The Perfect Plane: Our Better-Than-New Cessna 170B

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When you begin the search for the aircraft model that will best fit your most common mission profile, you define and prioritize the wants and needs that will fit into a defined budget.

You evaluate necessary compromises, and debate between two-place or four-place; speed; cargo capacity; VFR or IFR. Will the airplane be used on unimproved strips or paved runways? Then come the costs to acquire, operate, maintain and insure your choice.

The Light Sport category of new aircraft gives a pilot several possibilities, but most are small two-place aircraft and still run well in excess of $100,000. When one looks into purchasing a new Normal Standard category aircraft, they quickly discover that requires an even larger investment.

The Perfect Plane

Like most pilots, I learned to fly in a Cessna 152 then transitioned to an old 172 line rental plane. The first plane I owned was a 1947 Cessna 140 with an 85 hp engine. It worked perfectly for getting out and enjoying the freedom of flight with a very small cost to operate.

When my daughter began to accompany us, I sold the 140 and bought a 1948 Cessna 170. Everybody in the family loved this plane. The high wings and low panel allowed for great visibility. It had a huge cabin and could carry nearly 1,000 pounds into the air with ease.

When our daughter left for college, I thought it might be a perfect time to take my wife on some long cross-country trips for sightseeing and visiting friends scattered around the country. The C170 could carry all the baggage we wanted to bring, but it was slow enough that diverting for weather meant changing plans for lodging and fuel.

I sold the 170 and purchased a Vans RV-6. At 186 mph TAS, the RV-6 was fast enough that a deviation for weather only added a few minutes to a trip leg and never resulted in revisions to fuel or lodging. You could easily go 1,000 miles a day on 55 gallons of fuel.

In my RV-6, I could make a solo trip from Minneapolis down through New Mexico and up to Sacramento, Calif. in only 12 hours of flight time. The downside to this plane was the much smaller cabin and reduced visibility. After a few trips together, it was clear we wanted visibility and space more than speed.

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