421 Cost of maintenance – (Please share your info)!

Home 2024 Forums Opening Section Buying a Twin Cessna 421 Cost of maintenance – (Please share your info)!

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  • #83798

    Newbie here and am interested in stepping up to a 421. I have been searching the internet high and low and have read all the articles I could find. Have also talked to several people in the field regarding these planes.

    The only piece of information that I get conflicting reports about is the maintenance costs. I have heard anywhere from $25K to $100K per year. I have also heard that “if you have to ask then you can’t afford it!” which I think is silly!

    So, can you 421 drivers out there please tell us wannabes what is it costing you to maintain these? Not considering all the fixed costs, just the maintenance. On average, what has it cost you annually to maintain your 421 (including the annual, not including upgrades)?

    I appreciate your responses in advance.

    #96154

    It is hard to draw strong conclusions on maint data as much depends on the initial state of the plane, the flight history, maint shop, etc.

    Basic annual is about 60+ hrs at 65-85 per hr. There is also AD compliance for exhaust, starter adapters, inlet flow valves, etc on top of this.

    What may have been ok with the last shop will not be ok with the new shop. Things will fail over time, etc. That said, here is my partial list, all $ figures approx. First number is part cost, 2nd is labor:

    1) Battery replaced with Concorde (proactive) $450/$60
    2) Exhaust elbow replaced (Caught it just after it started to crack) $400/$120
    3) Alternator stopped putting power out ($500/$120)
    4) Iskra starter replaced with TCM (proactive) $500/$120
    5) Prop seal replaced ($50/$120)
    6) Elevator cable replaced ($400/$120)
    7) Visual exhaust inspections $120
    8) AP repaired ($500/$200)
    9) Oil cooler replaced ($500/$120)
    10) Oil changes ($500)

    For 421’s in general, here is a breakdown of some of the bigger costs:
    some the big single expenses:
    1) Engines $50k each
    2) Glass pilot windshield $30k
    3) Plexi co-pilot window $10k
    4) Exhaust replacement $15k
    5) control surfaces $5-10k each
    6) Engine beams $10k
    7) ADI/HSI, etc $3k to 6k
    8) Paint $30k
    9) Interior $20k
    10) prop $15-20k (each)

    Depending on the status of your plane, how much you fly it, etc you may never have to spend for any of those big repairs while you own it. There are a bunch of things that are less than 3-5k that can fail (wastegates, turbos, turbo controllers, fuel pumps, cylinders)

    The biggest cost associated with the pressurization system is the window risk and replacement cost. The rest of the system is fairly straightforward and mechanical.
    The geared engines have a history of concern and issues but with proper operation they should not be a big maint cost driver and the cost adder is mostly the starter adapter cost and case overhaul cost (if you ever need either)

    It would help to know more about what you are flying now, and what type of flying you are planning on doing in a 421 (frequency, hours, routes).

    In short, it is a plane that could cost you well less than 25k per year in maint – or may suddenly need well over $100k. 🙂 For big items like engines and props, some finance companies would consider refinancing for a higher value to cover engines/prop cost if the overall valuation made sense to the bank. This is also a possibility for avionics upgrades provided you have substantial equity in the plane and the improvements are reasonable. For some other big items, windshields, etc – forget it. Paint and interior I am not sure.

    The most important thing is to find someone who has one nearby, convince them to take you up, and then you will like it so much that you will have no problem making up a plausible rationalization for why it will not really cost that much to operate – and all the awesome places you can fly to! 🙂

    Here is a higher time, decent panel, nice looking low-engine time 421C in UT just out of annual for $269 in UT. My experience is if the engine times are much greater than 1300hrs on a 1600hrs TBO than financing is munch harder to obtain. (I have no connection to this plane and spent only 5 min looking at listings total – just an example)
    http://www.controller.com/listingsdetail/aircraft-for-sale/CESSNA-421C/1978-CESSNA-421C/1239353.htm?

    #96155

    I was in your exact shoes about 10 months ago. The Twin Cessna Flyer had a great series of articles outlining the survey result of ownership costs of the various twin cessna types. I do not have the article handy (though I reveiwed many times) and Bob T can correct me, but I believe the results of the 421 came in at the $600-700/hr range. In the article the costs were broken out too. I do not remember the sample size, but it was probably as good of an estimate as you can expect.

    John Koziarski

    #96161

    $25-$100k/year is about right.

    I’m just one year into my 421 ownership, and I think the total bills are closer to $100k than $25k, but admittedly a lot of that were issues from the pre-buy that were reflected in the ultimate sales price. I also had a crack in my engine case which added $20k+ to the bill.

    I’m hoping that the bills will go down once I get maintenance under control – That has been my experience with other airplanes.

    You need to enter into 421 ownership with your eyes wide open about the costs. The most dangerous owner is the one who didn’t understand the costs then tries to cut corners and save on maintenance.

    Costs will also be affected by where you are and how much work you do on your own plane. I base at an expensive airport and have a “big” (but very good) shop do all of my work, so I suspect I’m at the expensive side of the cost equation.

    Regarding the numbers that FCF published: I think they were grossly low for annual maintenance costs for a 421.

    Robert

    #96164

    I would definately say that $100,000 a year is closer to the number if you are flying any kind of hours (like 150 or so) if you fly 50 hours a year it may be a little less but the fixed costs are substantial. Ill give you my example (which admittedly is on the high side):

    My Hangar is 1200 a month $14,400 a year
    My insurance is $7500 a year
    Simcom was around $3000 plus expenses
    The annual inspection we did as a pre-buy was around $6,000 (inspection no repairs)

    So right there you are at $30,000 without ever leaving the ground.

    The you have to feed it to the tune of 40 gph or $200-300 per hour

    You have to do oil changes and exhaust inspections to the tune of $10 a flight hour

    and of course you will have your basic repairs that come along with any aircraft of this vintage, in my case new battery, overhauled mags, replaced prop cable, replaced tach generator, overhauled engine gauge, etc

    and that doesn’t include reserves for any of the big ticket items listed above by Eric

    I enjoy flying the plane tremendously but don’t fool yourself it is very expensive to operate

    #96168

    We’re just coming up on our first year so the answer as to how much it costs has to be preceded with how much have you got?

    I expect maintenance to run much lower with a year under our belt. These are older airplanes and if they have been neglected expect to spend all you got on bringing them up to snuff. Just recently we had to buy a gear up-lock bracket.. $1,600 and so of course we bought both sides because the other side would probably go soon too. The new ones are steel, the old ones aluminum. I guess they lasted 34 years so I can’t complain. Right now we are replacing the blower motors for air conditioning, they are old, since we have some time, they can be rebuilt reasonably.

    We have 260 hours on our new engines since December. The plane after much work is running better than ever. Today I saw 225KTS TAS at FL 210 we were at mid-weight. Yes we’re running ROP and at 1800 and 35″. We could lean more aggressively or pull back power. We didn’t buy an airplane to go slow. The 421 runs well in the low 20’s and we are burning 46GPH and could and probably should go up a bit higher and get the same speeds at a lower FF. Love the plane, love going fast and nobody can justify it. Compare this plane with any King Air of any vintage, it will be at least twice as much to run probably 3-4 X.

    We picked through two lines of convective, up where we could dodge the tops, ran the plane 1+44, burned some fuel and had lunch on board. That trip may not have happened in a Baron as you couldn’t top the weather and luch? forget about it. As to the maintenance. We’ll see what next year brings. This past year has been expensive. The most famous last words are “I think I am done fixing my new plane”.

    All of that said, there is no better buy in aviation right now than a well equipped and well put together 421. Nothing. You would have to go pure jet and then only save 30 minutes off an hour and a half run. Cessna should dust off the jigs and sell this plane again brand new even if it costs well over a million. Passengers love it, pilots love it. It has two engines which is mandatory for my wife and many PAX.

    BTW we have and do run this plane LOP and it slows to just over 200KTS and so do I. You can get the FF down to 17GPH per side or even lower. I guess I think I am worth the price of fuel if there is no time (avoiding a fuel stop) to be gained. On a long run, if we can eliminate a fuel stop, we run LOP and I think its good for the engines to keep them clean. They run smooth LOP our temps match up pretty well, better on the left than the right.

    Tim

    #96170
    rwelsh
    Participant

      One high priced item that was not mentioned previously is the deicer boots. About $10K to do and tehy are good to 10 to 15 years if the plane is hangared.

      #96173
      quote RWELSH:

      One high priced item that was not mentioned previously is the deicer boots. About $10K to do and tehy are good to 10 to 15 years if the plane is hangared.

      Good point – I did leave that one off (and I am sure many others…)

      MODERATOR: Is there a way to lock this thread so spouses cannot see it? 🙂

      #96182

      First of all to determine a true annual cost, you must get to a squawk free plane. Most used planes on the market will need work to get them straight. After you have one that is sorted out, avionics maintenance is the same whether you have a Cessna 310 or a 421. Hanger cost may be a little higher because a 421 is a larger. Insurance may be a little higher until you have some time in the plane, otherwise it is based more on hull value than anything else. Annual training will cost you between 700-3000 depending on where you train. Engines are about 60-65k each installed, but if you take care of them they should last. You will have a starter adapter replacement mid-life for around 5k each. So figure with good luck, and a 20% margin for error, $50/hr/engine. Props aren’t that much different than many other planes. Airframe maintenance isn’t that outrages. Fuel pumps are the weakest thing on the plane. Windshields are very expensive and labor intensive to replace but you may never have to replace one. Once you have a straight plane, I would expect your annuals to run $10-15k. If you are spending 25-100k a year you either have a dog of a plane or you are a dog of a pilot. Other than the extra cost of engine replacement, a 421 will cost you the exact same as a 414 or 340.

      #96184
      quote :

      MODERATOR: Is there a way to lock this thread so spouses cannot see it? 🙂

      My CFO is the one who sees the bills, not my wife. So can I hide this from him and while we’re at it, from me too?

      As mentioned in a previous post by someone else, year one “to get the plane straight” is the worst. I do believe in subsequent years the maintenance will become normalized. Just as soon as I get the next unscheduled invoice, I will let you know. Just try buying an older KA or jet and see what the bills are.

      These planes are 30 years old. If the last guy let them go then lots of time worn parts are going to need attention. Once that period passes, you have a pretty damn nice ride that cannot be duplicated in today’s market. The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to blink.

      #97860

      Hello, my name is Bill Day and I’m brand new to the forum. I’ve been spending all my forum time on Beechtalk. I fly an A36 and its come time with all the grandkids, wife who doesn’t want to walk on the wing and the girls who want a potty seat,etc, etc. to move up. I’ve pretty much settled on either a 414 A or a 421C and now will start the long process (I’m in no real hurry) of finding the right plane.

      Is there much difference in operating and maintenance cost between the 414 and 421? Not trying to high jack the thread but the question seems relevant to the topic.

      Thanks—much appreciated.

      #97861

      I don’t have any direct experience running a 414, but I can’t see how there could be any difference in maintenance cost between the two birds.

      Other than the engines, they are basically the same.

      The GTSIO engine is a great engine, but will cost you a little more in overhaul and potentially long term maintenance (the starter adapter, for example). However, the 520 in the 414 runs a touch hotter and might (and I stress might) run through cylinders faster.

      My guess is that there will be more difference between individual airplanes and shops than between the two types.

      Robert

      #97862
      quote RCJOHNSON:

      I don’t have any direct experience running a 414, but I can’t see how there could be any difference in maintenance cost between the two birds.

      Other than the engines, they are basically the same.

      The GTSIO engine is a great engine, but will cost you a little more in overhaul and potentially long term maintenance (the starter adapter, for example). However, the 520 in the 414 runs a touch hotter and might (and I stress might) run through cylinders faster.

      My guess is that there will be more difference between individual airplanes and shops than between the two types.

      Robert

      RC

      thanks for the information. I appreciate it. Bill

      #97863
      quote :

      However, the 520 in the 414 runs a touch hotter and might (and I stress might) run through cylinders faster.

      If you stay with a 414A RAM VII (vs. non-RAM or earlier RAM versions), hot temps won’t be an issue. My 414A RAM VII is nearly 100hrs over TBO and I just replaced 3 original cylinders. 4 of 12 remaining cylinders are still original and have good compressions.

      Either the 421C or the 414A RAM VII are fantastic family airplanes. At altitude they are smooth, warm, comfortable, and the potti is a big hit with the ladies. They may never use it but knowing it’s there is “priceless”.
      Pete

      #97882

      I now have a couple of hundred hours in our 421C having flown 2,300 in a Seneca II with the family and I can vouch for the improved marital relations with an on board potty! The wife and grand kids love it. 🙂

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