Buying a Swift...


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The following is an email by Swifter Ed Lloyd which he sent to new Swifter Steve Whittemberger concerning what's involved with becoming a Swift "caretaker". Good stuff follows...
From: Ed Lloyd <>
Subject: Swift Info
Hi Steve,
I would say go fly one before you get all your hopes built up only to find out it's not what you expected. Keep in mind, this is an airframe that is over fifty years old and if you've got ideas of going out and doing acro each time you fly, you might want to reconsider that notion. I do occasional acro in mine but I treat the ole bird with kid gloves. There have been god only knows how many owners in the past that probably haven't done that and I'm thinking about self preservation along with the airplane.
You are probably right when you say there are no two Swifts alike other than those that have been restored to original by current "caretakers" as Denis Arbeau likes to say. Are there any Swift "beartraps" out there? You betcha, and you've got to be wise enough to avoid them. The way to do that is to get to know all you can about the airplane. Join the Swift Foundation and get the book package that they offer on the airplane. A world of information there. Know what's original and what's not. When something appears that is not original, that should flag you to the aircraft records to see if it was done legally and is properly documented. If not, beware. That could cost you lots of money and heartache the first time you try to run the airplane through an annual inspection. If it's not done properly you may have a situation on your hands that requires "unmodifying" what was done to get back to the original Type Certificate configuration. I think you get the jest of what I'm saying. The way to avoid this situation is have a SWIFT KNOWLEDGEABLE mechanic, not just any A&P, do a pre-buy inspection for you. You must have an understanding with the seller before the inspection, what will be done if there are problems that arise. DON' USE AN A&P THAT DOESN'T KNOW SWIFTS. The going rate for most A&Ps is $40 an hour. You don't need to be a math wizard to figure out you can run up one hell of a bill when the airplane goes in a shop for work.

That brings me to the next thought. I don't know what your mechanical abilities are, but the more you can do under the watchful eye of an A&P, the less costly your venture will be. There is an FAA pamphlet you should get and read, FAA-P-8740-29, titled, "Meet Your Aircraft". It's part of the FAA aviation safety program. It tells you what you can do in maintaining your aircraft, legally, as the owner. You can plan on an annual inspection costing $ 1000 to $1400. You can lower that by "opening" up the airplane yourself. In other words, pull the cowling, fairings, etc to facilitate the inspection and then put them back on. Every little bit will help. Herein lies the relationship with your A&P. Ask him to let you do what you can to expedite his work and save you money.

Now for cost in operating your Swift. These statements are going to be very nebulous because of widely varying costs across the country. What will your hanger cost per month? Do you own a hanger? If not, you can go anywhere from $80 to $600 a month. Believe it or not, the management at the new Bergstrom-Austin airport were asking $600 a month for an enclosed hanger! What they were saying was, we don't want GA aircraft around. Insurance is going to depend on your ratings, total time, hangered or not, and taildragger experience. The company I used was AUA, Aviation Unlimited Agency in Greensboro, NC. They specialize in insuring antique aircraft and were highly recommended by a longtime Swifter. My qualifications put me in the $1100 a year range for what I consider good coverage, on the ground and in the air.

I have a 145 Cont. Normal operating fuel consumption around the airport, touch and gos, etc., you can expect about 10-11 GPH. Cruising at 4 to 5K, leaned, look for about 8.3 GPH. No wind ground, about 115-118Kts or roughly 135 MPH. The guys that drive 180s talk about a cruise in the 175 range. Most anything from a 150 engine on up will have a constant speed prop. Along with that comes the additional problems of ADs and oil leaks and just more maintenance possibilities. Your call here. Oil will run you about $2.00 Qt. You should plan on oil changes at least each 25 Hrs. Do it yourself and save the labor. I'll let you do the math per hr cost. I'm afraid if I do it, it will scare me. I agree with Denis, I wanted the Swift, I knew it wouldn't be cheap, no aircraft is, so I bought it and I'm not sorry I did.

Where to start looking? Call Joe Ranson at Swift Parts and milk his brain. Look at Denis' web site and what is offered there, look in trade-a-plane, visit the web addresses that Denis has on his web page. Go to a Swift fly-in within driving range. That's how I found mine. It was a stroke of luck. I looked for six months, including driving from Austin to Swift Nationals in Athens, TN. I looked at every airplane there to get a feel for what the Swift was all about. Talked with a bunch of Swift owners and learned through their mistakes. CAUTION: If you fly a 210 Swift you may get hooked, The price goes up drastically along with operating costs! Steve I'm just about out of ideas to pass on to you. If I can answer any specifics, don't hesitate to drop me an email anytime. You need to e-mail Jim Montague ( and see what he can offer to help you that I have not covered. He's always glad to help, as we all are in the Swift World. Parting shot, you buy a Swift and you buy into a very large and caring family of folks that work together to help each other keep their Swifts honed and flying. Attachment to an airplane like the Swift can only be described as affection. Cheers and check six.................Ed Lloyd N3856K

THE "DOLLAR RIDE"... (12399)

From: Ed Lloyd <>
Subject: Swift Dollar Ride
Howdy Denis,
Well... Swifter Larry LaForce and I got together Saturday ,12/4/99, and he pored over 3856K with camera and questions. Let me tell you up front, Larry is what we here in Texas call a "Tall Drink Of Water". I was planning on taking him on a flight in 56K but was concerned somewhat about Larry's sitting height. Well, as luck would have it, 56K has 150 seats that are adjustable in height. I lowered the pax seat all the way to the floor and back on the rails as far as it would go, that did the trick. Loaded Larry on board and we were off for a few firsts. One was Larry' first flight in a Swift, second was the first time he had flown with sticks, and third, first time he had ever done rolls in an airplane. He had his video camera along so he documented these firsts in his flying career. It was fun. Did a low pass, pulled into a closed pattern and landing and then did an overhead and a few more landings for him. He was so hooked I couldn't see the hook anymore! He had a blast. Then I introduced him to Duane Golding and Dorothy. He had the opportunity to see Duane's 210 in rebuild and also Dorothy's 180 Swift as well as Jim Crain's 210 sans engine, plus a "project" Duane has in storage. Took lots of pictures, asked lots of questions and got straight forward answers from Duane, Dorothy, and myself. I'm sure Larry will be a "good caretaker" of 80844. Cheers.............Ed Lloyd


Subject: Grinning
It's been almost a week now and are my cheeks tired. The reason that they are is that Ed Lloyd was gracious enough to invite me down for my first Swift ride. Every time that I think about it...I start to grin from ear to ear again. I have to admit... I bought a Swift without ever having rode in one. I had to have one because I just loved the way they looked. Now...thanks to Ed...I can say that I definitely made a good selection. Ed put his bird through an impressive routine. I must say that this is an experience that I will never forget. I also have to say that 56K looks great in the pictures...but pictures do not do it justice. It is BEAUTIFUL in person!!! While at the airport...Ed introduced me to Swift expert Duane Golding. I had the opportunity to view some of Duane's creations. I was speechless...surrounded by gorgeous Swifts everywhere!!! All of this exposure to Swifts has wet my appetite for more!!! Thanks Ed ... for an enjoyable and memorable experience. Sincerely...Larry LaForce (N80844)


From: Jason Beall <>
Greetings folks,
I am working a deal to trade my present plane for my first Swift. I have been in love with the plane since I first read about them 10 years ago. I have a few questions I was hoping some of you could answer who own/fly them. As a note, please reply to me privately at "".
1)Are parts expensive and hard to find?
2)What about maintenance? I currently own a Bonanza, so it can't be any worse than it? I do most of my own tinkering under supervision of my IA.
3)Anything I should look out for on the prebuy specific to the airframe beyond the standard items like corrosion, etc.?
4)I am concerned about poor useful load. Any increases available and what do they call for?
5)I heard, from unreliable sources, that Swift used to break up? Why? Design or pilot error?
Thanks for your time. Any other comments/feelings about maintaining or flying Swifts would be appreciated. -- Jason Beall, Lafayette, LA

(1) Sure parts are expensive, but they're a hell of a lot cheaper than Bonanza parts!
(2) Depends on how well it's been maintained in the past. Once you get it up to snuff, it's comparable to any retractable. They're old! Get one in good shape and not a big problem.
(3) Corrosion is probably the biggest item. If you are looking at a modified airplane make sure it's been properly done, good paperwork, 337's etc.
(4) a GW increase to 1970 lb is available. About $700 from Merlyn Products, Spokane, WA. Main item is two 6" straps riveted on the lower wing attach.
(5) I don't think very many Swifts have broken up in flight except the D'Arcy's of FL - the tore up 3 -- with 250 hp doing hard aerobatics up to 300 mph and 9G -- Crazy.
Jim Montague


From: Jack Mangan <>
Subject: Thanks for the quick reply
I have become obsessed with the Swift in only three days! Just started looking for an airplane after being away from flying for 7 years (no money/no time) and now ready to get back in. Can't get enough of the Swift and love the Web site and links. What a great fraternity, would love to join as a Swift owner. Spoke with a couple of owners today, one of which has a Swift for sale. Who could you refer me to for some information regarding taking a near stock GC-1B with 0-300 and 28-gallon tanks and making it IFR capable with increased fuel? Is there one particular shop recommended for these mods located in the Southeast (I'm in NC)? Interested in cost of mods and advisability. Thanks again for the lightning fast response to my Newsletter Sign-up and the inclusion in the Swifter Email addresses. (By the way, great personal homepage with great shots!) Finding the right Association is as important as finding the right Airplane (well, almost). Looks like I may have lucked out with the Swift fraternity! Regards, Jack Mangan

First of all, thanks for your kind words about my web site. I sincerely appreciate it and getting responses like yours make my efforts truly satisfying. Regarding making a Swift IFR... My first advice would be to save a few extra pennies and get a Swift that is already set up for IFR. If you took a VFR Swift and set it up for IFR you may end up spending MORE money than if you bought a "turn-key" IFR Swift. If the "stock" GC-1B your are referring to has any model O-300 other than the "D" model, you may already know that only the "D" model has provisions for a vacuum pump. Other than a "D" model O-300 then you'd need an old fashioned venturi or just use all electric gyros. (And hope your electrical system doesn't crap-out !) Fuel wise, there are a few approved choices for aux tanks. Under the seats, behind the seats (I've got that), in the outer wing panels (the current favorite style and a good one), or wet wings (a LOT of work...). The best place to go for advice and counsel regarding these matters considering your location would be the "Swiftworks" shop at McMinn County Airport, Athens, TN. Vaughn Armstrong is the owner / chief wrench. It is right next door to the Swift Association HQ. Here is the contact info from the "Swift Instructors / Mechanics / Shops" section of the web site...

SWIFT WORKS / Vaughn Armstrong, McMinn Airport, Athens, TN (adjacent to Swift Association) 423-745-7578
Swift experts. All levels of Swift maintenance, rebuilding, and restoration.

There are other Swift shops on the east coast. Check the web site location mentioned above.

I own a near stock Swift with an O-300-B engine that I have flown IFR on various occasions. I do not have a vac pump or venturi so all my gyros are electric. Because I don't have a back-up source of power for the gyros if I do ANY IFR at all it is just to climb or approach through a relatively shallow cloud layer. Here on the west coast we frequently get a "marine layer" that usually is only about 1000 feet thick so it is not much to punch through. I do not do any prolonged or "hard core" IFR because as I mentioned before all my gyro "eggs" are in one basket. Flying a Swift IFR is not difficult but it's not Cessna 172 / Bonanza / King Air stable either. It's a good workout for your cross-check and multi-task abilities. If I was setting-up a Swift for more than very casual IFR I would at least install a "wing-leveler" of some sort if not a full blown autopilot. Let me know if I can be of any more help! -- Denis


Subject: Re: IO-540
My aim is to assess the Swift as a potential buy. Any info you could direct me to, would be greatly appreciated. I saw the home web page and reviewed the internet featured Swifts. One stands out at this moment, "Ozzie's Ride". Mike Paperthien

Mike: Most Swifts are hobby projects by the owner/pilots. "Ozzie's Ride -- Miguel Nelson's Swift -- was formerly owned by Frank Borman and has been extensively modified by professionals, both formerly and with the present owner. I know it has a Continental IO-360 engine, smooth skin wings, and a wet winged centersection, and I think, stick controls. Lately, since Miguel has owned it, the work has been done by Don Bartholomew of Minden, NV -- Email: Don has own private strip and specializes in Swift rebuilding and modifications.

<< Where would I go to study the mods done on a ride like his, costs involved, etc.?>>

You could write or call Don 775-782-2992 The Swift association has several books available you could get. Read the Swift Home Page thoroughly. I'm sure you realize if you have all that type of work done professionally it can cost some serious money.

<< Also, where would you recommend I search for accurate values of existing Swifts, with vs w/o such mods? Last, where is the best source of Swift performance stats before vs after such mods?>>

Nearly every magazine article I have read has some glaring errors. There is a department on the Home Page listing every magazine article on the Swift since 1946. Big engine, modified Swifts go for $50K to $100K commonly. You will have to talk to an owner to get numbers. A good big engine Swift will run red line airspeed. (185 mph, 161 knots) Performance varies a lot. A stock airframe with a 210 hp engine will cruise in the 150 - 165 mph range. As you may note, I'm cc'ing this note to Don Bartholomew and Denis Arbeau, the Home Page webmaster, perhaps they can add something. -- Jim