Looking into possibly purchasing one of these somewhat rare birds.  Would love some insight from some people who are in the know (have owned, or flown one on regular occasion in the past or present) on the aircraft.

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Not a bad airplane for the price but its not great either, there is only 1 belly sump and the design around the gas cap allows for water to collect and get into the fuel system so make sure you sump a few dollars worth of gas before you fly (I've had water in my fuel 2x but I also parked outside). The 0-320 is a bit underpowered for the airframe and in many ways is the reason why its older brother the Lark with the 0-360 was more successful (4x as many larks were made as darters) and many of the early Larks were nothing more than Darters with a different engine mount for the 0-360 and a larger cowling (later on they re-designed the tail). One of the great features about the Darter and Lark is the degree to which it was over-designed in terms of the all steel cabin and perhaps the beefiest landing gear on any GA airplane I have seen. In my opinion the biggest downside with owning these airplanes and the reason I sold mine is parts availability. At the moment there is only one company that I know of in the tinny town of Thomas Oklahoma (JC aviation) who has the only supply of parts to amount to anything. For me this was never an issue but had I needed something like a door or gas tank tank it could have been disastrous if they didn't have one and likely would have required a significant modification and or a new fabrication. Meaning you will need either need a DER to sign off (costly and time consuming) or a nice FSDO who will give you a brother in law field approval (both of which are a pain in the ass for something that should be simple).
Have spent some time in one - liked it better than a 172, has a full chromoly fuse in the cabin area.  They are a great bird if you're looking to get into a 3-4(small people) place cheaply.  I would buy one if the right deal came down the road.  The Lark is a bit bigger with more power, but the Darter worked fine with the 150 hp out of a 2400 grass with obsticles.

Thanks for the info guys.  It seems that from the research I've done thus far that the common sentiment on these is that they are built like a tank, maybe just slightly underpowered with the 0320 because of some of the rugged features (all steel cage and landing gear) and biggest concern is the parts availability moving forward.  Most people who have spent much time in them seem to prefer them to the 172 though….which is interesting.  I certainly think they are a lot more attractive with the Mooney inspired tail section.  Not to mention the novelty of tooling around in something thats different from the norm.

 

Im not overly concerned with the design flaw in the fuel caps as the one I'm looking at has always been hangared and were I to purchase it, would continue to be so.  It is good info to have though.  I think my biggest concern is buying one, sinking some $ into it to get it IFR to finish up my IFR add-on and having WAY more $ in it than I could ever get out of it.  On the flip side of that though, Im not sure I would ever really be looking to sell the thing afterwards, so it may not be much a concern.  Its really too bad there isn't an STC for the 0-360 on the Darter (or any STC's I've found for that matter) being that its essentially the same airframe as the Lark….and I've yet to run across one of the Larks you mentioned that still had the Mooney tail.

 

Any more info is welcome.

I'm looking at a Darter now. I don't understand the comments about it being underpowered. Look at the specs. It has shorter take-off run, better climb by several hundred FPM, etc, of such planes as the PA 28-140 and others. It's perfect for what I want and compares very favorably with other 150 HP aircraft, even exceeding the performance of many much more costly used aircraft. If it can be bought for 10 to 15K less than a 172 in the same condition, why wouldn't it be desirable? I researched parts availability and I'm not worried about that. I'd much rather have it than a 175 with a 60 year-old rebuild on a GO-360 for thousands more.

Sincerely hope I get to own it. I've been researching and looking at potential A/C for 4 months. The one I'm looking at is the best value I have yet to find.

I know it's been a long time since your post: But, if you look up the specs for the Commander 180, the performance improvement over the 100 is minimal, with higher gph fuel flows.

 I have a feeling that the increased weight in the nose with the 180 requires more elevator trim to fly level, and that causes additional drag. It has better climb performance but the cruise speed increase is very minimal. It may be the reason for the redesign of the tail of the 180 in the later models. A 100 with available increased HP STC  to 160 and a power-flow would run rings around a 180 and be less expensive than a conversion, and much cheaper to operate. 

I haven't flown a 100. The one I was looking at in SJ turned out to be a very badly cared-for aircraft that had the potential for a lot of restoration work. It has been abandoned on the ramp by the owner for several years, and flown only a few hours in that time. He started working on the plane, removing rusted steel screws on the top of the wings, replacing them with SS. But, after removing many screws he left the holes open and never finished. The inside of the wings have evidence of water pooling, one flap is hanging down (aircraft NOT airworthy), linkage supposedly damaged by high winds. The yokes were not secured when we looked at the plane.  A bird got in the gap and built a nest in that wing. There is a pile of vegetal debris in there more than a foot across. We made a fair offer taking the plane's condition and cost of the required work needed into consideration. He got insulted, involved his ego, and in turn became insulting and threatening. At last check the aircraft remains on the ramp deteriorating further. The glowing description remains, as does the asking price. It's really a shame to see a good aircraft getting ruined this way. It already is a bit of a "project" plane, and it will only get worse - probably end up a salvage situation. The Lyco engine is likely corroded badly as the plane is close (<than a mile) to the humid salt air of the Jersey shore.

There is a 180 for sale here locally, but it also looks sad, not as bad as the one above, and I wouldn't want a 180 anyway.

And, finally: After more than 10 months I still don't own an aircraft. I do not want to have to go to TX or CA, so my choices have been limited. I've missed a few with offers that exceeded asking price made by others before I could inspect the plane. And, I have seen many planes dishonestly represented (like the one above). It's been frustrating, and unfortunately, some of the worst ones have been brokered planes, which is disappointing.  the phrase "BUYER BEWARE" seems to apply to aircraft purchase more than in any other market I've been involved in.

Talk to a maintance guy. We have one at dubuque that knows alot about maintance issues and he even has a book on aircraft thats very detailed on pros and cons.

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