would this airplane sell?


Having looked at all the new airplanes at the AOPA convention yesterday and today - I’ve discovered that they are all very nice, most are very fast, and have almost no payload.

Cirrus - full fuel - 500lbs payload - 2 people and bags

Columbia - even less 450lbs

Saratoga/etc - all the same problems.

Here is my airplane -

160-165kts TAS.

IO-540 - non turbo’d - 300 hp. - or the IO-550 - 310hp.

88-92 gallons.

1250lbs payload, 700-750 payload.

4 seats - with room for 2 more - or put in 6 seats.

Glass of course- option for TKS.

Given what is out there for $400k right now - would you spend $500k for this airplane instead of the Cirrus/Columbia/DA50 etc??

I think there is a tremendous niche for a real traveling machine. I think guy and gals who have $400k to spend can spend $500k and get a real airplane - one that is just as comfortable doing the $200 hamburger as it is flying 700-800nm in comfort with reasonable speed and style.

Given the choice between an SR22 and what else is out there for a little less than that price, and a airplane that is not weight restricted . . .

I’m thinking bringing back the Lance / Comanche / 210 series airplanes.

I do not own an aircraft company, but why can’t they be reverse engineered successfully? Patents are long expired in the case of the Piper aircraft. Cessna still has the 210 one active.

But I’ve gotta be thinking that a nice little 4/6 seat airplane with all the current bells and whistles would fly great. Designed right, you could build a Comanche like airplane with fixed gear to eliminate the weight of the retract system, which would go right back in the airplane from leather and the modern conveniences.

Piper has tried it with the Matrix - which is a unpressurized Mirage - 6 very nice leather seats. But it as a $750k price tag. Take out the turbos and the complex systems and sell a simple airplane. With great avionics and bringing back that old fashioned idea of utility.


Are the payload figures you listed the maximum landing weights, or the payload hauled excluding passenger weight ?

Also, you should check out the Beechcraft Bonanza G36, it might be what you’re looking for: http://www.hawkerbeechcraft.com/beechcraft/aircraft/pistons/bonanzaG36/

Interesting question though !


Useful Load - 1250lbs

PAYload [meaning after full fuel load] 700-750

that’s 4 people and bags.

My Comanche - empty weight 1942lbs.

Gross: 3200

Fuel - 56 or 86 [336 or 516]

Useful Load - mains only 3200-1942-336 = 922lbs.

That’s 922# for 2.9hrs - with an IFR reserve and an alternate 40nm away.

Or, get 748lbs for 5hrs. Thats 775nm with 750lbs of payload. Those airplanes do NOT exist today for under $1M. [well, now Piper has one for $757k].

That gives you a two 200lb and 2 150llb pax, and still 50lbs of bags - that is enough for a weekend away.

Lets look at the Bo =

3650 max TO weight
2600 - expected empty weight

Useful Load = 1050-1100

minus 90 gallons of fuel - 540 = 510-560lbs.

You are leaving someone home. Plus, the G36 retails for $1M or so.

Not what I had in mind.


I do not know where you got your figures for the G36, but they go for much less than 1M$…

Also, given that the G36 does not meet your performance criteria and already busts the 600K$ cap, how exactly do you plan to make a higher-performance plane available for less ? Manufacture a kit ?

I think that’s your best option for cutting down costs, but kit aircraft are disincentives for most people who are not willing to spend the time and effort required to actually assemble their own aircraft.

Cessna also makes 6-seat models with performance comparable to the G36: the Stationair and Turbo-Stationair: http://se.cessna.com/

With all that being said, I still think that your question is very interesting (I work in aircraft design :smiley: !), but the biggest issue here is the impossibility to make such a high-performance aircraft available at such a low cost…


Hey iside - Beech musta dropped the price big time - cause last time I checked they were $850 and up . . .

Still looks like the Matrix is the better buy - albeit $150k more or so.

The issue if inexpensive for high performance- I have to ask - why can’t you design a Comanche replacement?

Simple mechanical systems. Put in Johnson bar flaps. G1000. Same materials. I bet you could ‘copy’ a Comanche for $500k . . . and I’d like to know. . . . you could probably put on fixed gear - IO-550 and get 170knots of out that airplane, on 17gph - given the airplane the same range as with the lower fuel burn on the same amount of fuel for being faster. . .


I have to agree with you that the Piper Comanche is quite a marvelous aircraft (I think it is a 4-seater though). However, one might encounter some problems when bringing new aircraft with your performance and accessibility criteria to the market:

  1. Aircraft manufacturers tend to favor the use of composite materials such as carbon fiber when building and manufacturing new aircraft. These materials offer greater strength and resilience than the alloys employed in the past at a fraction of the weight. The only exception that I can think of is the Mooney Airplane Company that still uses a chrome/steel alloy for the Acclaim’s airframe. Although such materials are great for aircraft integrity and performance (as well as manufacture rate and reliability), the integration of carbon fibre has two main negatives:

They tend to increase the overall cost

The give very little warning before fracture of failure occur (they do not rust, and don’t deform much). This entails more thorough inspections (although perhaps at a lower frequency) and therefore more costly inspections (and possibly replacements).

  1. Turbochargers/intercoolers are used in engines to improve their performance without having to change the powerplant itself (therefore saving loads on engine weight). I agree that adding these systems does affect the engine’s weight, but it does so at a lesser extent than changing the whole engine for a bigger, higher-performance one. Taking out the turbos can be a justified decision (for reduced SFC, weight and cost), but it will have to balance with the actual motor output and desired performance.

  2. The drag that is caused by an extended landing gear is phenomenal. I agree that the gear-folding mechanism does increase aircraft weight and complexity (also costing more and increasing insurance premiums), but it reduces the aircraft drag tremendously. This means that with a retractable landing gear, your aircraft will produce less drag and shall be able to fly more efficiently (faster, further and with less fuel burnt). In my humble opinion, retractable landing gears are the way to go.


Iside - I owned a Turbo Viking for 2 years - I know how to operate a turbo airplane - the systems also add weight and there really is no reason for them if you have an IO-550 in a small complex plane.

Yep, composites have all the negatives of which you speak. How about building it from wood and fabric? That’ll save some weight. It is also a composite.

Next, just because manufacturers like composites does not mean they have to make everything under the sun from them. Wood and fabric is a composite. Aluminum does not rust either, it corrodes - very slowly. There is no reason why old designs cannot be updated - look at virtually every airplane made by Piper and Cessna right now. Old technology of aluminum and smooth rivetiing costs less and requires less skill, less complex manufacturing - aircraft owners will buy performance, speed and payload - I’m sure composite means less than you think in the marketplace.

If drag with extended gear was such an issue neither Cirrus nor Columbia would be building straight legged high performance aircraft. If the performance penalty arising from drag is less than the penalty from the added weight, then you have a net gain - or at least a wash.

A Comanche has a dead simple mechanic system for the gear. Three threaded rods connecting to a universal drive driven by an old windshield washer motor. I have never heard of this system failing to work absent a broken rod or failed motor.

You seem to say that systems need to be made more complex in order to pass inspections and sell - that is not true. The only change that need be made to the e.g. Comanche gear is the emergency extension system - I think they made it more complex than necessary - current engineering could keep the same systems and change the method of actuation, which would make it pass Part 23 tests simply and easily.

Change the electric flaps to a detent manual system like the Warrior / Archer. I fail to see what the problem is here. Less weight and complexity. Add another battery and back up alternator and take away the vacuum pump for all electrinc back up systems.

We have an airplane already designed that we know is efficient and has all of the standards and characteristics we need - we can take advantage of speed mods already known to exist, and incorporate them into production - I simply cannot imagine the airplane costing more than $500k out the door. Insurance will be less since we have proven design with a history.

I honestly believe you can create a 170-180 knot TAS Comanche, with the 86 gallon fuel system, using an IO-550 and have it leave the factory with an empty weight under 2000 lbs, retract or not.

Get the Gross of 3200 and you get 1200-1250 lbs of useful load.

Perhaps instead of glass cockpit you go back to HSI/ 6 pack with an MX20 and 2 Garmin 430’s. Why not? Cost less and weigh less.

I think there is ALOT to be said for the non-glass cockpit - KISS. What a concept, huh? Build and airplane with the performance of a Bonanza without the systems risk or complexity or insurance hit of glass systems.

Imagine, 175ktas, 1250lb payload, 4.5 hour range [775nm] with IFR reserves and alternates and comfort - the Comanche / P210 were comfortable airplanes to spend that time in. You sat in a Cirrus, DA42/50 etc lately?


I guess you enjoy playing with words here…

Indeed, wood is a composite material, but the fibers are unilateral and therefore wood isn’t quite the best choice for a structure under torsional and flexural stress such as the wing of an airplane. Carbon fibre on the other hand can be woven in any desired way to perfectly adapt to the stresses it will have to cope with. Also, there is no other material on the planet that has a higher strength to weight ratio than carbon fibre. Yes, it is true that aluminum does not rust as well, but carbon fibre is still lighter, and much much stronger. You don’t have to take my word for it, simply consult any materials engineering handbook and compare densities, yield strengths and ultimate tensile strengths.

Also, once the molds for the carbon fibre pieces have been machined and properly surfaced, production rate is by far greater than good old smooth-riveted surfaces and the surface finish is also by far better and this required much less hands-on work: simply apply the layout, and let it cure. That’s exactly what Boeing is doing with it’s 787 Dreamliner, and what many aircraft companies are also striving to achieve: carbon fibre is simply the way to go because it is stronger, lighter, and required much less post-processing. This does not render anything else useless, simply not the best option for a company seeking to maximize roll-out rate while minimizing labor. Also, aluminum is a very hard material to mine, and therefore it is very costly, motivating companies to create some kind of recycling process, further increasing exploitation cost. So next time you hear someone talking about composite materials in aeronautics, think “multi-directional woven composites”. One of the main reasons why aircraft cannot be completely molded from carbon fibre or other composites is that these materials do not support the heat associated with de-icing hardware. That is why you’ll usually see a carbon fibre wing with a leading edge crafted using other metals (aluminum, titatium, or alloys).

I know that you probably know how to use turbocharged engines. Therefore you must know that the turbocharger enhances engine performance at a certain RPM (probably near the RPM-range at the cruise setting). You must also be well acquainted with the fact that engine BHP reduces with increasing altitude. Therefore, for high-flying fast-cruising aircraft, turbos (and intercoolers) are usually used. Of course, if you do not need the extra-boost, then to hell with turbos! In that case, you’re right, turbos simply present a useless increase in weight and do not aid in increasing the max payload.

Finally, straight-legged landing gears DO represent a significant increase in drag. Why do you think that all high-performance aircraft have retractable landing gears ? Also, why do you think that the Lancair IV-P cruises approximately 50 knots faster than the Columbia 400 ? Of course, it is not all due to the retractable landing gear, but you can be certain that those three legs do no good to the aircraft’s drag coefficient. If you still do not believe me, I encourage you to take a glance at the book “Fluid Dynamic Drag” by Hoerner. All the figures and comparisons are there.

The reason why Columbia and Cirrus offer straight-legged aircraft is to make them more available (and affordable) to the general market. Some insurance companies will not even provide ensurance if you’re a retracting landing gear aircraft owner with less than 2 500 hours in your logbook. Others require you to take a dedicated course before being insured. Some people do not find that it’s worth the trouble, and they go for Columbia or Cirrus aircraft. Other prefer to fly Mooneys for example.

Now, I am not saying that what you propose is impossible and shall find no market… in fact, there are probably dozen of people that would gladly spend their money on such an aircraft. I simply do not think that the general market is looking for such a plane. Simply cross-examined new aircraft releases and you will see…


Ahhhhhh…intelligence, eloquence, and facts come back into the forums! How refreshing!

Well said ISide!

Long Live the Starship!



Obviously you have never flown a Bellanca Viking - wood/fabric airplane which I’d put side by side with any plastic airplane for strength. The Viking will be flying long after all of the composites delaminate.

As for stiff legged airplanes - look - any idiot with a brain knows that retracts provide less drag than down and welded. My point was that there is a tradeoff and the high-perf manufacturers have made their decision since ALL of the modern hi-perf airplanes under $450k are non-retracts. How about using some of your training and experience and tell us what the break even point is for a Comanche? Figure the retract system weighs 250-300lbs with the struts, bungees etc. How much speed do we get if we reduce the weight to 100lbs for the gear but have 3 well faired wheels in the breeze?

Seems ‘ensurance’ costs more where ever you live since it is easily possible for a 200 hour private pilot with an instrument rating to get insurance in the USA in a high performance retract. I know - I managed without much effort several years ago. In fact, any idiot with a fat enough wallet can buy a Cirrus SR-22 and TRAIN in it for a private here. Might cost more than I’s like to pay, but if I has $400,000 USD for a plane, I’d probably have $10,000 for ensurance.

That being said - I fail to understand what was ‘wrong’ or not intelligent or what facts were lacking in my posts. You don’t need to like me Chris, but I do not understand why you dislike me.

This is devolving into a who can piss higher on the tree.

I asked a question. Is is a yes from you westward? You’d spend $500k for a new Comanche?

Or what about you Iside? would you buy that airplane with that performance criteria?


The Comanche comes close - especially since you didn’t include easy to land smoothly in your list of requirements. I used to have one and they are great planes. However, the tooling for them was lost in a flood at the Piper Lockhaven facility, so you would have to start from scratch if you wanted to build them again. The folks at LoPresti (Roy LoPresti is credited with the much of the design work on the Mooney that led it to be a fast plane at lower hosepower) almost bought the certification on the Comanche from Piper several years ago, but the deal fell thorugh. Since LoPresti has several current aftermarket mods for the Comanche that add up to something like 15-20 knots additional speed, a fully redesigned LoPresti Comanche would be amazing. LoPresti is still in business if someone seriously wanted to investigate that idea.

A much newer plane that comes even closer is the Socata Trinidad. You can fill the seats (with adults) plus bags and still load enough fuel for a 4+ hour flight and is reasonably fast (~160 knots). It can hold 88 gallons of fuel, but not with full seats of heavy passengers (then it’s closer to 70-75). It has seatbelts for three in the back, but they would need to be smaller to actually fit. There is TKS available.


A modern (260 sized airframe please) LoPresti-ized Comanche? I’d be in!..


If I were looking for a single engine aircraft, I probably would be interested in something like that – sounds great, in fact. However, if we are dealing with a strict budget of $500,000 or less …

I would be more interested in an Aerostar 602P mod. to 700. It has superior speed, range, and carrying capabilities; what’s more, twin engine and pressurized. I have flown the Aerostars and they are incredible performers for the money.

As to the personal aspect of the conversation, I have nothing more to say that I already haven’t said. I’ll let other readers interpret and judge for themselves. As to not liking you – I haven’t a clue as to who you really are; the only thing that I have to go on is your attitude and behavior exhibited within these posts. With that I will end this as I don’t really want to get into a dissertation of the art of communication.

Just my .02 worth…



Listen, I have done my best to try and share with you the knowledge that I possess through my engineering background or aircraft design/manufacture experience while remaining as courteous as I can be. I do not think that the sort of language or behavior exhibited in your posts is justified, but I shall nonetheless do my best to explain exactly what I meant.

Obviously you have never flown a Bellanca Viking - wood/fabric airplane which I’d put side by side with any plastic airplane for strength. The Viking will be flying long after all of the composites delaminate.

You’re right, I have never flown a Bellanca Viking although I am very well acquainted with the aircraft. I never meant to say that wood/fabric construction would make for poor aircraft, what I meant is that given the same weight, a carbon fiber construction would provide a stiffer and stronger frame; furthermore, one could say that for given specifications, a carbon fiber construction would prove to be lighter than pretty much anything else. I have built aircraft using anything from competition-grade balsa and plastic shrink-wrap to carbon fiber and Fiberglas, so I have made quite extensive trade-studies in the past. The Bellanca Viking still remains a marvel of engineering with quite attractive performance figures.

As for stiff legged airplanes - look - any idiot with a brain knows that retracts provide less drag than down and welded. My point was that there is a tradeoff and the high-perf manufacturers have made their decision since ALL of the modern hi-perf airplanes under $450k are non-retracts. How about using some of your training and experience and tell us what the break even point is for a Comanche?

Good, I’m glad we’ve got that straight. You are right when you say that there is a compromise that has to be made, although I fear that the high-performance manufacturer’s trade-offs have not much to do with pure aerodynamics, but rather with making the aircraft available to the general public (since we’ve agreed that retracts cost more over multiple facets). Also, I’m not quite sure what you mean when you’re asking for a break-even point for the Piper Comanche. Drag count analysis is a highly sophisticated process that evolves extensive documentation and dedicated multi-processor computers. If you are interested in conducting your own preliminary analysis, I can point you to comprehensive Conceptual Design textbooks that will allow you to better understand the impact on performance criteria (climb rate, range, top speed, take-off and landing rolls, etc.) of certain modifications impacting aircraft drag. You will however require good documentation on the Comanche’s exterior dimensions and airfoil selections that I do not have at this time.

Now, regarding insurance, whatever the numbers may be, I think that we both agree that insurance costs more when piloting retracts than fixed-gear. The numbers I have come up with come from general aviation forums (flightaware, lancair pilots, lancair builders mail list, etc…).

Now for the definite answer to your question: if I had the money today, I do not think that I would buy such an aircraft; not because the criteria are obsolete, but rather because I’m currently more interested in kitbuilds such as the Lancair IV-P. In 5-10 years time however, that might change. I do nonetheless think that such an aircraft will appeal to some pilots out there…


You want performance in that league for a good price? Build yourself a Van’s RV-10 kitplane!


Stepping back in time a little, but how about a “S” model Bonanza, upgraded to an IO-550 and with tip tanks. You get a 200 or 250 pound gross weight increase with the tip tanks. The S model is the last of the lighter Bonanza airframes and will normally weigh about 2000 less fuel. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but gross weight with tip tanks should be around 3500. Also many of the S models had six seats installed.


Stepping back in time a little, but how about a “S” model Bonanza, upgraded to an IO-550 and with tip tanks. You get a 200 or 250 pound gross weight increase with the tip tanks. The S model is the last of the lighter Bonanza airframes and will normally weigh about 2000 less fuel. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but gross weight with tip tanks should be around 3500. Also many of the S models had six seats installed.


You lose range with a 550 - the increase in speed does not make up the increase in fuel burn. Look at the specs -


You do lose a little range with the 550, about 17 gallons/hour verses 15/hour with 520, but I would much rather have the 550