Finding your perfect plane: learning to deal with lost love

When buying an aircraft, as with any major purchase, you should be prepared to walk away if the deal doesn’t seem right. You should also be able to smile and wave goodbye when the “perfect” plane slips away, because that’s bound to happen, especially if you’re unprepared.

My wife and I recently fell in love with a 1990 Beechcraft F33A Bonanza after driving a few hours to view the aircraft at Orange County Airport (KMGJ) in Montgomery, New York. We went there almost on a whim. Although we often talked about the possibility of owning an aircraft, we had not gone so far as to find financing. After all, we didn’t consider ourselves serious enough buyers yet.


We were surprised to find a Bonanza that ticked almost all the boxes for us (new panel, nice interior, nice original paint and promising flight logs). On the way home, we began the scramble that would lead to long discussions with mechanics, finance companies, and members of the American Bonanza Society. But ultimately we lost that race as another buyer stepped in and closed the deal. It was a classic case of living and learning, plus a dose of heartbreak.

What we learned was something we already knew. When buying our first home in a hot real estate market, we knew that being pre-approved for a mortgage meant we could draw lots quickly when we found the right home. But I think buying a plane still felt a little weird to us, so we found ways to put off all the necessary arrangements.

Of course, nothing like the sting of a lost love to strengthen his resolve. Ever since we lost “our” Bonanza – we had started calling it that – we have been focused on preparing for the next time we fall in love with an airplane. We also delve into what we’re really looking for in our eventual aircraft, because we don’t want to buy our so-called dream machine only to realize shortly after that we’d be better off with something else.

Years of window shopping have helped us determine the types of missions we want to perform and have allowed us to narrow the field of suitors considerably. The Cessna 210 looked good for a while but fell out of favor. Piper Comanches and Saratogas have come and gone. And the beautiful Stinson 108 that surfaced on Trade-A-Plane? Well, that would never happen.

Indeed, we are at the F33A Bonanza against the A36. I try to see the loss of the 1990 F33A as an opportunity to find a very nice A36 of a similar vintage. I think we could use the larger six-seat cabin and a few other things that set the later A36s apart from the F33A, like updated controls and the Continental IO-550 engine, which I prefer over the older IO-520.

With such a specific focus, we realize we may have to wait longer and travel farther than expected to find the right plane. But we feel comfortable moving forward, wiser and better prepared.

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