I'm part of a PA28 group - nicely kept, recent engine and prop. Share cost circa £3k, £105 /hr wet, cruises circa 108 knots. Availability is reasonable but can be busy at times (12 in the group). Some politics in the group too, so there can be some friction at times within the group.
Came across a PA32 (300hp) (fixed gear, Saratoga) recently, non-equity group but its £180/hr wet, cruises 130ish knots. Has full AP and TBO on both engine and prop are under 1000 hrs. 6 in the group but only 2 or 3 fly anything like reasonably regularly so availability would be significantly better. However, the aircraft is parked behind another in the hangar, so there is a fair amount of juggling round to get it out of the hangar.
I don't particularly need the extra room in a PA32 but I'd probably fly more with more friends (although realistically, it won't be very often). Most of my flying now is going places ie. I tend not to fly "for the sake of it" eg. the £100 burger run etc. I tend to use the aircraft to go visit people or places and hence, fly about 50-60 hours / p.a. - and obviously the AP would make it much more relaxing on longer journeys. I also like getting into small(ish) grass strips, 600m and I've been wanting to do an IR for ages so this would (might!) probably give me the kick I need to do it.
However, the increase in the hourly rate (+71%) for a relatively small increase in speed (+20%) is difficult to justify and I'm just not sure if that is something that would get to me after a while. However, if i sell my PA28 share, then the hourly rate is partially offset by freeing up the cost of the share. Ultimately, I want a Cirrus and have talked to a few people about shares but getting folks to part with cash is near impossible, particularly when starting a group from scratch. The guys in the PA32 group don't want to exchange to a Cirrus, they are happy with the useful load and size / stability of the PA32.
I'm on the fence with this. Move away from the current group to something more capable but at significant increase in hourly cost. It could be a good stop-gap whilst I take stock and either buy a Cirrus myself or form a group etc. (could be months / years though)?
Sensible move or not?
My take, FWIW, is to ask whether this plane will fit your "mission profile" (which itself might change) better than the current one.
Are you ever forced to do inconvenient stops due to limited fuel range? Getting rid of those is a huge plus - other than for people who treat a flight like a "little adventure" and actually enjoy all that stuff. I would not be suprised if the PA32 had 2x the useful range of the PA28, which is very relevant for foreign trips given where in the UK you live, and foreign trips add huge value to flying.
An autopilot is a massive plus. The pilot workload goes down about 10x.
Politics in the group is definitely worth getting away from, but won't the new group have similar issues? This is hard to check out in advance but if you meet them you can judge.
Finally you always need to keep flying at a level where it is easily affordable. If it was me, and the money was OK, I'd go for it, because it would improve my flying enjoyment.
Check the usual stuff re syndicates also of course.... e.g. any equipment which is INOP and the deal on getting it fixed, members' attitudes to maintaining IFR capability even if some don't have IFR papers... In your case, can the plane meet the Standards 07 CAA requirements for the IRT i.e. VOR DME ADF all have to work.
A PA-32 is a much more capable and comfortable plane than a PA-28. But joining a group for a few months wouldn't seem to make sense. To be honest, if that hourly rate is tough for you then a Cirrus will be heart-stopping.
A syndicate of 12 is almost a flying club with only one machine. 6 sounds way better. And the amount of politics increases exponentially with the number of members :)
non-equity group but its £180/hr wet
Certainly sounds reasonable for a PA32, especially wet.
Money aside I would not hesitate, but as Peter said, it's important to keep it at your budgeted level. Look at your previous flying years and try to come up with how much the same years would have cost with the PA32 instead of the PA28 (+ landing fees) and if the number you come up with is in your budget, go for it !
I ask myself similar questions as I am beginning to outgrown the Archer II. But you have to work out what your affordable budget is, also allowing you to save for a Cirrus or other commitments, and work out how many hours you can fly. If your budget was for example £500, 5 hours in a PA28 per month, might be more constructive (but perhaps not as interesting) that 2.7 in a Saratoga. Maybe there is a halfway house, e.g. a Arrow III or something? That would probably be my next move rather than a Saratoga, which I think is only worth it if you are doing trips of a few hours or more at a time.
A Saratoga makes sense if you routinely want to fly with 3 passengers. You will be more comfortable in that than a Cirrus. If you will mostly want to fly 2 or 3 up then maybe a Cirrus is the way to go.
All of the above posts make a lot of sense.
FWIW, out of the £180 ph wet that you would be charged for a fixed gear Saratoga, £110-120 ph is for the fuel.
Having owned the following pipers;
PA28 140 PA28 181 PA28R 201 PA32 300 PA32R 301
They all have their places, depending on your mission profile. I loved the PA28 140 as it was a great machine to build experience in, but was at best a 2+2 and a trip from Oxford to Rennes felt like a huge adventure. 90-95kts
The Archer was very capable, but after a summer of use the Arrow came up, and that was what I really wanted. 105-110Kts
The Arrow III was a great machine and a very good all-round compromise of complexity, speed, economy and load carrying ability. 135-140kts
The Cherokee six was a terrific load carrier and did shortish strips as well as intergalactic spaceports. However, it was no faster than the arrow and used 50% more fuel for the same speeds. If you need to carry 6 people regularly into short strips, this is the machine for you, otherwise you should think carefully as to whether this is what you really want. 130-137kts
The Retractable Saratoga is the current aircraft and, with a useful load of 1,300lbs and 107 usg fuel capacity, you can either load 4 rugby players, bags and fuel or 6 adults and 3 hrs fuel. Full fuel endurance is 7hrs (I've flow egtk-faro direct and landed with 1.5hrs plus VFR reserves) and will cruise at 155-160kts. Paradoxically, the TAS remains at 155-160 kts, whether you are at 4,000ft or fl105, but the fuel consumption falls from 15 usg/p/h to 12 usg/p/h, at peak egt.
If it were me, and I needed the 4-6 pax capability, and flew in and out of strips most of the time, I would plump for the C6; if it was mainly big concrete airfields, I'd go for the retractable Saratoga. If I rarely flew more than 2 up, I'd go for the Arrow III (and the Arrow II is pretty capable too, just not as nice in turbulance).
There is an argument to be made to say that the fixed gear Saratoga occupies a slot that is difficult to justify, as it isn't very fast and doesn't do strips very well (due to the taper wing, as opposed to the C6 hershey-bar wing).
There are good reasons as to why the fixed gear Saratoga was a slow sellar in period and why today, even in these straitened times, there are very few PA32r 301's or PA28r 201's for sale.
I would have a long hard think about your mission profile, before pressing the button on any purchase.
I ask myself similar questions as I am beginning to outgrown the Archer II
But then you would have to change your username ! Very inconvenient :)
A Saratoga makes sense if you routinely want to fly with 3 passengers. You will be more comfortable in that
Most of my flying now is going places
If endurance is a consideration: Ch6/300 = 84 USG max and Arrow III = 77 USG max.
Thanks for the responses. To be clear, the increased hourly rate is not a particularly huge issue. Its more the fact that I'm getting only another +/- 25 knots for another £75 / hr. If that TAS were closer to 140 / 150 knots then I wouldn't hesitate, I'd be straight in.
Getting away from the current group politics is a huge motivating factor. I've been in the group for over 3 years and the group served a purpose when I joined, I just think i've outgrown the group and the aircraft and quite frankly, got a bit bored of pottering along, manually flying at just over 100 knots for hours. Stopping at numerous places enroute isn't really what I'm after - I'd rather just "get there".
Just to clarify, there are a limited number of groups where I'm based. A share in an Arrow III would probably be a perfect next step but quite simply, there aren't any and I wouldn't go out of my way to buy one just for the sake of fulfilling only half the mission. There may be a non-equity twin Commanche not far in the near future located at an unlicensed field but I've heard that it will be £250 / hr and will be 10 people in the group and obviously there are no nav aids, lighting etc. So, the reality is that there are a limited number of groups around and therefore the Saratoga group is the best on offer (other than a Cessna 340 / Piper Navajo, neither of which fit the bill).
Filling all seats will be once in a blue moon - in fact flying with 4 adults won't happen that often either.
I'll make some more enquiries about issues with the aircraft, any repairs that are required in the near future etc and I'm pretty sure that I'll go ahead with it.
Thanks for your suggestions.