# Could the Working Class Afford a P-51?

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#### qchen98

##### Well-Known Member
What is the modern equivalent of owning and operating a civilian warplane that is bought as a surplus immediately after the end of WW2?

Let's assume maintenance is performed as that as little as possible - you don't repair the broken parts but simply find a replacement from another surplus plane.

Would operating a P-51 in the 1950s be the equivalent of operating a Cirrus SR-22 in the modern days? Or perhaps much, much less if you are not actually interested in keeping the bird flying for long?

How about a B-24? Would the cost(inflation adjusted) similiar to that of a King Air?

#### Pops

##### Well-Known Member
Supporting Member

smt

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#### TFF

##### Well-Known Member
In 1969, Canadian AirForce sold their last P-51s for $10,000 each. A new Bonanza in 1969 was 80,000. Paul Mantz bought 475 planes from the US government for$55,000 in 1946. Supplied the film industry planes and many warbirds that survive today were his. Until recently, last 15 years, a B17 was cheap to buy. It had 4 engines to feed, no spare parts, had to be parked at an airport that could handle one, and no way to make money with it. The people who had them, saved them because except for cool factor, it was expensive to fly.

Keeping in fuel and engines is what is expensive. I remember in the 80s a local scrap yard still had B17 engines stacked up. Most Merlins available were blown up air racing and thrown away from the 40s-90s. To the point that if you blow one up today, you have to fix it or steal one.

From the old local P-51 that was around through the 80s, taking to the owner, if you could have afforded a new Bonanza, you could have had a warbird. Of course unless retrofitted, it only had one seat.

#### drgondog

##### Active Member
One factor that elevates high performance warbirds like the P-51 and F4U above norms is liability insurance.

#### vhhjr

##### Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
I have attached a 1946 price list for direct sale from the US Gov"t for surplus aircraft. Included is the 2022 equivalent price based on the CPI (Consumers price index). The CPI says the price multiplier is 16.4. I suspect the asking prices went down as the civilian market for these aircraft was satuarated and people stated to sell their early purchase aircraft.

There's a local project restoring a B-17 that was purchased in the late 40's, flown to Oregon and used as a shade for a gas station. The purchase price for that one was around $1000. When I was a kid and hanging around the local airport in upstate NY there were several surplus aircraft to marvel at. Over the years they all disappeared having been sold for rediculously low prices. Vince Homer #### Attachments • 1946 - Present Surplus Aircraft.xlsx 12.8 KB · Views: 4 #### Spezioman ##### Member Back in the late 70's I almost bought a complete but apart T6 for$3500. Then a flying BT13 for $6500. ( could have purchased the Catch 22 B25 camera ship for$7000 but that doesn't really count)

Both of us had good jobs but if I had gotten I into any of the above I likely would not have been flying after the first honest annual. Just buying fuel would have been hard.

#### Deuelly

##### Well-Known Member
Years ago, Aviation Consumer magazine had a pilot report on owning a T-6. Said the cost of ownership...other than fuel...was about the same as a Bonanza.

Ron Wanttaja

Exactly, your average Bonanza, Cirrus, or even Cessna owner could easily afford a T-6. The trouble is they're not as convenient for use so they become a novelty item.

#### Pops

##### Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
My neighbor in Pa bought 2 Merlins for $200 each for his dragster in 1964. I have told this before, at the local grass airport in 1955 or so a pilot bought a T-6 for$500 and flew it that summer and then said it used to much gas and parked in in the weeds. Couple years latter my 2 friends and I stripped the instruments out before it was hauled to the scrap yard.
In about 1984 I went with a friend to DC where he bought a T-6 in a crate from the Spanish AF. Paid $25K. We unpacked it and assembled it and he made 3 laps around the pattern with an instructor and flew it back home. So much for the T-6 being hard to fly. I flew the Cherokee 180 back. In the 1950's, a good Piper J-3 was about$250. In 1958 I bought a Ford with 23K miles for $495. Last edited: #### Martti Mattila ##### Well-Known Member Some twenty years back I had idea that only WW2 warbird that I could have was my self constructed Heinkell 162 Salamander. Because it had a wooden wing. That itch has now chanced to reality=died away. Still there would be a real world chance to build some trainer in that era with wooden wing and steel tube fuselage and tail by using M-14 radial. Example here in Finland is our Valmet Pyry. M 14 would scale there nicely and I even have a Piper cropduster fuselage for start. But I am deaht poor and too old. #### KeithO ##### Well-Known Member Making logical comparisons and ignoring cost of acquisition and focusing on operation only: Cessna 150 O-200 - 100hp fuel burn 6 gal/hr 6.0gal/hr per 100hp Cessna 172 O-320 - 160hp fuel burn 10.5gal/hr 6.5gal/hr per 100hp Cessna 210 TSIO-520-C 285hp fuel burn 15.6 gal/hr 5.47gal/hr per 100hp assuming a 1000hp powerplant @ 6gal/hr / 100hp that means 60gal/gr in todays money ($7/gal) \$420/hr in fuel cost without taking into account the reserve for engine rebuild, insurance or anything else. I'm sure that is well in Mig territory with a lot more expensive maintenance due to the difficulty in getting parts for the old piston engines.

Internet sources suggest cruise fuel burn in the P51 is 65 gal/hr so not very far off.

#### TFF

##### Well-Known Member
It’s easier to get Merlin parts than Mig Nene parts. Jack Roush makes some along with others.