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Opinions about Rockwell Commanders

Quite a few for sale recently in the UK and am wondering what are people’s opinions about Rockwell Commanders? Specifically 114 and/or 114B. It seems that they are very capable and fairly good value generally. Is there a reason they don’t sell for more than £150-180k? I read that since the company has gone bust certain parts (flight control surfaces and landing gear parts) may be hard to come by.

United Kingdom

@Parthurnax a friend just bought a 114B and is very pleased with it. I think his motivation was his Arrow had become very valuable and therefore the gap to a 114B was quite modest. Very nice cabin, possibly the nicest in the SEP fleet. Very good build quality and typically with good maintenance to accompany the airframe. He is ex long haul airline pilot and they seem to gravitate to the 114B :) I recall a 115, the owner missed the system redundancy of the 747, and this example had five attitude indicators (once you added reversionary modes on some of the kit).

They need a reasonably good runway length and in 114B guise they cruise around 155 KTAS, although the 115 might go north of 160KTAS.

I haven’t met an owner who didn’t like their Commander, although this applies to the 114/114B/115 range. The 112 had a reputation of being underpowered and has less of a loyal following.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

RobertL18C wrote:

I haven’t met an owner who didn’t like their Commander,

Well, the Commander being my wife, and I sure gotta like her (never sure where ones surfing might take you).
On the aviation side of things, I have yet to meet an owner who does not like his pride and joy.

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

How does it do on the fairly plentiful in the UK grass strips?

It seems like a really good deal to get a slick aircraft with Lycoming IO-540 engine for £100-200k where for a similar 182 you’d fork out probably ~£250k-£300k. Is there a reason they’re such a good deal?

United Kingdom

The 182 would be a later model C182T with G1000 and possibly a GFC700 at those values. Insurance capacity for piston retractables is shrinking in North America, and older pilots are switching to the C182.

The 114/115 has trailing landing gear so can cope with well maintained, reasonably smooth grass strips, but I would expect they need to be a decent length, say 800m.

My SOP with a retractable is I will visit a grass strip if I know it is in good condition, and dry. I wouldn’t operate out of wet grass, soft ground or gravel, that is why the engineers invented tailwheel aircraft. Maybe a Staggerwing can tick both boxes.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

I looked at Commanders in 2002 when I was looking for a plane. The 115 was too expensive at > 500k (the TB20 was under 200k; I also looked at the A36 but also 500k). The 112 was OK with a turbo; one seller tried very hard to sell me one and then his turbo packed up… I asked around various maintenance people and they all said Avoid due to the long list of ADs – compared to a TB20 which had almost none, and still has almost none.

Otherwise, a well built aircraft.

Grass is the same old story. Any “IFR tourer” can operate from grass if reasonably short – even a Jetprop. But the plane will get pretty dirty, which translates to needing to be looked after a bit more in the cleaning and greasing department.

The biggest problem with grass is not the grass but the high probability that the person inviting you to fly there will say “no potholes” (but actually you will need new teeth afterwards), the grass is 5cm long (but actually it is 20cm long and your plane will be all green), it is 1200m (but actually it is 700m and you only just get out of there) Happened to me just once and I was much more careful afterwards. I believe one guy operated a 421C out of there (Heywood Farm).

@AlanB will know more about Commanders and ADs.

Prices are coming down; the covid driven bubble is shrinking all around.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

My friend had one for a good few years. it was a 112TC. Not that roomy inside, in fact cramped. It did not help when he got it plushed up by a car interior outfitter

A good steady work horse although I likened it to flying a Vauxhall Viva. Turbo lag, heavy, but reasonably comfortable on long journeys.

He has recently sold it. I did not like it for no particular reason. Price would be the driver I think.Peter wrote:

(but actually it is 700m and you only just get out of there)

Yes one spectacular night at Strathallen where I actually thought he had killed himself. Had the tree been 12 foot left he would not have made it. He was still very shaken when I met up with him afterwards.

Last Edited by BeechBaby at 18 May 16:18
Fly safe. I want this thing to land l...
EGPF Glasgow

I used to own a Commander dealership. The 112 and the TC/TCA were dogs. The 114 was a nice airplane to fly, no pitch change with lowering the gear or flaps. Touchdowns were effortless. The early 114’s had a problem with fuel vapor lock. I had the engine quit several times in cruise, once on the way to Lake Tahoe right after the other pilot noted, it sure would be bad if the engine quit here, moments later the engine went silent. I nearly pushed the electric fuel pump switch through the panel and that purged the vapor so the engine came back to life. Because of the mid T tail, one had to be careful with speed control in either the lift off or the flare, too little speed and you would lose pitch control. The Bonanza is a much better short field airplane than the 114.

KUZA, United States

We had a Commander for many years. Absolute joy to fly, with very predictable handling characteristics. Unlike other aeroplanes, the wing doesn’t suddenly lose lift when the speed drops, but progressively loses lift in a very predictable fashion. Contrary to the other post, you (we) never seemed to lose elevator authority like you did in a T tails such as the Arrow IV.

There is absolutely nothing nasty about the handling and although we tended to avoid grass just because of mud getting flicked up into the wheel well, but in my experience you could depart 770m grass at max weight with no drama at all. My personal limit would be about 600m tarmac with fuel to tabs, but that is just because I’m a chicken.

The cabin was probably the best in class, it is roomy, has two doors and just feels like a proper ‘executive’ plane (compared to the other Pipers / Cessnas that I’ve flown – other than the Cessna C510 ). Trailing link UC makes every landing a greaser and I’d absolutely have another one. We had the SuperStream STC fitted which modified the AoA of the elevator reducing drag which added a few knots to the cruise speed. I’d got for a Commander 115TC, though Aerodyme do an STC to fit the 320HP IO-580 engine to the 114 which would make the Commander an absolute beast (3000 fpm RoC)…see here:

Most parts are readily available as they are common to many light aircraft. For the bigger parts such as control surfaces / L/G, we have a ton of spares which we would be willing to sell which could keep any commander flying for the foreseeable future But there are companies in the USA that make parts.

Things to watch out for:

Elevator Spa AD – cracks in elevator spar. Not a massive deal in itself, we fitted an AMC kit to ours which effectively strengthens the spa so it no longer subject to the checks required by the AD. But if there are cracks there it will cost a few K (3-4?) to fix and take a bit of time.

Cracks around main gear spars – some of the earlier commanders suffered from this issue. Probably any that did are now out of service so maybe not an issue as Rockwell addressed this in later models I believe.



How does it do on the fairly plentiful in the UK grass strips?

112 is out of question, it’s possible base one in 700m-800m grass with some compromise on temps, wind & surface, however, the guy who was doing it had 1000h on it on instrument pavement before getting “kicked/priced out”….

I fly Mooney on grass, usually 1pob-2pob on 4h-2h fuel with some headwind to most strips, I won’t advise to anyone who is not happy with compromises on conditions, it works more for an “ad-hoc” burger runs with the right day, I think 114 fall under the same logic, than commander is a really nice aircraft, my hangar neighbour had one, we did few legs to LeTouquet with nice performance and it definitely has lot of esthetic appeal both internal & external

I would get a Bonnie (vintage or new) or Skylane (more expensive) if the aim is to fly regularly typical UK grass

Last Edited by Ibra at 19 May 08:44
Paris/Essex, France/UK, United Kingdom
18 Posts
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