help with dilemma: 3 small kids/ need 5 seats in single engine

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I have a real dilemma. An IFR-rated pilot, I have three small kids
(all under under 75 pounds) and am looking for a single engine ga
aircraft to accomodate them plus me and my wife. I don't want to go
the full six-seat route yet (A36/Cherokee Six/Saratoga/C210/206)
because of expense and because I won't be flying most of the time
with the whole family. Ideally, the plane would have a bench with
three seatbelts in the back. My wife and I are both light (260 pnds
combined) and I'm willing to trade fuel for range.

Planes I am considering:
C182 (had heard early models had a bench seat as a third row)
Beech Sierra (for same reason, although it's too slow for mission)
Mooney Ovation (heard can be configured with 3 seats in the rear)
Socata Trinidad (also poss. to hold 3 in the back, I've heard)
Cirrus SR 22 (has excellent load carrying capability plus, of
course, speed, but wondering whether it would ever be possible to
put a bench in the back with three belts).

Any thoughts really appreciated.


-- john pom, December 30, 2006


The Socatas are supposed to be nice-flying airplanes about you can buy a great one for less than $100,000. As my friend Julian said when we test-flew the TBM 850: "You just have to overlook the fact that it is made by the French." I flew one Sierra and would not want to repeat the experience (ponderous and sloppy). I don't think it is legal to fly an SR22 with five people, unless one is young enough to sit on a lap. I guess this is commonly debated, but the POH says it is a four-seat airplane. The 182 and the Mooney are probably the most practical.

-- Philip Greenspun, January 26, 2007

Hi John- I'm in the same dilema. Exactly! I was wondering if you had any responses from this query?! I spoke with the Cirrus rep at the Palm Springs show. He said they were working on whether a bench seat would be plausible in the back of the SR22. He cautioned that it was much more complicated to reconfigure the seating arragement then it might seem from our side. Alot of safety, weight, etc. stuff they had to work out. It didn't sound as if they are really working on it very hard. (Too much emphasis on their new jet they are drawing!) If you find a good answer to this problem.........please let me know! Jill

-- Jillian Storm, January 16, 2007


Thought about a Maule? They have a bench seat in the back and are listed as being 5 place.

Taildragger but also do a trigear:

Hope this helps and would love to hear if you get some other options also.



-- Lee Skinner, January 22, 2007

Eventually, you will need to go the full 6 seat route, and that will mean trading up (those little ones grow, and soon won't want to sit so closely anyway). You won't want to have a Socata when you need to sell it, so scratch that. For now, I think that leaves the Ovation for high performance given you what you said (182's aren't that much faster than the Sierra).

Still, expense is not going to be the reason here because a decent Ovation starts at 200k, and you can get a lot of older 6 seaters at that price (yes, they cost more to operate, do a spreadsheet). Also, unless you buy new, you will have to retrofit the Ovation bench because I don't think they sold many of them. Mooney is pretty proud of their upgrade kits.

I am a Mooniac, but I would tell you to look for a 5 seat Bo with a 550 engine upgrade. It doesn't fly like a 6 seater, but it has the room of one. This plane should last you until you want to trade for other reasons. Careful of the older Bo's with the jump seat due to balance issues.

-- Eric Warren, January 25, 2007

I run a Piper fleet for self-fly rental and provide maintenance support and crew conversion training onto the Saratoga and Malibu type rating renewals and would identify the 1980> Saratoga as being closest to your mission requirement, it ticks most of your boxes,it has one of the best engines Lycoming produced(not turbo)usually has Century autopilot with flight director(great for IFR)and can be fixed anywhere in the world-one of ours just did Salzburg to Cape Town and back no problem! Good examples have always attracted a premium but still possible to buy 1982 variant with decent avionics,sensible(sub 3000hrs airframe) and have enough change to buy a holiday flat in France instead of SR22! Plus your kids will grow fast and love the extra room,it really is an aircraft to keep!

-- Derick Gunning, February 9, 2007

I'm in a similar boat (though just 2 kids--and bigger) and my instructor turned me on to another option that can be had between $70K to $125K-ish depending on details. A Navion Rangemaster.

Can be configured for a 5th seat in the space where luggage normally goes. Looks a little like a Bonanza, but seems bigger and has Tip Tanks. Holds 105 Gals, useful load of 1300+ lbs, and can cruise at 150-160 KIAS with a range of 1300 nm and uses about 13.5 gals/hr.

To top it all off, it has very forgiving flight characteristics with slow flight ability and short/soft field capability. I heard that Navy even used them on *Carriers* for ferrying VIP's, back in the day. I've been thinking seriously about getting one...(but I'd like to actually *fly* one first).

Bottom line: It flies higher (I think even FL20), faster, farther, and carries more, all while using less fuel than a 182 or a Saratoga-type. Quite a combination package.

Best of luck!


-- Randal Whittle, February 17, 2007

I fly a TB-20 and it is a great plane for what you want to do. I take the wife, three kids and a dog from New Jersey to Toronto on a regular basis. 1100 lbs usefull load and 86 gallon tanks give you a lot of flexibility. For cruise I plan 150 kts on 12 gph. My kids are bigger now and it is tight in back but when the alternate is a 9 hour drive they live with it. The oldest is off to school so space is available If you are buying the prices are excellent, not so good if you are selling. Excellent website at, a lot of good info and support is available. Dennis

-- Dennis O'Meara, June 13, 2007

how about new diamond DA50? 3 seats in back row...

-- tibor fx, October 30, 2007

I have the same dilema and a C-182 would be perfect for me. I found this STC in the Cessna Owner Association. If you find someone to execute it, please let me know too!


Re: Cessna 182 rear seat & Harness convert

Supplemental Type Certificate

STC Number: SA4-1092

This certificate issued to: Green River Aviation Co

STC Holder's Address: P.O. Box 606 Green River UT 84525 United States

Description of the Type Design Change: Seat belt and seat back to accommodate additional passenger on the rear seat.

Application Date:

Status: Issued, 01/01/1960

Responsible Office: ANM-100D Denver Aircraft Certification Office Tel: (303) 342-1080

TC Number -- Make -- Model: 3A13 -- Cessna Aircraft Company, The -- 182 Series 5A6 -- Cessna Aircraft Company, The -- 180

-- Francisco Daffre, October 30, 2008

Hi guys It sounds like we all have the same delemma. I have 3 young kids as well weighing about 90 lbs combined. Has anyone come up with any thing that works as far as taking a 4 place and adding a bench instead to 5 seats?

Mr. frustrated

-- Ryan Teele, December 10, 2008

One more here with a trilemma... I have almost resigned to the fact that Saratoga or Lance are my options as kids grow older and get heavier (and if you have a St Bernard as I do...

11-13 GPH is not bad for a single person business flight...

your thoughts?

-- Vladimir Petrovic, January 16, 2010

I think your best bet is a Piper Cherokee 6/300 or 6/280 or 6/260. These will seat 6 easily. That is how they are sold and marketed. HOWEVER, they can seat 7 Legally. The middle row seat, can have a bench seat where the middle seat doubles as either a LARGE ARM REST, or folded down is a seat. So in the front row, is pilot/co-pilot, middle row-3-seater with fold down arm-rest bench, and 2 seats in back row, and plenty of luggage area in back, for 2+3+2 seating arrangement. also, they have wide-berth double doors for easy loading of middle and back row passengers and luggage. Some come with the 7- seater configuration, while the ones that don't you can order it and install it yourself. Finally, in this market, you can find a 73-78' model for relatively inexpensive. E.g. $60-90k, discretion advised and get a broker to go through it for you, but plenty of deals to be had with low hours. These are single engine that are well built. Google Controller magazine and search them online. ttyl

-- Don Tran, February 14, 2012

Hi, I have a 1977 C182Q - it has (and is legal for) six seats with six people.

Great machine... (particularly with the SMA diesel/JET fuel engine)

Best regards, Sam.

-- Rutherford Sam, July 11, 2013

There is an STC for early model 182's and Piper Comanches that allow for three seatbelts on the rear bench seat. I am currently pursuing a similar STC for the Beech Bonanza model 35 "v tail."

Feel free to contact me for more info if you're interested.

Thanks, Matt

-- Matthew Grondin, June 2, 2014

The STC for the "V tail" Bonanza has been approved and issued by the FAA. It covers the 1947 "straight" 35 model through the M35 models and allows for 3 seat belted passengers on the rear bench seat, making it a 5 place Bonanza.

I have 10 STCs available to sell at $500 each through 8/24/2014. If you have any interest, contact me at


-- Matthew Grondin, July 28, 2014

Response to help with dilemma: need 5 seats in single engine / 5 place airplane

The STC applies to all models of the Cessna 180/182 up to and including the 180/182E. The STC also applies to all models of the Cessna 170 as well as the Beech 35 Bonanza up to and including the M35 Bonanza as long as you have a bench seat and not a split seat (the rear / back of the seats may be split, but the base may not ... some models and interiors that have been retrofitted to later model Bonanzas may not qualify) - that is a requirement of the STC.

The STC sells for $500 and is for the paperwork only, for one Cessna or Bonanza serial number only. The STC is basically the legal means to add a third lap belt to the rear bench. Parts are less than $200 (the hardware is about $50, the rest is the cost of a lap belt and depends on the buckle/options). Labor is estimated at 2 hours or less, going shop rates around here are $80 approx.

As for design drawings, they are part of the STC paperwork and are included with the purchase of the a STC, but there is a picture of the installed STC in a C182 on BeechTalk at: Keep in mind that this was probably a "budget" installation and that the 182 cabin this was installed in is narrower than the Bonanza.

Also, you might want to review the following thread on that discusses the STC from the beginning:

There is also information and some discussion posted at: p=220754#p220754

If you still like what you see, I will need the following information to issue the STC ... Registered Owner Name and Address Aircraft Make/Model/Serial Number Aircraft Registration Number

The information you supply will be cross checked with the FAA registration database and the information will be kept on file for the purpose of any future SB, ICA, or AD required updates.

After I receive a cashiers check for $500 (or after it clears if you choose to send a personal check) the STC will be issued to your aircraft's serial number.

Please let me know if you have any more questions ... I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your interest, Matt Grondin

-- Matthew Grondin, November 8, 2014