Thirty-five years ago, there were dozens of piston twins on the market, everything from Piper’s $66,000 Aztec to Beech’s quarter-million-dollar Queen Air 88. The light twin market had gained momentum in the 1950s when big and small business alike discovered General Aviation.
The designs of early multi-engine aircraft were largely based on expansion of their single-engine forebears, and as such they tended to lack the refinements and creature comforts that the airlines were offering. The reason they were selling, however, was that the light corporate twin was infinitely handier and could operate to and from thousands more destinations.
Cessna had cashed in early on the business boom with its Model 310 beginning in 1955, and followed it with the 320 and the centerline thrust 336 and 337s in 1963, but those aircraft were not exactly executive material.
What the company needed, someone in charge speculated, was a whole new series of cabin aircraft, so designers were put to work on a clean-sheet project that would produce a completely new line of Cessnas—the 400 series.
Well, it wasn’t totally clean-sheet. Fifteen years earlier, the company had built a prototype of a four-engine pressurized executive transport with seating for nine in a stand-up cabin. (For more on the Cessna 620, called such because it was “twice the airplane as the 310,” see “Why They Call It Experimental, Part IV: The Biggest Cessna” in the October 2010 issue of Cessna Flyer. —Ed.) It died mostly from its $375,000 price tag, but Cessna kept a couple of ideas from the failed project—its distinctive tuna-shaped tiptanks and experience with pressurization.
Before we get to the 414, however, a short genealogical study may help understand its origins.
A Little Background
The non-pressurized 411 was the first Cessna 400 prototype. Built and flown in 1962, it was certified in August 1964. It featured the “wide oval” cabin and airstair door concept—and had tiptanks. The 421 was powered by 340 hp Continental GTSIO-520s, had a 6,500-pound gross weight and 268 mph (233 knot) top speed. Base priced at $109,950, nearly 300 were sold between 1965 and 1968.
Next came the 421 (Golden Eagle), test-flown in 1965 as the P411. The most obvious differences between the 411 and the 421 were the latter’s wider-chord vertical stabilizer and sleek nacelles to house 375 hp Continental GTSIO-520-D engines. Introduced as a 1968 model and base priced at $159,950, it was the least expensive pressurized aircraft on the market, and its 215.6 cubic foot cabin and 276 mph (240 knot) top speed made it an instant winner with pilots and backseaters alike; 200 were sold in its first year.
As long as the basic engineering was accomplished on the 421, Cessna reasoned, why not take a step back and build a less expensive model on the same platform—one without the expensive bells and whistles?
So it was that in August 1965 the 401 rolled out of the experimental hangar and began certification testing. Unpressurized and utilizing the less exotic 300 hp TSIO-520 engines, the 401 (and companion 402, which after six years took over as the sole model) came to market in 1967 at just under $100,000. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Model 414
Cessna, ever mindful of market niches, decided soon after the previous three 400 series models had established themselves as viable products that there was yet another application for the collective technology. Marketers proposed another pressurized twin, an entry-level, step-up model that would have a price that was attractive to companies and individuals who could not justify a more sophisticated twin.
Engineers responded with a proposal for the Model 414, an airplane that could be built from proven, virtually off-the-shelf assemblies. It combined the 421 fuselage and tail unit with 401 wings and was powered by T310 engines. It had seven seats and an AiResearch pressurization system that provided 4.2 psi differential.
The cabin was 14 feet, 6 inches long; 55 inches wide and 51 inches high. At a gross weight of 6,350 pounds, it had a top speed of 272 mph (236 knots) and cruise speed of 252 mph (219 knots) at 75 percent power and a 1,000-plus nm range. In addition to 100 gallons standard wing tank fuel, another 80 gallons could be carried in nose and wing lockers, and up to 700 pounds of baggage could be accommodated.
Introduced in 1970 at a base price of $137,950, the 414 was nearly $50,000 less than a 421. Fifty-five were sold the first year, and by 1974 a total of 10 times that amount had been delivered. In 1975, a 400 autopilot and de-icing equipment had been added as standard equipment, and the base price had risen to $174,950.
The improved 414A Chancellor appeared in 1978 with bonded wet wing and without tiptanks, and a gross weight increase to 6,759 pounds was made on the Chancellor II. By 1983, product liability costs had driven the airplane’s base price past $500,000 and none were delivered that year. In 1985, serial no. 414A-1212 was the last of the line.
The 414 had proven—and is still proving—to be a good, economical airplane for smaller businesses and especially those in which the owner does most of the flying.
The original purchase price of 414s and Chancellors is in many cases what you can expect to pay for a previously owned airplane on today’s market. Depending on condition, total time and equipment, typical 1970s 414s range from $129,000 to $279,900, while RAM conversions bring premium prices. A check of ASO.com on December 8, 2010 shows one 1982 414 with RAM conversion at $699,000.