Hangared Since New: 1948 Ryan Navion “A”

This 1948 Ryan Navion “A” is one of just 1,200 planes built over a three-year span, and it combines a colorful history as both a military aircraft and sturdy plane for privateers. The seller explains that this example has had just one owner since 1977 and his recent passing is the reason for the sale. The Navion hasn’t flown since 2010, but it remains in excellent original condition, from its exterior paint to upholstered cabin. Find it here on eBay with a $19,999 Buy-It-Now. 

The Navion was originally conceived by North American Aviation, prior to being acquired by Ryan Aeronautical Company. The U.S. military was one of its biggest customers, and military-spec versions of the aircraft were the personal air chariots of the likes of U.S. Army Gens. Douglas MacArthur and Matthew Ridgeway (according to AOPA.org). The “A” version seen here is one of 600 built, originally fitted with a Continental engine good for 205 b.h.p.

My favorite feature? This swanky interior, rarely seen in aircraft of this period. This is an impressively luxurious cockpit, and should not be changed one bit by the next owner. The backseat is partially missing, and I don’t know where on earth you’re going to find another one. Impressively, however, there are still over 1,000 Navions registered with the FAA. The high state of preservation seen here is likely due to the plane having been hangar-stored all its life.

The seller mentions that plane has received an engine swap at some point, as the original Continental E-185 has been replaced by an E-225 unit. I would assume the higher number has some bearing on engine output, but can’t be certain. The clear gauge faces, colorful switchgear and levers, and unmarred control wheels all suggest a high state of care with its late owner of the last 42 years, and an enthusiastic one at that. This Navion just oozes character and authenticity, and I hope the next owner is able to preserve its past even as the aircraft is renewed accordingly for safe flight operation.

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  1. RoughDiamond Member

    My father was an amateur Biplane pilot and to his dismay I never took an interest in flying as I am terrified of heights. If I were an amateur pilot, this is just the type of aircraft I would love to be rocking through the skies with though. That seat fabric is killer! I wonder what happened to the other section of the back seat?

  2. nycbjr Member

    Are we sure it’s not folded?

    • Devin Williams

      Listing says it is missing.

  3. Howard A Member

    Flying in a small plane is great, but,,,the last time I rode in one, it was a bottom wing, like this, and quite frankly, it was disappointing. View looking down was largely obstructed by the wing. And,,,it’s tense up there. Many small airports. like the one we took off from, have no tower, and you are on your own. Communication with other pilots is imperative. I was surprised, with all the modern equipment on board, the radio was still the most important one. Flying anything is a rich persons hobby, so I suppose it fits right in with the classic car hobby today,,,.

    • Scott

      Radio is not required in an aircraft flying into and out of non-towered airports. Its just smart to have one….I would say the airspeed indicator is your most important instrument!

  4. geomechs Member

    An airplane like this is going to be a bearcat to get back in the sky. It will require at least one major inspection and the maintenance will need to be brought up to date. It hasn’t been flown for upwards of 10 years. The FAA is going to require everything right down to the color of your shorts before you’re given clearance to do anything more than taxi it. I see a $19K airplane becoming a $30K airplane before it has a chance to see airtime…

    • grant

      Asking prices on others in flying condition for sale seem to run from 35-75k so maybe that’s still a good deal.

      • geomechs Member

        Good point, grant.

    • Bruce

      A aircraft restoration and a FFA certified A&P mechanic has told me often that the paperwork to keep an airplane in the air almost always weighs as much as the airplane itself. I have been to his FBO where he keeps a few corporate jets and typical civilian planes in operation and I have every reason to believe this is true.

      I have never heard anybody say anything bad about this kind of aircraft other than the parts were expensive. The sliding cockpit is very fighter like and it is a big single engine airplane. I have not done deep research but the number remaining suggest that it is a very safe plane owned by very safe pilots and operators. Per other comments it is thirsty, and with the original engine slightly underpowered but the systems while largely more complex than most with their hydraulic gear and other parts can be repaired.

      I would think that to get it into the air would be all of 75 to 110K for full certification I am fairly certain it would be worth the effort

  5. dirtyharry

    A few years back, delivering a Piper from engine repair, it promptly quit way short of the intended destination runway. With the stall horn blaring, trying to make the runway (stretching a glide never works, you should go-around, if you have a motor) I managed to stall at the threshold and nose in. I would have likely been in ground effect with some more speed. So there it was, a newly painted PA-140 with a new engine, now in 30 pieces. That was my 4th time returning to the ground, when I wasn’t ready.
    Having spent a lot of time in the air, in many different airplanes, I believe you would be totally out of your mind to ever think about flying this again. If you did everything you need to do to an airplane, to make it safe again, you could have found something much better for the money. I am sure there are some airplane mechanics with a few Continentals laying around, who will argue about it. If you want to fly, catch a ride in something recent with a modern panel and ask yourself if you want to risk your life with controls and instruments from WWII designs.

    • Mountainwoodie

      The voice of experience was rattling around in my head as I read another great Jeff Lavery write up. Planes and automobiles are two different animals to me. I can drive a 1947 Chevy on the ground and be reasonably sure I will get where I need to go in one piece. A small 2 or 4 seater plane, not so much.

      Seeing the number of small planes go down ( Ask Buddy Holly) and having ridden one once from one island to another in the French Virgin Island I will unequivocally state that they give me the heebie jeebies.

      This is one place I am willing to be afraid.

      • grant

        Buddy Holly only crashed once.

  6. Haig Haleblian

    If you wanted to cross country this thing safely a decent stack of avionics will cost $30 g’s. Add getting the thing signed off, paint, and surprises, one could easily hit full asking retail. I’d say $5k at best and hope they turn it down.

  7. fcs

    Navions are impressive aircraft on the ramp. Not so much in the air. Early ones are a bulky for their horsepower and so speed per gallon is not so good.

    Navions use hydraulics for landing gear and flaps. I’d be worried about the state of those systems sitting unused for years. An E-225 engine is a little bit of an orphan, but with scrounging, parts can be found. No mention what the prop is and that could be a big ticket item as there are few that fit the splined shaft on the E-series engine.

    Some folks get worked up about the missing log books, but its not uncommon for planes of this vintage to have holes in their maintenance records. Also the level of detail that used to be done 60+ years ago is far below todays standards. If one was to bring back this plane from the dead, I’d expect to go through all the systems from scratch.

    Concerns about radios are silly. The vast majority of the airspace in the US does not require any sort of radio to fly. Its nice, its a bit safer, but its far from required.

    I’ve owned and flown a ’49 Beech Bonanza with an E-225 engine for 25 years. I’ve been down a similar road before.

    • Haig Haleblian

      Flying without a radio a
      bit safer? I don’t know where you live, but in the suburbs of Chicago flying without a radio is suicide and murder in my book.

      • fcs

        Dunno how to break it to you, but Chicago air space is far from representative of the rest of the nation.

        I’ve lived and flown in the west all my life. Other than a few years where I lived in the SF bay area, radios were only a convenience. In fact at some of the rural airports I frequent now, I might even say radios are a hindrance because pilots are twiddling with their electronics rather than looking out their $%^&* windows.

        Having said that I do have a pretty fair suite of radios (both nav and comm) in my plane. I do use them, but I don’t expect them to make me any safer.

      • Haig Haleblian

        fcs, I really don’t believe in radios………….in cars. In the air, I wouldn’t go up without one even at a uncontrolled strip or airspace. Like the adage “it’s better to wish you were up there than being up there and wishing you were down here. The time you’d miss a radio is when you really needed one but by then it’s a bit too late.

      • geomechs Member

        We learned the proper procedures of flying without a radio. It was awkward at best but you could fly into a controlled airport, as long as they knew you were coming. And you could tell the difference between red and green lights. Of course I still doubt if you could fly into a massive airport where a transponder is standard equipment.

  8. Jay E.

    The aging population and high cost of flying is taking a toll on pilots, which number less than half of not so many hears ago. You would be shocked at the cost of replacement certified parts, and if corrosion has occurred on any parts of this airplane you will be upside down before it is even pulled out of the hangar. Like a horse, the cheapest part of an old used plane is the purchase price. And unlike a car, where a skilled person can work on it themselves, you must be certified as an A/P to work on a plane, even your own. Labor rates are frightful and for anyone to bring this one back to life will involve a long annual inspection. When you go for a Sunday flight, they dont cal them $100.00 hamburgers for nothing.

    • geomechs Member

      You got that right, Jay. I quit flying because I had to choose between flying, or enjoying ALL my other activities. I was a partner in a 172 but that alone was a money pit, just for maintenance inspections and to keep the authorities happy. You could accurately say that it cost $100.00 every time the wheels left the ground. Fifty years ago, it seemed that one out of ten farmers in the western plains had an airstrip and belonged to the International Flying Farmers. Now I would be scrambling to see if I could count 5 in a hundred-mile radius. There are some communities such as Dutton, MT, that still have an active group of flyers, but I think that also comprises the sprayer pilots. I had a customer who farmed a large acreage after he left Boeing back in the 60s. He had IFF fly-ins at his farm for about 20 years. There would be no less than 30 airplanes at his place, then the numbers started to drop until the last year, when there were only six. Then he up and sold his Commanche, and became a snow-bird; said it was a lot cheaper to spend his winters in Mesa, AZ, than to fly…

  9. Jack Quantrill

    Whilst living in Downey, CA these things flew over the house everyday from the North American Aviation plant nearby. Beautiful plane.

  10. lbpa18

    Compared to other aircraft of this vintage, the Navion was well built and sturdy. But as been said, in the long run, a guy can spend much less and have a very nice car(s). This one would have to be a labor of love. It wouldnt pencil out.

  11. Karl

    I think you guys are being a bit hasty in denouncing this plane. One component that you do need is log books and they need to be carefully reviewed prior to purchase. These book will tell you every piece of maintenance and any mods done to the aircraft since it was built. Furthermore it will go into great detail the accident/incident history of the plane. The first thing to be done after a full review of the logs and if they checked out and you did buy the plane would be to bring the plane up to currency with a full annual, that will come all mechanical and electronic components in the plane, if everything is good your going to pay around 4k for this. If the engine is timed out generally for a non turbocharged engine like this it would be a 2000 hour TBO, if you need an overhaul it would be engine and prop that will cost around 40k. Tires, all control surfaces would be checked in the annual. The total cost to fly this plane is going to run you around 400 to 500$ per hour including set expenses. I owned a Mooney Super 21 and that plane cost about 400 per hour 15 years ago. I replaced that plane with a Beechcraft Baron twin and that bumped the hourly cost to fly of over 1100$ per hour to fly. I loved flying and logged over 5000 hours as PIC, then had a medical issue that ended it all, but after I sold the planes I had plenty of money to buy a heck of a car that went just as fast but hindered by roads!

    • Haig Haleblian

      Karl knows of what he speaks. I had an Aztec F (6 passenger twin). General Aviation pilot since 1969. I miss it dearly, but the costs are not for the timid. When I hear folks complain about maintenance costs of their exotics I say you don’t know costs until you own a bird. Besides you can’t get from Chicago to Marco in 8 hours in a F40 as one could in light aircraft

      • Karl

        Haig I sure wished I didn’t know so much about plane expense. I owned a Piper Arrow for a while, got my complex endorsement in that plane, back in those days I would think nothing about jumping in the plane if for no other reason to go look at where the fish houses were thick then I knew I needed to go fishing. Haig I took my training in an Aztec, I liked the airplane it was a real work horse. I used to feel sorry for that poor airplane every day getting abused by a bunch of snot nosed kids like ME at that time!!

  12. Joe

    I think you should avoid aviation-related ads except maybe for old ramp tugs and unless you have an experienced aviation writer who can validly evaluate and comment on a listing. It is so easy to step on someone’s ego if you say the wrong thing.

  13. Loadstar

    2 words: Twin Navion. Rare beast. The Navion has gone through numerous corporate owners but my all time favorite GA aircraft next to an Ercoupe .

    • NIK OWEN

      amen on erecoupes, had 2, amen on radios, just noisy distraction, from beauty of flight

  14. Sphil

    Unless the E225 is approved by STC, per the TC, don’t think the Navion A is approved for the E225

    • fcs

      The type certificate for the navion is at http://www.navion.com/uploads/5/8/8/9/58891029/type_certificate.pdf It states that original engine is a E-185-3 or a E-185-9. It also mentions in footnote 131 that the E-225-4 is interchangeable with the -3 and -9.

      No STC required in my reading. Still a pretty wimpy engine for that airframe in my opinion.

  15. Timothy Devorak

    NAVIONS…..Also known as the “LEAD SLED” of the air. My father ran the FBO in Fergus Falls MN so I naturally became a pilot. I received my pilot cert on a Sunday (16th B-Day), Driver License on Monday and Motorcycle endorsement on Tuesday. This aircraft (one like it) was the same year Navion that a local doctor and pilot had purchased in Minneapolis and he was so happy and proud. My father, who flew P-51’s (in the Big One, as Archie would say), told him, “The useable fuel says 5 hours duration, but don’t you dare fly this aircraft ever, over 4 hours or it will go down”! He was the man that after arriving back from a trip, landed 100 feet short of the main runway and had flown 4 hours and 5 minutes. He started the SPINAL COLUMN SOCIETY (he was a medical doctor) a year or two after his falling from the sky and enduring three compression breaks in his back. He was bound and determined the would figure a way to repair the injuries and walk again and just about found the key to repairing his (and other) back injuries. He was a good friend and we always had his best interests in mind, but Dad always drilled the “safety factor into pilots during the check rides he administered. I fly a high performance craft at 65 years of age and feel safer in the air than on our nation’s highways. It’s definitely, more regulated. AND YOU ALL BEING CAR GUYS, YOU THINK RESTORING CARS IS CHEAPER THAN FLYING??? That last “67 GTO cost me over 70k by the time I got it done! Just sayin’! Tim D in MN

  16. stillrunners

    It’s a buy ! Any of you priced a similar newer plane lately ?

  17. Bill China

    A single cockpit Ryan monoplane (radial engine ?) was entered in the Australian Redex Air Reliability Trial in 1954. Didn’t win. It was the same type as flown by movie detective Nick Carter

  18. Ward William

    Sweet little aircraft but needs some avionics equipment upgrades.

  19. Karl

    Radios are required equipment to enter class B airspace along with a transponder in every bigger airport I know of!

    • Haig Haleblian

      Sheesh, for the safety of passengers, those on the ground, and common sense, a transponder and at least one radio would be the minimum. I wouldn’t fly a bird with at least that equipment and I’d still be reluctant without two radios.

  20. Charlie

    Pull the engine put in a 550. It will look good and still be slow. But like they used to say at the ‘O’ club. That one is built for comfort not speed.

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