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The end of the avgas piston twin?

When I was doing my PPL (2000-2001) it was normal to progress on to the twin rating.

Not many people went on to fly a twin let alone bought a twin, but that’s always been mostly true for the PPL anyway.

Today, there is almost nobody.

One reason seems to be the fuel cost. Another is the annual revalidation. Another must be that almost nobody is making them (the market has spoken) so apart from the DA42 you are left with very old airframes. The Seneca and the Baron are still being made and can AFAIK be had with a G1000, but the rest of the aircraft is still very old.

Twin owners dispute most of the above and point to the much better level of equipment for weather penetration (e.g. radar, de-ice) which is not found on SEPs except on the PA46.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

There are some hesitant new entries in that market, mostly Rotax-powered; the Tecnam P2006 must be best known. In Russia there are efforts by one Mr. Chernov, but there is no indication of success. Then again there is the US’an Lockwood Aircam which would perhaps appeal to few, around here… and it certainly can’t claim a high level of equipment. Yet 125 kits were sold, so several tens must be flying, not bad for such a niche product.

Last Edited by at 24 May 06:19
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

The cause likely is the amount of increase in safety of engines compared to decades ago. These days it is very rare to have an engine failure. Most pilots will never have one during their career, right?

Then there are other factors as well such as a significant increase in “crashworthiness” of modern airframes further negating the need for a second engine.

Besides the “fun” factor of a twin, would it always be more advantageous to go for a SET (Single Engine Turbine) if you were looking to upscale from your SEP?

MEP used to be the natural choice for more ambitious private aviators, even AOCs. That has stopped completely, the number of MEPs on AOCs in Europe is approaching zero and private owners with the funds and ambition to own a dependable travel machine go for SETs or MET.

The DA42 might be an exception as it ticks a lot of boxes but it is a very small aircraft, smaller than a C182 so apart from training only suitable for very specific purposes. Also it has none of the cabin class comfort which only MEPs like C340 and above give you but they also give you incredible maintenance headaches and very high running costs which (in a 0% interest environment) make SETs the more sensible choice.

NIL: There is another factor that is not often mentioned but I suspect the physiological impact is significant : dispatch rate.

With all those maintenance headaches, the plane spends alot of time in the shop which means it’s owner needs to find other means to fly, often …

FAA A&P/IA
LFPN

My routine daily hack is a PA31-350, Chieftain. Fortunately someone else pays the fuel bills. :)

For our job there is nothing else out there that can compete unless you jump into King Air territory. Whilst I like aircraft such as the PC12, I don’t think I would like to be behind an SET in our operating environment which involves an awful lot of low level, Rule 5 exempt, work.

Dispatch rate on our Chieftains is absolutely fine – in fact, I can’t recollect the last time we went ‘tech’. We have one DA42 which is slightly less reliable.

I think the DA62 could be an interesting proposition for our company as our task normally involves three crew, a big box of tricks and the need to spend 5hrs or so on task without refuelling; the DA42 struggles here.

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

Maybe the problem comes also from another direction. There is a lack of fairly modern piston twins on the worldwide market, and that means there isn’t anything for the private owner to consider.

Basically the same aircraft are going around as there were in 2000, or even 1990. In the early 1990’s I operated a Cessna 303, it was a 1983 aircraft so less than 10 years old when we got it. If I wanted something similar now it would be 30 years old.

In Europe the piston twin was the backbone of air taxi work. That has gone. Some blame JAA rules for that. The other squeeze on supply of aircraft in the USA is that the SET is doing much of the work previously done by MEPs

This all happened at the time between the mid 1980s and late 1990s when light aircraft production stopped., again a reduction in supply.

So for a private owner with a good few quid to spend it’s either an old airframe or a DA42

Not enticing

Last Edited by Neil at 24 May 08:52
Darley Moor, Gamston (UK)

Cirus (chute) has converted tons of former multi-pilots. That is a huge factor.

In the US particular, even many C421 and Kingair 90 owners have “downgraded” to the SR22 Turbo once the kids were out of house.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

I don’t know, I just love my 1981 Seneca 3, FL160 . FIKI turbo, if I want 55% power 18 usg 178kts, not much more fuel than a lot of singles, or if I wanted 65% 22 usg 188kts, roomy, warm, and flying my family at night, over water or mountains, or in general I like the reduncey of another engine. After owning it for over 6 years I have all the snags done, ok it’s over 30 yrs old and I have spent a great deal of money and TLC on it but everything works great, It flyes like a dream, Maintance cost are now not to bad and really no down time except at the annual. I have to say the down time and cost are down to finding a great mechanic 3 years ago. The first 3 years at other maintance facility’s were a real nightmare, poor work and ripped off on charges, so bad that I almost gave up on owning any aircraft, but that another story.

Last Edited by Rob at 24 May 09:50

My opinion is that the reduced supply is the result of reduced demand, especially in the cabin-class MEP market, which has completely disappeared. When a Cirrus can cost almost $1m, how much would a modern, new Cessna 340 cost? My guess is that it would be uncomfortably close to a SET, MET or even a VLJ.

It seems to me that private individuals or companies who may have owned a cabin-class MEP have moved up to MET ownership or MET/jet charter and obtained a range of advantages for little or no extra cost.

My perception is that there is a lot more jet charter traffic now than there was in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Just look at the rise of charter/fractional operators like VistaJet and NetJets. That type of operation was almost unheard of in the hey-day of the cabin-class twin, yet today they are quite prolific. The air taxi work has gone to these operators.

For commercial pilot training and certain other specific applications, as mentioned by Dave Phillips above, the MEP does still have a place, but as a means of transport, sadly, I think its days are over.

EGTT, The London FIR
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