For Fun: IFR X-C in a Spiffy Saratoga


New Member
In some ways the trip was a lot for me: flying a new hi-perf/complex bird combined with an IFR X-C. Still, I was surprised that I was able to absorb so much.

I'll talk about the X-C first, since it wasn't as new to me as the aircraft. We filed an IFR plan from BWI-HGR-BWI. The route is really fairly simple, and I got in two ILSs for my money. The ILSs both went quite well, thanks in part to the fact that although we were indicating 120 kts on the approach, we were roughly 90 kts over the ground for most of both approaches. That meant that my descent rates were similar to what I look for in the 172. So, on the IFR part of the trip, I did reasonably well for my level. Now, onto the aircraft:

In a word: WOWSA! What a plane! Taxiing needed strong legs. I actually liked this aspect of the plane, because the extra weight made me feel more "planted" on the ground, and I felt it was easier to taxi right on the line.

The instrumentation in this 1988 Saratoga is just great: three radios, two transponders (one with traffic reporting capability), EGT, stormscope, HSI, Garmin 430, and S-Tec autopilot. Not that we needed it, but it also had air conditioning. In addition to all of this, the paint and interior were in new condition.

For our initial climb, we flew at 80 kts and saw a climb rate that held steady at around 1400 fpm. We soon transitioned to 90 kts, then 120 kts for the cruise climb. It took me a bit to fine tune my right leg to keep ball in the cage.

At cruise, we leveled out at 6000' and 25/25. At those settings, we saw an indicated airspeed of 150-155 kts. Now, the plane is NOT sporty--more like your family SUV. But I prefer that feeling because I like good handling and rock-solid stability.

Positional awareness was a breeze in this aircraft with the HSI, the GPS (and its incredible capabilities), and the chart working together. I needed it at the speed we were seeing.

Where the Saratoga really shined was on the ILSs where she was rock solid at 120 KIAS on the glideslope and localizer (or could it just be that I am improving?--nah!). For final airspeed settings, I was advised to maintain 90 kts. My CFI later told me that I could fly a short field at 80 kts (he didn't like 75 at our weight--50 lbs shy of MTOW), but he said it would be a bit mushy, especially coming off an ILS. Take it or leave it, we chose 90 KIAS, and controls felt roughly as responsive as the Cessna 172 does at 60 or 65 KIAS.

I also wanted to comment on the fit and finish of the Saratoga. I felt that most of the instrumentation was laid out well, but that interior considerations were especially good. There was R O O M to spare in that cabin, and the carpeting and seats were all high quality.

The only disappointing aspect of the bird was the full-fuel payload which was about 600 lbs. My CFII advised me to get a Lance which apparently does better with the payload.

To sum up, I'd like to reiterate my original thesis:

W O W S A!

Ben Myers, PP-ASEL

Enjoying every minute
So when do you take delivery?
I'd love to own one. I think that the Lance might be more practical because it would be less expensive and have a better payload.
LOL! I can't believe you remembered that post! What I (think) happened was someone had said "we fly because we want to go fast," and I replied, "I fly because I want to fly."

I don't mind going fast every now and then!
The toga is not a bad aircraft. I have about 200hrs in a Saratoga SP. It is a bit of a dog, but it is super stable and makes for a great IFR platform. It is certainly very easy to fly. Not sure about the exact model you are flying, but the SP I have time in has 102 gallons useable fuel so its not like you will ever want to load it up and fly that long. With ¾ tanks you can put 4 adults and a fair amount of gear in there and still fly about 3hrs and have a 1-hour reserve left. I think up at 9000-10000 it normal cruise power settings it burns around 16gph, so 6+ hour endurance with full tanks! That is pretty good for a little single.

I don’t care much for the Lance when compared to the Saratoga. That old Hershey Bar wing is not the best flying airfoil out there.
And that was the other suggestion: don't fill the tanks to 102. Give yourself a couple hundred extra pounds of payload and you've still got three hours and an hour reserve. 155 KIAS is quite good. Yes, you'll get more out of a Bo or a Mooney, but those extra 15 or 20 kts are spent in a tight squeeze compared to the 'Toga. I found the 'Toga much more stable than the Bo I flew (an F33) once.

The Lance's hershey bar wing is something I could get used to if it meant saving $70k.
Ultimately, that is the plan. When AOPA gives me--erm--awards the Twin Comanche, I should have the IR and MEL by then, I hope.
I like the hershey bar wing. I think it feels more solid and stable than the new tapered wing bolted on to the newer models (6 to FG Saratoga - or now 6X, old to newer PA28 models, etc). Sure you get a little better roll rate and a tad more speed out of the new wing, but it also bumps around a bit more in the rough stuff. For the price difference, I'll take the older models. Gap seals can bring them to near newer model performance, except for the power off fall rate the hershey bar wing maintains (great for short field landings!
DrBenny, if you get a chance fly an A36 Bonanza. I think you'll find it a lot more stable than the F33. The 33 has a lighter, more "sporty" feel to it, but I always liked the rock-solid A36 the best.

Every flown a 210? Great airplane, pretty much beat out the Saratoga and Bonanza in the Plane & Pilot article. It's the only one of the two I have any time in so I can't compare them.
210's aren't bad, but after flying the T210, V35B, and A-36, I like the Bonanzas better. Depending on which models you're comparing, some of the Bonanzas are in fact faster. The V35 that I'm flying now is a few knots faster than the T210 I flew before.

Of course, the T210 can haul a hell of a lot more without the goofy W&B issues you have with the V35- plus it can go higher if you've got oxygen.
It is just about impossible to load an A36 outside the CG envelope ... going over weight is a different story of course. The 33 and 35 Bonanzas are trickier to load. If money wasn't an object (no minor obstacle, mind you) the A36 is the single-engine airplane I'd buy, hands down.