Buying a Piston Twin: The Beechcraft Baron
I want you to think back to the early 1980s… Fuel was less than $1 per gallon, airplanes were abundant and as affordable as most cars, and manufacturers had a wide range of aircraft to suit virtually every mission. If you wanted to go faster, carry more, and fly farther, piston twins check a lot of boxes. Not to mention, twins have the added safety benefits and redundancy of two engines. Back in the 80s, pilots, owners, and operators had a lot of choices - from the entry-level Piper Seminole, to Cessna’s pressurized cabin-class 421.However, only a handful of twins have withstood the tests of time – chief among them is certainly the venerable and proven Beechcraft Baron.
Now we covered the Baron in some detail back in episode 17 with Baron 58 owner David Fill, so I’ll put a link to that episode into the show notes. Now owning a Baron or any piston twin isn’t necessarily cheap. You can expect to spend about $350 per hour just in operating costs. Baron 55 models with the IO-470-L engines will cost about $32,000 to overhaul with either a 1500 or 1700 hour TBO. That translates to about $21 per hour in engine reserves – times two! Baron 58s with the Continental IO-550s will cost about $36,000 to overhaul with a 1700 or 1900 hour TBO depending on the engine variant. Again about $20 per hour per engine in reserves. Market prices for earlier 58 model Barons have increased in the last 6 months by about $4,000 and range between $120,000 to $225,000 for 1983 Baron 58s and earlier. More modern airframes post 1985 between $275,000 and $375,000. The good news is, you can acquire a low-time piston twin with many upgrades and mods for less than many piston singles. Moreover, we’re starting to see the piston twin market increase in value meaning that a piston twin with good records and no damage history will likely continue to appreciate after the purchase.
What are some other costs? Well, expect to pay about $2,000 per year in insurance, roughly around $4,000 per year in hangar, about $7,000-10,000 per year in maintenance, parts, and inspections, and whatever you want to budget for alterations, modifications, avionics upgrades, and paint and interior.
Of course I’m not telling you all this to deter you from acquiring a piston twin like the Baron. I just want you to have a realistic idea of what you’re getting into in terms of dollars and cents. The last thing you want to do here is have more dollars than sense 😉
What are some maintenance considerations with the Baron? Like most airplanes, there are a number of ADs on the airframe, engines, and props. You can view those ADs for free on the FAA website at FAA.gov. When it comes to evaluating an airplane you’re interested in, understand that each airplane is on condition. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating an airplane. Each individual airplane is unique. But here are a couple to things to be sure to check specifically on the Barons: throttle cable linkages to the engine side. There have been reports of throttle cables found broken where the threaded end of the cable is crimped and installed to the engine. It’s also a good idea to check the prop hub for leaks and cracks. Finally, it’s a good idea to inspect the lower hinge pin on the front spar leading edge for corrosion.
Obviously buying a twin isn’t for everyone. The market has proven that with only a small handful of piston twins still in production. In fact most production twins are trainers such as the Seminal, Tecnam P2006, and Diamond Twinstar. The Baron really is in a class of its own with its closest competitor being the Piper PA-34 Seneca. However, some of you may indeed require a twin for the missions you fly. So what are some ways you can save money with your twin? Perhaps your biggest asset is research. To get a true idea of what the costs and benefits of twin ownership is to join type clubs and speak to current owners. The American Bonanza Society is a great resource for prospective Baron drivers. You can also learn a lot from mechanics that specialize in Beech Barons and Bonanzas. It’s critical that you get all the facts before making the leap into a twin. Understand the average costs of ownership, get an insurance quote before hitting the market, and consult a mechanic to get a better idea of what maintenance items can be safely deferred to avoid spending money haphazardly. It’s also extremely important that you get a thorough prebuy on a twin. Buying a lemon won’t only cost you – it could literally bankrupt you.
Perhaps the most cost-effective way to own twin is through some sort of co-ownership or partnership arrangement. Sharing the costs and responsibilities of ownership will most definitely offset variable and fixed costs. Even sharing the airplane with one partner cuts costs by 50%. As you know, our Plane Partnership Program can help you find a suitable partner and later Don will tell you about a specific member of our program looking for a partner. Joining the PPP is free and you can learn more at PlanePartnership.com.