light twin is increased safety primarily at night, IMC and over water. Their weak points such as max OEI operating altitude do not really come to play in most of these cases, as over the sea or over most of the European mainland you can make it to an airport at 5000 ft or so and also if an engine fails at say 15000 ft, it will take a considerable drift down till you get there. The factors OEI over the Alps e.t.c. are well known and not subject here.

But I’d like to hear from people who have actual experience with airplanes like the Twin Commanche, Beech Travel Air or similar. For me, these two are quite attractive because of their increadible range. The Twin Com is “known” to me due to the long trips taken by N7311Y for Pilot und Flugzeug, the Travel Air I got to try out many years back and found it very comfortable.

So what is there to know about them? Obviously there are others like the Cheetah or Apache.

LSZH, Switzerland

One thing about the privately operated twin is that it really needs to be on the N reg. To keep on top of a Time-Life Component Sheet for an EASA reg one needs deep pockets. It’s best to apply some of the CSO Beech logic which stands for Cheap Son of a Beech. Stay N reg, hands-on, own your own jacks and stay on top of things. I did own a Twin Com. I would own another twin, and probably will at some stage again. I would like a 337G, B55 or Aztec whenever one comes my way worth the money. I used to fly a 58p for a while belonging to a friend of mine, and found it cost 1600 euro to fill it up. It would take the smile off your face if you weren’t getting duty clawbacks and cheap fuel. My friend has a T310Q that was on a company’s books costing them 330k stg, wall to wall glass, new ram engines and props. He will sell it for 80k stg. Massive performance and utility if you can stomach the fuel and running costs. Talking to a well-known aircraft dealer in the UK about SR22’s which are often held up as the twin alternate, people are not getting away lightly with annual running costs on EASA reg ones.

My twin checklist would be tarmac, own hangar, jacks, full tooling, own no other aircraft if possible and have access to a good mechanic at sub workshop rates. Then it’s no big deal at all.

Edit – Typo

Last Edited by WilliamF at 21 Mar 22:18
U206F, J3 Sea, PA32R & others
EIBR

This and this might also be relevant.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I have owned piston twins for about thirty years.

If you think in terms of them costing you their value every year, you won’t be far off.

EGKB Biggin Hill

Now that Part-ML is finally on the horizon I would say that many of these twins become more affordable on EASA register than before. Simply running the propellers on condition will save you a lot of money compared to today’s rules.

Just find one below 2730 kg but I think that goes all the way up to the Cessna 340 but not enough for the PA-31.

Sweden

If you are looking at TwinComm etc, the magic weight cutoff point is 1999kg, below which you don’t pay Eurocontrol.

I would not look at trainers such as Cougar, Duchess and Seminole, their performance is just too poor. Most Apaches are also very underpowered.

The TwinComm is ok, as are Senecas, but if you can push to an Aztec or Baron, they are more capable.

Beware gear issues and complex fuel system in C310s, but otherwise they are a nice aeroplane.

EGKB Biggin Hill

Oh, and make sure you have access to a mechanic who really knows the type. They are much more complex than most SEPs.

EGKB Biggin Hill

A colleague of mine maintains some twins and this is the sort of thing you can find. That little box could cost 5 figures to repair…

So if – like most people – you do maintenance by dropping the plane at a company, with a signed blank cheque on the seat, it could cost you lots of money. Complex planes are best looked after by a freelance specialist, which I think is exactly what WilliamF is getting at. It would be like the discussions we have had here on running a TBM700 on Part 91. No company will touch it, because they make so much money on supplying parts.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thanks for the feedback so far. For Europe, the 1999 kg limit is one which at least for me and for many I talk to is set in stone. Nobody wants to pay Eurocontrol taxes. Clearly this may change if the anti GA lobby gets their way and everyone will pay Eurocontrol IFR, as proposed many times.

So this in practice leaves twins which are below or can be rated below.

- Beech Travel Air
- Grumman Cheetah
- Twin Commanche
- Seneca I (II and III become pretty useless with 1999 kg)
- Piper Seminole
- Piper Apache

I agree with Timothy that the trainers (Cheetah, Seminole and Apache) are pretty bad in performance and also in range.

Looking at a POH of the Travel Air, I see range of up to 1200 NM (with 100 USG) and of course the range of the Twin Com is legendary, particularly the Turbo Twin Com.

The Seneca I is also pretty range limited, other than that, I liked flying it and at the time was sorry when I missed buying the one I flew at the time for 30k CHF. It is spacy and easy to fly.

So what I am looking for kind of is a twin which
- Has a fuel flow in cruise which is similar to a high performance single
- Has running costs pretty much similar to a high performance single

Performance of these light twins is clearly an issue. First of all, OEI performance.

Now, most people want a twin because they fly IFR, at night or over water. In most of these cases, a OEI ceiling of 4500-5000 ft won’t matter much as a) you can drift down from altitude and in many cases find a suitable alternate while not flying much higher, b) over water there are very few obstacles at that height and c) rarely you fly at absolute MTOW therefore the ceiling will rise.

The Seneca I at the time with 2 on board and about 80% fuel could climb to about 6000 ft and would hold about 7000 drifting down on one engine (training).

As I said, I’ve once flown a Travel Air only for a demo flight and found it extremely nice to fly and very quiet in the cabin. I thought someone here has one, but not sure if I am not mixing it with another forum.

In practice, the two twins which look “nice” to me are the Twin Com and the Travel Air. But I am also interested in experiences with the others sub 2k twins.

LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

So what I am looking for kind of is a twin which
- Has a fuel flow in cruise which is similar to a high performance single
- Has running costs pretty much similar to a high performance single

Good luck.

But seriously, there’s no way you’re even going to get close. The hint regarding fuel flow and running costs is that you have twice the number of engines. A second engine is not even going to give you a free cup of coffee, never mind a free lunch.

Fly safely
Various UK. Operate throughout Europe and Middle East, United Kingdom
224 Posts
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