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- The Cessna 310 is a twin engine light utility aircraft manufactured by Cessna that was famous for being the aircraft in the TV show Sky King back in the 1950s
- When it was first introduced to service back in 1954, it had a price tag of $59,400
- Today, however, a used Cessna 310 has an average price tag of about $177,000
- The price of a used Cessna 310 varies based on several factors including age, condition, TBOH and variant
- Assuming you were to fly the Cessna 310 for a minimum of 450 hours per year, it would cost between $640 and $685 per hour to operate depending on the variant
Famous for its role in the hit ‘50s TV show Sky King, the Cessna 310 is one of the most popular twin engine aircraft ever made. But how much does it cost?
When first introduced, the Cessna 310 had a price tag of around $59,400. Today, used models sell for an average of $177,000 though some specific aircraft have gone for well over $400,000. Across all variants, the Cessna 310 costs an average of $662.50 per hour to operate.
As a pilot who has countless flight hours in the Cessna 310, and has spent many more looking for the actual costs of the aircraft in my capacity working in flight operations, I’m intimately familiar with how much a Cessna 310 costs in almost every instance.
Cessna 310 Background
The Cessna 310 is a twin engine aircraft capable of carrying up to four passengers (later models could carry six) that was produced by Cessna between 1954 and 1980.
The C310 was the first twin engined aircraft the company had produced since the end of World War II, and was introduced principally to compliment the company’s famed C120/140 and C190/195 lines of general aviation (GA) aircraft, which the company had specialized in since the end of World War II.
An all new design, the Cessna 310 is a low wing, all-metal monoplane. It was among the first civilian aircraft to store all its fuel in wing tip tanks (later models had an internal fuel tank as well) and hot props.
It clocks in with a cruise speed of 188 knots (216 mph; 348 km/h) and a range of 834 nmi (960 mi; 1,545 km) when flown with its useful load of 1,750 lbs (794 kg). This makes it possible to fly across the country with only one stop.
The airplane proved quite popular domestically and was seen everywhere from New York to Denver to West Palm Beach. This popularity gave rise to new variants that have a higher cruise speed, range, gross weight and the like.
Most new variants were given a new engine, each more powerful and fuel efficient than its predecessor. Later models included an internal fuel tank (in addition to the wing tip tanks) and had specially-designed systems to reduce the chance of engine failure.
The introduction of the Cessna 310F in 1961 marked the first time the structure of the aircraft was changed, as the fuselage was extended to accommodate an extra cabin window on each side of the airplane.
Its success in the GA field made it a prime candidate for several military operators - including the US Air Force - who used it for a variety of different missions, such as VIP transport, administrative support and search and rescue among others.
When production of the Cessna 310 ended in 1980, a total of 4,559 C310s had been built (not counting the 577 Cessna 310-derived Cessna 320s), making it one of the most popular twin engine aircraft ever.
It was replaced in production by the T303 Crusader, another twin engine model that, at least by comparison, never quite.
How Much Was a Cessna 310?
When Cessna introduced the C310 back in the early 1950s, the plane had a flyaway cost of $59,400. Adjusted for 2023 dollars, this is akin to roughly $665,000, quite a bit of money both then and now.
At the time, the Cessna 310 was known for being quite an expensive aircraft. For comparison, its nearest competitor, the Piper Apache, had a flyaway cost of about $32,500 (roughly $363,000 in 2023).
However, it was generally known for being well worth the additional $26,900.
Designed for the twin engine trainer market, a market famed for not wanting to spend lots on its aircraft, the Apache was as basic as it could possibly have been so that its final cost was as low as possible.
By contrast, the Cessna 310 was built for the GA market, who tend to pride things like specifications and performance above things like cost.
Where the Apache was slow, the C310 was fast. Where the Apache had a relatively basic cockpit, the C310 has a relatively advanced cockpit. Where the Apache has comparatively poor runway performance, the C310 has comparatively better runway performance.
How Much is a Cessna 310?
Based on historical sale prices (2018-2023), a used Cessna 310 - the only way to acquire the aircraft since its production ended over four decades ago - costs about $177,000 on average.
The lowest recorded price for a (working) Cessna 310 between 2018 and 2023 was $85,000 followed by $89,999, both of which were interestingly relatively high-time Cessna 310Ks.
The lowest recorded price for a Cessna 310 was roughly $42,000, which was a near-complete C310 (missing one engine and part of the tail).
The highest price for a Cessna 310 between 2018 and 2023 was recorded as being $435,000 for a low time, recently updated Cessna 310R which was among the last Cessna 310s to roll off the production line.
As of the time of writing, the most expensive Cessna 310 listed on Controller.com is $388,000 for a mid-time, recently updated Cessna 310R whilst the cheapest is $99,999 for a high-time, unmodernized Cessna 310K.
Most seem to be hovering in the $165,000-$210,000 range, seemingly agreeing with our above average figure based on sales prices spanning five years.
Why Do The Prices of Used Cessna 310s Vary so Much?
Like most used aircraft, the price of a used Cessna 310 is based on the theory of supply and demand; the higher the demand for a C310, the higher its price will be, with the reverse also being true.
That being said, there are a number of other factors that can also play a role in how high or low the price of used C310 will be. These are:
For as long as used aircraft have been on the market, there has been one rule that has almost always rang true: “the older the aircraft, the lower the price”. And the Cessna 310 most certainly follows this rule.
And this is principally because older aircraft are less desirable than newer ones; there’s more perceived risk with older aircraft than there is with newer ones.
Just as with most machines, be them aviation-related or not, the older the parts are, the more likely they are to break. As such, they require more maintenance per hour flown to remain airworthy, and thus cost more in the long-run.
Likewise, when/if a part breaks or requires replacing, potential operators will have a large bill, as the cost of aircraft parts is comparatively high, as are the hourly rates/wages of qualified mechanics.
As there are relatively fewer people ready to both acquire the aircraft and pay to keep them airworthy, prices tend to be lower.
The opposite is also true. Even though the newest Cessna 310s are over 40 years old, and should thus require more maintenance than say, a 20 year old aircraft, a Cessna 310 from 1979 should require less maintenance than one from, say, 1957, as the parts are newer, and should thus last longer (though this isn’t always the case).
Age can also play a huge, though unintended consequence in the other three main reasons why the price of Cessna 310s vary so much…
At least in aviation, the condition of an aircraft has two meanings: visual and mechanical.
The visual condition of the aircraft refers to its interior and exterior condition, in particular, how appealing they are.
As even the newest C310s are well over 40 years old, it’s safe to say that their factory-issued paint job and interiors are looking a little faded, and even somewhat dated.
From a potential operator’s point of view, this makes the aircraft look far less loved (irrespective of whether that’s the truth or not) and thus cause it to sell for much less. Conversely, a Cessna 310 with a new lick of paint and/or new interior is likely to sell for considerably more.
The mechanical condition refers to its physical condition. These are factors like total time (TT) and total landing cycles.
You see, for each hour the Cessna 310 (or any aircraft) has flown, it depreciates in value. The higher the hours on the aircraft, the lower its asking price should be, whilst the inverse is also true.
Pursuant to regulations, all GA aircraft (the C310 included) must have their landing gear inspected at least once per year (depending on the jurisdiction, this is usually separate from the yearly inspection). Depending on when this was last done, and by whom, will affect its sale price.
A Cessna 310 who has recently had its landing gear inspected, and had something like a major overhaul by a well respected local mechanic will likely fetch a much higher sum than one whose landing gear inspection is coming up, or worse, overdue due to the risk of a large bill to fix it.
Time Between Overhaul (TBOH)
As an old flight instructor of mine once said “Overhauls will kill you, if not from the headache, then certainly from the bill.” It wasn’t until years later when I was working for a company, helping them buy used planes to expand their fleet that I realized just what he meant.
Overhauls are probably one of the most expensive ownership costs pilots have after acquisition costs.
At present, an engine overhaul costs about $35,000. I know some pilots who claim it’s closer to $30,000 in reality, but either way, it’s not exactly pocket change. But remember, the Cessna 310 is a twin, so you need to double that cost, as you almost always have to do them together.
At anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000, and the very real possibility that something could go wrong and render your aircraft unusable, pilots are generally not keen on buying aircraft that’ll soon need an engine overhaul.
Currently, the time between overhaul for the Cessna 310 is 1400 hours. If a particular model has more than 700 hours left until they need an overhaul, it will likely be more expensive than one with less than 700 left - even if the difference in the number of hours between the two models is negligible.
Each variant of the C310 that Cessna released received differing order volumes. For example, the Cessna 310R, and its turbocharged variant, the Cessna T310R, sold over 1,300 times, whilst something like the Cessna 310E sold comparatively fewer (only 36 times!)
And here’s where something I would say “strange” occurs.
You’d expect, given the fact that there were over 36 times as many Cessna (T)310Rs sold as compared to the C310E, that C310Es would have a higher price tag given they are rarer.
However, the opposite is actually the case.
The Cessna (T)310R remains more popular to this day, and as such, used models command higher price tags than their C310E counterparts, simply because most pilots familiar with the C310 have heard of the C(T)310R model, and have probably flown it before.
However, they are more unfamiliar with the C310E, and as such, are more likely to avoid purchasing or inquiring about it, hence its lower price tag.
How Much Does a Cessna 310 Cost to Operate?
However, as most pilots know, the cost to acquire the aircraft (in this case the Cessna 310) are only half of the equation; hourly operational costs are the other.
The cost to operate a Cessna 310 can vary quite a bit based on a few key factors: your location, the cost of oil and the Cessna 310 variant you fly.
If you live in a high-demand aviation area, or conversely, one where there's little supply (parts, avgas etc.), your costs are probably going to be higher than someone who lives in a mid-demand aviation area with a good choice of suppliers.
Similarly, if the cost of oil skyrockets, no matter where you live, the cost of your fuel is going to increase, thus taking your operating costs up with it.
The variant you fly is also important. As each new variant was given a new engine, each with a vastly different fuel burn, some models are more fuel efficient than others, which plays a hand in determining operational cost.
As a general rule, you can expect your Cessna 310 to cost you approximately $662.50 per hour to operate (assuming you’re paying $6.75 per gallon of fuel).