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TB21/20 with a gear-up landing history

Hello Pilots!

I am considering buying an early 2000s, low hour (under 1000hr airframe) TB21 that had a gear up landing more than a decade ago, as my first aircraft. Very keen to hear your perspective. I’m a low-hour pilot with a US PPL, and the goal is to gain my instrument rating, be confident of being a very safe pilot, and then fly around exploring the country. Out of all aircraft I have researched, the TB21/20 seem to be ideal as one for training in right now while still being very capable for long term use.

From the pictures, the aircraft is in excellent condition. The dealer mentioned the engine was given a top overhaul a couple of years ago due to the plane not flying for many years. I have seen all the logs.

The gear up landing was on a paved runway. The dealer mentioned the “airframe was not touched due to the way the gear is in the retracted position,” and “everything in the aircraft works properly.”

My questions are: Does such a landing affect the airframe / long term safety in any way? To those who know this plane, how is it that the airframe is not touched? For my purpose (mostly solo flying as I don’t see the family being very happy sitting in the small thing) and in a budget all the way up to around 800k USD, is there a better aircraft I should be considering, besides the Cirrus?

Thank you very much!

United States

@Balram a significant minority of RG aircraft suffer a landing gear incident, and as long as the repairs were to manufacturer standard and correctly recorded in the log book, they have some, but not material effect on value. Obviously the engine will need a shock load inspection and probably an IRAN or overhaul, depending on time since overhaul. Also a new propeller will be installed. In today’s seller market in the USA a clean airframe with no damage history or corrosion, will command a substantially higher premium, but a properly recorded and correctly repaired landing gear incident shouldn’t be a problem.

Now I have seen some sellers claim they had a garden variety gear up, when the NTSB/AAIB describe the accident as full on with loss of control and a write off! Other sellers claim no damage history, the original logs are missing and the aircraft has self evident botched repairs and an accident recorded in the national investigation files. Example of a botched repair on a no accident Debbie being sold by a careful retired airline pilot (another cliché in the second hand airplane market!)

Oxford (EGTK)

The dealer mentioned the “airframe was not touched due to the way the gear is in the retracted position,” and “everything in the aircraft works properly.”

Never believe a single word from any „dealer“.

From the pictures, the aircraft is in excellent condition. The dealer mentioned the engine was given a top overhaul a couple of years ago due to the plane not flying for many years.

If a (particularly Lycoming-equipped) aircraft hasn‘t flown for many year, a full overhaul might be needed. Not just a top overhaul.

So, it has sat for years and for the last two years, it has been flying again, right. I would be happier if it had flown say 5 years after that. Possibly with several annuals signed of by different IAs.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 03 Oct 10:57
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

Top overhaul is a term not properly defined and can mean anything…
Without detailed work documentation, I would not assume that the engine is corrosion-free.

...
EDM_, Germany

Balram wrote:

My questions are: Does such a landing affect the airframe / long term safety in any way?

If properly repaired, no.

Balram wrote:

The dealer mentioned the engine was given a top overhaul a couple of years ago due to the plane not flying for many years.

This may well be a no-go and at the very least requires a thorough inspection of both the airframe and the engine by a very experienced and honest shop. See below. It may be ok, but it also may be a no go.

Balram wrote:

The dealer mentioned the “airframe was not touched due to the way the gear is in the retracted position,

Balram wrote:

To those who know this plane, how is it that the airframe is not touched?

Judge for yourself. If this is what this dealer has said, then he obviously thinks he is talking to someone without experience and quite stupid too. That dealer would hear somewhat strong language from me.

Obviously the airframe is not guilty if a dealer is trying to smarttalk an inexperienced buyer, so if you are seriously interested in this airframe, you need a proper pre-buy inspection by someone who knows the Socata planes as well as the engine. That means, NOT the current maintenance but if possible a Socata maintenance facility who has as few connection with this airframe as possible. In Europe Peter can certainly name a few who know Socata well enough.

Balram wrote:
Out of all aircraft I have researched, the TB21/20 seem to be ideal as one for training in right now while still being very capable for long term use.

I fully agree with that. For your mission the TB20 is a plane you will fly for a long time. It is one of the best touring planes of all times, as Peter here regularly proves.

Balram wrote:

For my purpose (mostly solo flying as I don’t see the family being very happy sitting in the small thing) and in a budget all the way up to around 800k USD, is there a better aircraft I should be considering, besides the Cirrus?

Well. Several aspects.
- For your purpose of flying alone most of the time, you can also think of Mooneys, e.g. a Mooney 201, which is more economic and may also be cheaper to buy.
- However, if you get more confident and will want to take your family, then the TB20 is ideal up to 4 people, as it has a spacy cabin and is a good load carrier, actually one of the best.
- A Cirrus will have the advantage of the parashute, which will possibly be a psychological plus for a wary family, however most Cirri are not as capable as load carriers as a TB20 is.

With your budget you have a very wide choice of airplanes. The real question is the mission. As a single engine IFR trainer, all of the above work. As a family airplane, I would think the TB20 is more capable if load carrying and endurance is concerned, while the Cirrus has the psychological aspect of the parashute and, in the case of the SR22, is also faster than the TB20. If you are looking into a economic airplane to get your IR in, fly solo or with one pax and then want to move on to something bigger to carry the family, have a look at Mooneys, preferably a 201.

Balram wrote:

mostly solo flying as I don’t see the family being very happy sitting in the small thing

That rings another alarm bell for me. I don’t know how big your family is and what their attitude towards your flying is, but out of experience, pilots with families who resent flying GA and who will only get into airliners if at all will very quickly loose interest and get into conflicts with the family, because you loose considerable family time. A lot of people get into massive trouble with their family over flying because of this. It has to be perfectly clear if they support you or not. If not, or if they just “let you buy the damn plane” so you shut up about it, then I would have to say, you need to examine your reasoning very carefully.

LSZH, Switzerland

Balram wrote:

Out of all aircraft I have researched, the TB21/20 seem to be ideal as one for training in right now while still being very capable for long term use.

I own and fly an older TB21 (all though brought up to date with new avionics, paint ect), and indeed its a good airplane. The gear up landing is not an issue if repair properly. The nosegear in the TB21/TB20 does not retract entirely taking the load off in case of gear up landing. Probably what the dealer was referring to. As other have stated the airplane needs a good prebuy inspection.

TB20/21 both are well built (the airframes are practically identical), have very good range with 326 L (86 Gallon) useable fuel capacity, and comfortable seating for a small GA plane. So these planes can be used for some real touring.

Many people know the TB20 but fewer the TB21. But what sets the TB21 aside from TB20 is that the TB21 is equipped with turbo and oxygen. This would not matter much for low level flying but since you aspire for an instrument rating this is serious plus with the TB21 – something you will be happy about later on. The turbo in the TB21 means it will give you the possibility of full power (250HP) all the way to 20.000 ft. This allows better climb, faster cruise, higher ceiling ect. In short the TB21 is just more capable aircraft than a TB20, especially in an IFR environment. A full TKS system would be desirable too for IFR flying depending on where you fly, but can be retrofitted still I believe.

A note on the turbo. The setup is well designed and flying the engine in a TB21 is not complicated, but it does require a more attentive pilot than with a normally aspirated engine. You must have an eye on CHT and TIT gauges for ensuring long engine life. Every time you see those getting too warm you must do something to get them cooler. This can be lowering the nose in a climb, reducing throttle or enriching the mixture, or a combination. Not at all complicated but requires attention just like IFR flying will later on. In cruise at – say FL180 – I usually finetune a setting using around 55 liter/hour and the engine is just happy there giving a long range and decent cruise speed. Once you get to the descend keep a little throttle 15-20 MP to keep the cylinders from getting too cold. Other than that, just do changes to the throttle slowly as with all turbocharged engines. All very doable even for a new PPL, just get some proper training in the aircraft and start slowly not getting into too complicated situations at first.

With a budget all the way up to 800k USD you will easy have room for the unexpected repair or something of that nature. Socata parts support is good, at least here in Europe. The TB21 will be a little more expensive to maintain than the TB20 but not much and well worth it. To make a real step up in aircraft capability (over a TB21) you would need a PA46 in my opinion. Your budget of 800K can buy one, but insurance probably not possible a low time in the US, and in any case not recommended without an Instrument rating and some experience. So all in all yes the TB21 would be a good fit for you at this time.

Last Edited by THY at 03 Oct 21:37
THY
EKRK, Denmark

THY wrote:

The turbo in the TB21 means it will give you the possibility of full power (250HP) all the way to 20.000 ft.

Page 6 of the FAA type certification sheet E14EA suggests the critical altitude of the TIO-540-AB1AD is 15 000 ft, not 20 000?

ELLX

@Peter + the Socata Forum are proof that the TB20/21 is highly regarded among its owners. And well under budget in your case.

Having said that, 800k gets you a new (within the last 5 years) airplane such as DA42, SR22T.

A few years older even a pressurized PA46 up to a turbine Meridian would be possible.

Airline/Mentor/Safety/Instructor - Pilot
Based Austria | Operating Worldwide

is there a better aircraft I should be considering, besides the Cirrus?

TR182? Of course I would say that, wouldn’t I (I own one). But I thought very carefully when I bought it, and I did look at – and even fly – a TB21. I assume you’re in the US? The TB2x is pretty exotic, you need to make sure you have a shop that knows it. Whereas EVERYONE can maintain a 182. In terms of performance, range etc they are very similar – the TR182 carries 88 gallons usable, giving a range WAY more than any normal person’s bladder can handle. Cruise at 155-170, depending on altitude. Personally I almost never go above 12,000 or so, just too much hassle with O2. There I get 155-160. If you don’t mind messing with cannulas, masks etc you can go up to FL200 and get an honest 170.

KPAO, United States

@THY how many hours do you get between top overhauls? I have not yet met a TB21 owner who managed more than 800hrs, due to cracks. But that’s the case for nearly all turbo engines. But yes for European IFR, or anywhere crossing mountains, the climb performance of a turbo is nice.

Oxygen is not an issue – just use a portable system. A fixed system is just neater, although you still want to use an O2D2 regulator on every outlet. The fixed cylinder in the TB21 is a hassle, to get tested, etc.

A gear up landing is an extensive repair. Not just cosmetic (probably have to replace a lot of underside stuff) but also the firewall and the engine mounting frame need inspection because the engine will have been “bent upwards”. You need a prebuy anyway, done by someone familiar with the type.

the critical altitude of the TIO-540-AB1AD is 15 000 ft, not 20 000?

Yes. It climbs at +1000fpm to about 15k, and will reach 25k. But if you climb like that, you will be changing cylinders fairly often.

The TB21 will be a little more expensive to maintain than the TB20

The engine fund is around 2×. The AB1AD costs more to overhaul. You should also try to get a GT (which it would be if you are looking at early-2000s; they stopped making the TBs in 2002) because they have a part-inconel exhaust system. I know someone in the US who was going to certify a whole new system, with proper non-leaking clamps, but it would be stainless, not inconel.

A full TKS system would be desirable too for IFR flying depending on where you fly, but can be retrofitted still I believe.

I did mine in 2018 but got a load of old stock parts and I am not sure if they are willing to make any more TB parts. It was a nontrivial job, especially to do it well.

the Socata Forum are proof that the TB20/21 is highly regarded among its owners

Yes, it is a very good resource for owners. However you need to be very careful what you say there. Any difference of opinion with the owner gets you removed I got removed in 2008, over whether Socata exhaust clamps leak or not (they do, always, a little). Also the residents really dislike anyone posting anything negative, not least because many bought their plane on finance and get upset if the book value falls below what they owe. The forum has a special “secret” section which needs approval of the forum owner to get in, where critical stuff can be posted.

My TB20 writeup has a load of info which should be largely applicable to a TB21 also.

The above photo, N5559Z is a TB20, not a TB21.

EVERYONE can maintain a 182

Same with a TB20/21. However many US owners have had difficulty finding mechanics who are willing to use their brain and who would realise the TB is just a very normal plane, albeit with differences like pushrod linkages instead of cables (which is better, not worse). And the metric threads (I still have stock of those ) used in the airframe confuse everybody over there

in a budget all the way up to around 800k USD

That is WAY more than any TB would cost. But, whether this is relevant, depends on your mission profile. A TB20/21 is a nice plane which does all the jobs from local messing about, through crossing mountains and getting nice photos (it has good windows), and the occassional long trip. But if you need something to reliably fly above wx, FL250, you need to look at a PA46. But that is a whole other huge discussion, and ownership of a PA46 is a lot less nontrivial than of a TB20/21, and you won’t be using it for local flying, or taking photos

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Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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