Antique and Classic Airplanes are GAs Best Kept Secret

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The J3 Cub is an affordable classic everyone loves!

Antique and Classic Airplanes are GAs Best Kept Secret

These are a class of airplanes that I believe are under recognized and certainly under utilized by the average GA flyer.

If you are already an antique/classic enthusiast please hold the hate mail and bear with me. 

This genre of airplane was primarily the product of the post war boom in aircraft manufacturing. Thousands of these two-seaters were produced in hopes of attracting the G.I.s that were coming home. Many of these airplanes live on today and are great recreational aircraft, often LSA compliant.

The Short List
Here’s a very short list of some of the more popular two-seat models available today – there are many more out there that I didn’t include here that are excellent. I have flown each of these and they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but I would be honored to own any of them.

Piper J3 Cub

  • tandem
  • classic vintage
  • Slowest of the group
  • $30-$40s
  • wildly popular
  • LSA compliant
  • No electrics, unless you buy a variant of the design

Taylorcraft BC-12D

  • tight side-by-side seating
  • Not as classic as J3
  • faster than most of this class
  • Good value in the $20s
  • All fabric
  • No electrics on most
  • LSA compliant


Aeronca Champ 7AC

  • tandem
  • slow
  • classic looks
  • Less expense than cub
  • All fabric
  • No electrics
  • $20s-$30s
  • LSA compliant


Ercoupe 415-C

  • only low wing
  • tight side-by-side seating
  • popular LSA
  • electric start
  • $20s
  • LSA compliant


Luscombe 8A

  • tight side-by-side seating
  • fastest of the bunch
  • Great value in the $20s
  • LSA compliant


Cessna 120/140

  • tight side-by-side seating
  • faster than J3 or Champ – not quite as fast as Luscombe
  • electric start on some
  • mid teens to high $20-30s
  • some are LSA compliant



Most of these have 65 to 100 hp. All have fabric wings (unless they have been metalized). The J3, Champ, and Taylorcraft are all fabric airplanes. Cruise speeds are 65-115mph.

Age Discrimination
For some reason people relate aircraft age like you would to an old appliance. “I wouldn’t fly in something 50 years old!”, is a comment I have heard from the uneducated among us.

The fact is all airplanes are maintained to high standards compared to other machines. And these airplanes in particular were often over-engineered compared to today’s standards. I would feel more comfortable in a 48 year old Cub, than a 25 year old car on the freeway. And because these airplanes attract a certain following, they were often pampered even more.

The 3rd Wheel is on the Wrong End
Ok, so most of these airplanes have conventional landing gear, meaning the 3rd wheel is on the tail. That does not make them harder to fly, just different. Anyone can learn to fly taildraggers if they are taught properly. This additive makes these airplanes more fun to fly and more rewarding. Dare to be different. I gave tailwheel transitions in a stock Luscombe for years and never bent any metal.

No electrics
This is a plus in my opinion. Less stuff to break, lighter weight, and cheaper. And prop starting an airplane is not the boogie man. You just need to get proper instruction and use common sense. As for the radio – today’s handhelds work great piped through a portable intercom.

If you are morally opposed to prop-starting, there are airplanes in this category that can accommodate you, some come stock and some are installed under STC.

The Clan
The antique/classic guys stick together as a community with a common purpose – keep ’em flying! They love their airplanes – the sense of pride and camaraderie is palpable. They have a great organization and as a subset of EAA have the best facilities at Oshkosh.

The Price
So you get all this and as a bonus, these are some of the least expensive airplanes to buy, maintain, and fly. They range from high-teens to mid-40s for most of the common two-seat variants and they sip fuel at less than 6 gallons an hour in most cases. Plus you can run autofuel lowering your costs further!

It blows me away when I see new entrants to aviation ignore this group of airplanes and gravitate to the $80,000-$100,000.00 shinny new LSAs only to give up on flying, dismissing it as too expense – HELLO!

So if you previously dismissed anything built before 1950, you owe it to yourself to take a second look. These airplanes are fantastic for boring holes and grabbing that $100 hamburger. Plus the ‘cool factor’ is off the charts!

If you have questions or like my advice on this area, please comment below – I’d be happy to help pro bono.


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