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Thread: Is this a terrible mistake? Buying a dream plane as a first plane.

  1. #1

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    Is this a terrible mistake? Buying a dream plane as a first plane.

    I may have a chance to buy a dream plane as my first plane, but I am worried that I'm not viewing this objectively.

    I have always loved Mooneys, but specifically, I am fond of the early wood wing Mooneys. I am planning to buy an airplane, and I have mostly been shopping for Luscombe 8, Cessna 140/150s, and the occasional Grumman AA1B/C. I am aiming for under $100/hour operating costs, wet.

    But today, I learned about this plane: A 1960 Mooney M20A, 1800Hrs TT, 700 SMOH. It has been parked for a few years but is currently going through an Annual. It is a few states away, so I will need to consider the cost of a ferry flight in my budget. I will be getting a list of what is found in the annual, and it will need some avionics work, mainly a new radio.

    I am waiting for more information, but if I pursue it, my plan would be to prebuy, (if the prebuy checks out) then purchase the plane with a fresh annual, and have it ferried back to me. The seller wants a quick sale, so I am considering paying cash for this list, and then refinancing the plane to free up cash, and complete repairs/small improvements that I want but are not required to get it airworthy.

    My primary concern is that I am buying a plane that I will not be able to maintain. Refinancing the plane will leave me with a good safety net to cover unexpected maintenance, but I would rather not have anything unexpected. Also, while I like the wood wings, there is no denying that a wood wing plane will be difficult to sell if I need to, and I am considering a career change to a commercial pilot, so there is a significant chance that I can find myself in a regional airline job where I cannot afford to own the plane in the next 2-3 years.

    How terrible is this idea?

  2. #2
    lnuss's Avatar
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    That Mooney may not meet your operating cost goals. Those costs are likely to be as much as, or more than the costs if you bought new. Since it's "been parked for a few years but is currently going through an Annual" I'd also be concerned about buying with a fresh annual and letting that dictate what I thought the condition of the aircraft was. That "being parked" is a red flag that there may be problems that are deeply hidden. You really want to pay your own inspector, hopefully someone you can trust, to give it a thorough going over prior to paying out even a penny.

    However, there are others here who are way more knowledgeable than I, so hopefully they'll chime in.

    Larry N.

  3. #3
    Sam Buchanan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thisadviceisworthles View Post
    I may have a chance to buy a dream plane as my first plane, but I am worried that I'm not viewing this objectively.

    I have always loved Mooneys, but specifically, I am fond of the early wood wing Mooneys. I am planning to buy an airplane, and I have mostly been shopping for Luscombe 8, Cessna 140/150s, and the occasional Grumman AA1B/C. I am aiming for under $100/hour operating costs, wet.

    But today, I learned about this plane: A 1960 Mooney M20A, 1800Hrs TT, 700 SMOH. It has been parked for a few years but is currently going through an Annual. It is a few states away, so I will need to consider the cost of a ferry flight in my budget. I will be getting a list of what is found in the annual, and it will need some avionics work, mainly a new radio.

    I am waiting for more information, but if I pursue it, my plan would be to prebuy, (if the prebuy checks out) then purchase the plane with a fresh annual, and have it ferried back to me. The seller wants a quick sale, so I am considering paying cash for this list, and then refinancing the plane to free up cash, and complete repairs/small improvements that I want but are not required to get it airworthy.

    My primary concern is that I am buying a plane that I will not be able to maintain. Refinancing the plane will leave me with a good safety net to cover unexpected maintenance, but I would rather not have anything unexpected. Also, while I like the wood wings, there is no denying that a wood wing plane will be difficult to sell if I need to, and I am considering a career change to a commercial pilot, so there is a significant chance that I can find myself in a regional airline job where I cannot afford to own the plane in the next 2-3 years.

    How terrible is this idea?
    Sounds like you have listed most of the reasons why you shouldn't purchase that airplane.......
    Sam Buchanan
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  4. #4

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    Some observations in no particular order:

    * If it has a wooden tail, run away.

    * Wood wings, especially wood cantilever wings like on Mooneys and low-wing Bellancas, really ought to be hangared; they deteriorate quickly in the open. Unless it's been hangared and unless you are prepared to hangar it, run away.

    * The Johnson-bar gear on the early Mooneys is pretty dependable when properly maintained, but it is one more thing to service and maintain and inspect, and the complications of retractable gear ripple through the entire airframe. Between the added cost at annual and the added expense of insuring it, figure on about a 60% greater operating cost than a fixed-gear equivalent.

    --Bob K.
    Bob Kuykendall
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  5. #5
    DaleB's Avatar
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    It might be a decent deal, it might be a lost cause -- there are plenty of those that have "been sitting a while" but are sold with fresh annuals. Uh-huh. My only advice to you would be to start with a VERY thorough, in-person inspection by someone with deep specific knowledge of those airplanes, who works for you. Not someone local that you found. You really, really need to know up front what you're getting yourself into before you plop down your money, because you're going to be laying out a LOT more money afterward. No matter what.
    Measure twice, cut once...
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by thisadviceisworthles View Post
    How terrible is this idea?
    This plane is not in the St. Louis area by chance? I found a really nice M20A there but I passed on it and I'm an A&P. You need to be a special kinda owner to want something like that. And you need deep pockets, The purchase price is peanuts compared to what you'll need to operate and maintain it.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for all of the help, after some time to think about it, my complex dreams will have to wait a few years. Its back to looking for a good Grumman AA1/A/B/C.

  8. #8

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    If you are seriously considering an early Mooney, talk to the Mooney club people first. They may save you a ton of money.
    http://www.mooneypilots.com/mapalog/woodwing.html

    If it's another plane, then I would do the same, find the type club and talk to them to find any problem areas to look out for and an accurate hourly cost summary.

  9. #9
    Dana's Avatar
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    Don't rule out a used homebuilt, you can often get much better performance for the same amount of money and maintenance can be a lot less expensive.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Now that all the negative people have talked you out of a good airplane, I’ll list a few positive notes. If the tail is still wood, think twice ... per the AD it has to be load tested annually. If it has been converted to a metal tail, it is just like a “C”. Take a wood expert to look at the wing. The wood wings were faster than their metallic brothers. The “A” and “no letters” have smaller engines, and therefore, are more economical. The mechanical flaps have never failed. Mooney aircraft insurance is not double for retracts like it is for those models that have both fixed and retractable versions; you’d be surprised. You’d have a classic, designed 100% by Al/Art Mooney.

    Another fallacy is that Mooney’s are known to be small. Al Mooney was a tall man. The Mooney smallness is not in height but in width.

    Bottom line: Check it out well.

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