Cost of desirable Twin Cessna upgrades

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  • #83877

    Hi,

    This is my first post here, I have recently sold a Cirrus SR22 and am looking to get into a C340, 414 or 421 in order to transport my wife and 2 young kids around in greater comfort.

    I am impressed by the range of desirable mods available for these models, and would like to know the installed prices of some of these mods in order to compare the planes available on the market.

    Specifically, lets say for a 340, could I please have some idea of installed prices on:

    Keith airconditioning
    American Aviation Intercoolers
    4 blade MT props
    Aft fuselage strakes
    Stec 55x autopilot with yaw damper
    JPI 760
    Spoilers
    Garmin G600

    Also I’m wondering, if I’m looking at a Ram IV with standard Cessna intercoolers and no airscoops, and engines towards the end of their life, is it possible to upgrade to Ram VII intercoolers and add the airscoop, while I use up the remaining couple of hundred hours before upgrading to the full Ram VII package?

    Ballpark figures are fine, this will save me many individual phone calls and emails. I will greatly appreciate your responses.

    Ryan

    #96699

    It’s pretty easy to find 340s that already have the RAM conversions on them, and you will probably be better off trying to buy one already converted than to convert one yourself. Given the cost of these conversions, you probably want to buy a RAM VII 340 to start out.

    It’s worth noting that, once you have the RAM VII conversion, that will probably limit your ability to add some of the other upgrades you listed, including the American Aviation Intercoolers and the MT props. I’m pretty certain the only props approved for the RAM VII are 3-bladed Hartzell Q-tip props. While that wouldn’t be my first choice (rather not have the Q-tips), I would take a Hartzell prop any day over an MT.

    Were I to buy a 340, it’d definitely be a RAM VII, and I’d want to add the strakes – it seems they provide a good performance gain. As far as the avionics go, everyone’s got their own preference.

    #96700

    By no means am I a twin Cessna guy yet, however, I have spent the past 2 months finding the right airplane and can speak from experience that you should find a plane as close to what you want a. Due to he current market, people who have done all of thse mods are taking a hit when selling.

    As far as pricing, RAM has the prices online, but I did call the Keith guys and you are looking at 30-40k for the A/C to be installed. I hope that at least helps.

    #96701

    Disclaimer: I’m certainly no Twin Cessna expert, either.

    The primary reason you’d want to buy an airplane and make it your own is, well, to have the experience of making it your own. But you will spend less money if you let someone else make it almost your own and then go from there. Items like the RAM VII are very common, so you should be able to easily buy one like that, and the G600 is becoming relatively common. Items like Strakes are less common (I’d guess mainly due to their newness), and so you will probably have to have those installed yourself.

    You’d probably be wise to contact Jerry Temple and ask for some assistance in seeking out a quality plane.

    #96702

    IMO, Go find a plane that has the major items that you want. A/C is not something you want to add. If its a 340 or 414 I would get one with a Ram conversion. I personally would go after a 414 or 421. The 340 may be 5 kts faster than a 414 but the 340 is quite small compared to the 414 or 421. Your family of 4 will appreciate the Much larger cabin. Also, buy a 1973 or later model with the extended cabin. I had an early 414 Ram IV and it was a great plane, but I now have a 74 421B and I love it. The 421 will cost you more to operate than the 414. Be careful buying a plane with an stec 55, many members have had lots of problems with them. The Cessna and Bendix autopilots work well but may have to be maintained by Autopilots Central.

    #96703

    Ryan –

    As others have said, you should look at an airplane that is as close to what you want. Aviation upgrades depreciate rapidly (as in the day after you put them on) and generally it’s better to let someone else take the depreciation hit.

    It seem that with the upgrades you are looking at, you’d be better off purchasing a 421. Things like the intercoolers and air conditioning (factory works well in the 421) aren’t needed.

    Also, the Cessna 400 or 800 autopilots are pretty good units. I’d be really hesitant to throw a good one out just to replace it with an STEC.

    Robert

    #96704

    The 421 is also a significantly more expensive aircraft to operate than a 340. Since a number of other people have made the investment of the RAM conversions and AC, you may not have any need to perform the upgrades yourself. No doubt, the 421 has a much nicer cabin, as well as quieter operation from the low-spinning props. That said, you also have to be willing to take the extra hourly operating cost hit.

    #96705

    Thanks for your responses people,

    I am certainly aware and take your advice that it is best to find a plane that already has most of the options I want already fitted.

    However I have not told you the full story – I am in Australia – and unless I am willing to import a plane, that limits my market somewhat. There are some very nice planes available, however most have at least 1 or 2 things missing from my wish list that I would like to add.

    Tdupois, I’m interested in your comments on propellers. Do you have experience with the MT on which to base this comparison? And what is the difference with a Q tip prop and why don’t you like those? So far I have flown 2 x Ram IV 340s, 1 with Scimitars, the other with MTs. Both had standard Cessna intercoolers, and, subjectively at least, the MT plane seemed to have a lot more get up and go. I realise there are many factors at play but I wonder if others have noticed the same and what your thoughts are.

    Also does anybody know approximately how much an MT upgrade costs? American aviation intercoolers? Strakes? Spoilers?

    Keep em coming,

    Ryan

    #96706

    Being in Australia definitely limits your options, but if you only need one or two items added to a plane you find, that’s really not too bad. I don’t know the economics of importing a plane to Australia, so I can’t comment.

    My experience with the MT props has been that they are typically louder than comparable Hartzell props, and also that their “composite” design, while it is repairable, tends to be more susceptible to damage, including some more catastrophic damage in the form of leading edges coming off, etc. When that happens, it is not repairable – you need the prop overhauled. It makes sense that a 4-bladed prop will have more get-up-and-go than a 3-bladed prop. That’s the typical trade-off you get – improved takeoff and climb performance, slightly lower cruise speed.

    They may have improved their design somewhat in the past few years, and I would do research into this. If it’s the composite technology (which is basically a light wood with an epoxy overlay), then I would avoid it. However, a couple years ago I think they were starting to implement some metal prop designs, which did seem to have some good promise.

    The Q-tips are supposed to be quieter than props not so equipped. However, the Q-tips, unlike the MT props, are very sensitive with respect to repair. A standard aluminum prop you can file down a significant amount. Not so with the Q-tips, per my understanding. It makes sense that they’d be more sensitive. I believe with the RAM VII conversion, the Q-tips are all you’ve got.

    I know that the 421s have a Hartzell STC option that supposedly increases all-around performance while reducing noise. One of my friends who used to fly a 421 so equipped believed it did make a difference.

    #96707

    Hi Ryan, I have a 414A at Moorabbin it has G600 and I have just ordered strakes. I would be happy to have a chat with you on 0429 641104.

    #96708

    If you’re limited to a 340, the Ram IV will give you a very fast plane. Unless you are going to regularly fly above FL200 the Ram IV will probably be as fast or faster than a VII or AA Inter. equipped planes. Those scoops stick out into the airstream. I believe the AAs cost around 16k plus labor. If your mission is FL150-170 I wouldn’t bother. Also, keep in mind the MT props are composite any stones will ruin them. If this is your first twin Cessna, I would suggest buying the best plane you can get and fly it a lot before spending large amounts of capital to make it perform better. The performance difference will be less then 5 minutes on your average trip. Spend your money to get avionics that will make you safer. I know there has been talk about 421s but if you have access to a good 73 or later 414 I would take that over a 340. In my 414 Ram IV, I regularly hauled my family and a mini-van full of luggage, bicycles and other junk at 200kts in comfort. You can’t do that in a 340.

    Also, you asked about a JPI 760, I highly recommend one. It should cost 8-10k installed. It really helps with engine management. A garmin 600 is very nice but it will cost over 30k. I don’t have one but the Aspen is quite nice too. I have a Garmin 796 on my yoke and a G530W, between the two I have all that I need for great situational awareness. (But a G600 is better) Spoilers, unless you are required to dive bomb your airports they aren’t needed. I use my G530 to calculate my descent. I plan a cruise power descent around a 100 miles out. It just takes a little planning.

    #96709

    Ryan,

    I moved from an SR22 to a 421C in 2011. I would find the best plane you can from a basic mechanical condition standpoint and then look at how the options line up with your list. As other’s have mentioned, it will be less expensive to buy already installed options – provided the plane is in good condition.

    I would hold off on many in that list – focus on training and flying with an experienced CFI to destinations. You have the seats for it now, and the training experience is invaluable.

    A pressurized twin is a new level of risks and rewards. Any of them will be much quieter than an SR22 and a huge step up in passenger comfort. A geared engine 421 is easily quiet enough that passengers do not need headsets.

    I am not sure you will miss the glass panel in the SR22, I don’t. I just have a 530 in the panel, the stock 4″ HSI/ADI, a yoke mount 696, and an iPad with Foreflight. I thought for sure I would be moving to a Garmin 600 or even the STC’d Avidyne retrofit but it is no longer a priority for me.

    Engine monitor is a great idea, the one item I really miss from the SR22. JPI has a number of models, insight is coming out with a G4 twin that I am interested in.

    The stock AP’s can be excellent. Some stec installs have issues with altitude control. This is one system to test extensively in pre-buy – including at altitude (while you are testing pressurization and engine/turbocharger)

    The stock twin AC systems work fine if they have been maintained correctly. Would not worry about aft strakes, spoilers, or the MT prop.

    What are your typical missions? What price range are you looking at? When I was looking I was tired of scrubbing missions from Oct to May in Portland due to forecasted icing in my non-FIKI SR22. Since then, I have mostly flown over icing weather in my FIKI 421C in clear air.

    Eric

    #96710

    Thanks Eric,

    Your post about an upgrade from SR22 to 421C is very useful.

    G600 upgrade is not overly important to me, unless the plane I buy has a basic, non-slaved DG which some still do. I would want at least a decent HSI, and if I were to go to that expense, I might as well install at least an Aspen, or possibly G600. Glass panel equipped planes stand out from the crowd and I would assume are easier to re-sell, even if I may not recoup much of the cost of the upgrade.

    I take your point about autopilot upgrades also. One of the planes I am looking at has a 400A Autopilot which is not working, and I believe parts may be hard to get. Reliability of the autopilot is important to me. That is why I wanted some idea what it would cost to retrofit a 55x to a 340.

    My typical mission would be 500Nm, 2 adults, 2 young children, and a big trunkload of luggage. Very occasionally, a 3rd and possibly 4th adult along for the ride too.

    What made you decide on the 421 over a 414 Eric? Was it the smoothness / quietness, payload, or did it just happen to be the best value plane available at the time?

    Ryan

    #96711
    quote rheggie:

    Thanks Eric,

    Your post about an upgrade from SR22 to 421C is very useful.

    G600 upgrade is not overly important to me, unless the plane I buy has a basic, non-slaved DG which some still do. I would want at least a decent HSI, and if I were to go to that expense, I might as well install at least an Aspen, or possibly G600. Glass panel equipped planes stand out from the crowd and I would assume are easier to re-sell, even if I may not recoup much of the cost of the upgrade.

    I take your point about autopilot upgrades also. One of the planes I am looking at has a 400A Autopilot which is not working, and I believe parts may be hard to get. Reliability of the autopilot is important to me. That is why I wanted some idea what it would cost to retrofit a 55x to a 340.

    My typical mission would be 500Nm, 2 adults, 2 young children, and a big trunkload of luggage. Very occasionally, a 3rd and possibly 4th adult along for the ride too.

    What made you decide on the 421 over a 414 Eric? Was it the smoothness / quietness, payload, or did it just happen to be the best value plane available at the time?

    Ryan

    I had a very good opportunity on a local 421C that matched my needs. I had also looked at 414’s. The GTSIO-520 series is a remarkable achievement in piston engines. I think it is the most refined of the Cessna twin engine packages (engine + turbo) and I really like the gear engine sound and performance.

    My 1978 version is straight leg, but hydraulic gear. I think this is easier to maintain then the electromechanical systems.

    The 400A autopilot I am not as familiar with. Service is stil available for the 400B and 800B Autopilots. Those that have not seen attention in awhile might need ~ 2k in maint replacing old relays, dried out capacitors, etc. This is a small fraction of what a retrofit system would cost. (25k+?)

    Not sure about G600, etc and market value. By the time you sell it everyone will be wanting the G6000+ with 20″ touch screens, etc 🙂

    With two adults and two kids any of the Cessna twins would work. I think the 414/421 allow more flexibility in loading at the expense of more fuel. One very important thing for me, is my wife and family are much more interested in flying then when I had the Cirrus. The kids will draw on the table and my wife will take a nap with the seat back. If someone does have to go, there is a lav in the back. Not having to wear a headset is a big deal for my wife and my son. There is enough space to move around in the back (switch seats, grab stuff from the aft area, etc) it is more like a mini airliner.

    Pressurization is a game changer and being up and over weather in pressurized comfort is wonderful. I used O2 in the SR22, but would not want to monitor my family so we flew low (putting us in more weather)

    500 nm is a perfect distance for a twin. Not too close (where driving makes sense) and not too far, where costs are much higher or extra fuel stops are needed. I forgot to mention, the landing speeds are not that different than an SR22 (100kts vs 77kts) and the transition is much easier than from a piper cherokee to a Cirrus. I hand flew my first 80 hrs and the Cessna trim system is much more precise than the Cirrus. I would not say it is fun IMC – but you are in IMC for much less (maybe 15-20 min out of a 3 hr flight) since you are going to be up and over.

    There are back issues of the twin cessna flyer available online with articles on others who have moved from the SR22 to Cessna twins (+ other single engine planes).

    #96712
    quote rheggie:

    Thanks Eric,

    Your post about an upgrade from SR22 to 421C is very useful.

    G600 upgrade is not overly important to me, unless the plane I buy has a basic, non-slaved DG which some still do. I would want at least a decent HSI, and if I were to go to that expense, I might as well install at least an Aspen, or possibly G600. Glass panel equipped planes stand out from the crowd and I would assume are easier to re-sell, even if I may not recoup much of the cost of the upgrade.

    I take your point about autopilot upgrades also. One of the planes I am looking at has a 400A Autopilot which is not working, and I believe parts may be hard to get. Reliability of the autopilot is important to me. That is why I wanted some idea what it would cost to retrofit a 55x to a 340.

    My typical mission would be 500Nm, 2 adults, 2 young children, and a big trunkload of luggage. Very occasionally, a 3rd and possibly 4th adult along for the ride too.

    What made you decide on the 421 over a 414 Eric? Was it the smoothness / quietness, payload, or did it just happen to be the best value plane available at the time?

    Ryan

    I think you are right on about the autopilot. The 400 series AP is great. In one of the aircraft that we were looking at, the owner spent 15K on the Cessna 400 getting every hose, wire, etc changed. Another 421 owner has had his in the shop almost annually at 2K each time getting it repaired. Being in Australia, I would think that support would be a huge issue for you and the STEC would be the way to go. I have spoken with my avionics installer and he confirmed a top of the line STec AP with all of the bells and whistles to be 25-30K installed.

    Additionally, to recap, the Keithe A/C would be 30K, and the G600 would be between 30-35K installed. Hope that helps. I also agree with previous posts in that a 530 with an HSI is plenty, although to each their own. You are right, however, in that if upgrading or repairing an HSI, it makes sense to go ahead and put in the ASPEN or new Garmin plug ins as the cost difference, while more, is well worth it in the long run with maintenance down the road.

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