Purchasing the Wingster Airplane – Update
Today my friend (Radial Engine Guru) and I took a trip to Salinas, CA to fly a candidate airplane for Wingster. It is a 1952 Cessna 195 with 5200 Total time and 300 Hours Since Major Overhaul on the engine. We met the owner at 9am and were quickly introduced to his beautiful airplane. After a couple hours talking about the airplane and making a cursory run through the logbooks, we pulled it out of the hangar for a flight. The magic of a radial engine is evident the moment the engine fires up. The smoke billowing behind us from the leftover oil in the cylinders, the uneven rumble that can only be found in round engines, all coming together to let you know you are doing something special. There are roughly 100 of these airplanes still flying and today I am lucky enough to be in one of them.
It was a short flight but it was everything I wanted it to be. A low lever flight up a cloud covered valley for some gentle maneuvering and an introduction to the systems of the 195. What a cool airplane, it has retractable landing lights in the underside of the wings, which upon deployment yawed the airplane because of the drag, it was quite funny. After this great flight is was back to the hangar to do some more analysis to try to compute the value of this airplane.
Usually the method is mathmatical when purchasing an airplane, market price minus airframe time, minus engine time, minus time since major overhaul equals value. Looking at these vintage airplanes, I have to look at things a bit differently. Vintage airplanes are a lot like vintage cars, they are not daily drivers. People just don’t use their vintage airplanes like they use their 10 year old Bonanzas. I am finding many of these airplanes, that have very low engine times, have engines that were overhauled 10 to 20 years ago. It is difficult for me to
accept but I am most likely going to end up with a low time older engine. It’s not a show stopper, I am just going to be forced to spend a little more time and money in the pre-purchase inspection to make sure I get the engine throughly inspected for corrosion and leaking seals.
Another thing I am learning about these vintage aircraft is that they have history, and the scars to prove it. Who gets through 50-60 years without obtaining some stories and scars along the way? It is the same for these airplanes, they have many years and thousands of hours during which they have accumulated some stories. They might share these stories via logbook entries or they might keep them forever a mystery. It is now my job to analyze the available information to corroborate the stories the airplane is trying to tell me.