Cessna 140s are the quintessential budget buy. Inexpensive to purchase, economical to operate, and with few moving parts to wear out—they just want to keep flying. These simple airplanes encourage frequent joyrides, epitomized by the 30-minute sunset flight.
But don’t discount this classic for low-and-slow journeys across America. With typical cruise speeds of 105 mph, burning a mere 5 gallons of fuel per hour, 140s will fly longer than most bladders can handle. With wing tanks that contain 25 gallons of fuel, that’s a four-hour endurance plus reserve. Baggage space holds much more than the 80-pound weight limit.
There are tradeoffs when looking to buy. The original fabric-covered wings keep the airplane light and maximize useful load, but metalized wings will better withstand the weather if tied down outside (albeit with a 40-pound weight penalty). High density altitude takeoff performance is marginal—particularly with the original 85-horsepower engine. Finding one with a climb propeller is helpful, or look for an example with a 100-horsepower Continental O-200 engine upgrade.
The Cessna 120-140 Association, led by president Jeff Tourt, provides extensive advice on how to keep the type flying with minimal expense. Among the airplane’s many positive attributes, Tourt said there is little maintenance to perform at annual, the parts cost less than many other classic aircraft, and the aircraft always generate a conversation at the FBO.
The Cessna 140 is equally happy flying into short grass runways or Class C airports, wheel landing or three-point landing. But the spring steel landing gear—while extremely durable—will cause a few bounced landings until you learn how to finesse the airplane onto the ground. Striving for that perfect landing is part of the joy of this budget buy.
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