Things a prospective Viking owner might ask about:
The Viking is actually the culmination of steady change to a Giuseppe Bellanca design called the "Junior" that he designed in 1937. Over the years it changed and added many things so that the kinship is hardly recognizable, but the wonderful wing still looks the same (it was strengthened inside with more ribs somewhere along the road and got a little bigger for the Viking). The Viking-series "started" in 1966. Other than the gear door stuff I talk about below, the Viking itself hasn't changed much at all since then.
The absolute best thing about the Viking is the handling. Giuseppe and Enzo (Ferrari) must have been brothers. The Viking is the only family airplane that makes you want (and I mean WANT) to roll it. Lazy eight practice pretty rapidly turns into "energetic eight" practice with 30 deg pitch and 60 deg bank simply because the airplane loves it. It has a 90 deg per second roll rate which means legal wingtip to wingtip (120 deg) pretty much as fast as you can move the yoke. Controls are beautifully harmonized, although safely heavy on the elevator. Fly a Viking "hard" VFR and you simply won't be able to forget it.
The Viking is the greatest airplane in the world for two people - bar none. It's also good for 3 adults and ok for 4 in limited doses (I've flown 4 adults on 5 hour legs to Steamboat Springs twice and 4 adults to New Orleans numerous times). The Viking is an interesting cross. It has about a 1,000 lb useful load which is on par with the 200 hp four seaters rather than 300 hp "six" seaters (Centurion and Bonanza).
The book says my '79 will run 178 knots at 75% cruise. I actually see about 174 knots and in 65% cruise I see 165 knots. That will run with any non-turbo Centurion or Bonanza out there, pull steadily away from a Mooney 201 and leave Arrows and Commanders sitting in the dust.
The pre-76 Vikings are about 10 kts slower than a
like-vintage 300 hp Centurion or Bonanza, about the same speed as a Mooney 201
and 15-30 knots faster than a non-turbo Arrow or Commander. The '76-'78 Vikings
got a partial nose gear door and picked up about 5 more knots. The post '79 and
later Vikings got a fully enclosed nose gear with doors and wing-imbedded
strobes that picked up 10 knots more. They still make new Vikings today
and virtually the only changes other than interior are new slimmer main gear
doors (about 5 more knots) and now they will hang an IO-550 for another 5 knots.
Get ready to get in line though - the waiting list is five people long and they
only make a couple a year now!
In the used market you will see pretty big price
jumps from '73 to the '74 model year which is when they changed the fuel system
from 5 tanks to 3 - simpler, but not really any big deal - and when they went to
a standard "T" panel. Pre-74's are simply an incredible bargain in the
market. The next price jump is for '76 when the partial nose gear went on. Then
the prices really jump for '79's (about $10,000 for equivalent equipped
airplanes vs a '78) because of the new nose gear design. It's purely a market
perception of speed, although a good friend of mine owns a '78 with just the
partial door and, in truth, he is only a few knots slower than me - 50 rpm or
1/2" mp less and we run even (literally, for hours from Tucson to Oregon).
He does have the '79 strobes retrofitted as do many of the older Vikings. They
still make new Vikings today and virtually the only changes other than interior
are new slimmer main gear doors (about 5 more knots) and now they will hang an
IO-550 for another 10 knots. Get ready to get in line though - the waiting
list is five people long and they only make a couple a year now!
Most Vikings are well-equipped for IFR, generally
with KX-175's in the earlier years and digital Collins or King in the later
years. Most will have a Loran and many are starting to upgrade with GPS (and
several have added Garmin 430's last year!) Because Vikings are almost
never rentals or training airplanes, it's pretty easy to find one with less than
2,000 hours (usually one or two owner airplanes). I looked at Arrows and
Cardinals for a long time before buying a Viking and was looking at airplanes
with 4,000 hrs!
Maintenance-wise, find a good clean airplane, get
a Viking-knowlegeable A&P to do a pre-buy, hangar the airplane and take
reasonable care of it and I guarantee you won't have problems. The Viking wing
is actually hell for stout. Two spars, fore and aft of laminated spruce that're
about 3x7" thick at the wing root! Compare that to an aluminum airplane
with a spar of channel-bent 1/16" aluminum and you might never fly a spam-can
Seriously though, if you leave a Viking outside in
the rain on a regular basis water will collect in places and develop rot - but
do the same thing with a spam can and you will have serious corrosion. I'm not
talking about the occasional overnight outside because the hangar at destination
is full, and there's definitely no problem flying the Viking IFR or in rain
(over 100 hrs of my 700 in a Viking has been in solid IMC, some with heavy
enough rain to screw up the paint on the tail this year!) Every Viking owner I
know keeps his airplane in a hangar and not a single one has had wood problems.
A couple guys have talked about wood problems but they were on abused airplanes
that lived every night on a ramp. Look inside the inspection covers on a Viking
wing and it looks (and smells) like good furniture. In addition to the spars
being laminated (with an epoxy laminate between plys), Bellanca dips the entire
completed wing in a preservative sealer before wrapping and painting. The inside
of an aluminum wing often has no corrosion protection at all!
Maintenance on a Viking is actually quite
reasonable. Most things are easy to get to and standard off-the-shelf parts.
Bellanca has some impressive jigs for the wings and frame at the factory, but
never was large enough to have custom castings for gear and other parts. As a
result, the airplane is pretty much welded steel tubing and wonderful carpentry.
There are very few things on the airplane that you have to buy from the factory
-which is good since BAC's prices are almost like Beechcraft prices now (on the
other hand, its good to know the factory is still around, has a large parts
supply, and is still making airplanes so if you have to have a new part and are
willing to donate your left (pick a part) you can usually get it pretty quickly.
I would definitely recommend one of the four widely known Viking-specialty shops
around the country (Miller, Screaming Eagle, Weber and Witmer) for all
maintenance since they will have seen every problem before and can almost always
repair it rather than replacing it. My annuals routinely come in lower than my
dad's Arrow and on an hourly basis my maintenance is less too. See my
maintenance page for a summary of the things
Viking owners often run into maintenance-wise.
See my maintenance page for a summary of the things Viking owners often run into maintenance-wise.
Fuel costs wise, the Viking is pretty good too.
The 300 horse motor drinks more than an IO-360, but in truth the non-turbo isn't
too bad - at 10,000 ft I'm burning 13 gph and at 12,000 ft less than 12 gph. My
dad's non-turbo Arrow (and non-turbo older Mooneys) burns 9-10 gph and I've got
half again as much hp. My experience with the turbo-six IO-360's in Arrows and
Mooneys is they burn 12 gph also, so the Viking actually looks pretty good.
Insurance is getting a little harder to get on a
Viking now that AOPA'a firm, Great American, exited the business. Some carriers
won't write the Viking and several of those that do require an instrument
rating. Expect insurance to range $1000-2,500 depending on amount of hull
Bellanca made Vikings with both Continental,
Lycoming and turbo-Lycoming engines. The vast majority were ordered as
Continentals though. The IO-520 in the Viking has the same quirks as in any
other application - the older ones were a lighter case and can develop cracks if
abused. The Lycomings can have cam and guide problems. But, for the most part,
everyone seems to make it to TBO. I personally think it's because Vikings are a
personal airplane, generally only flown by the owner and usually 2-3 owners in a
lifetime, and the owners just simply take care of them better than the average
spam-can. My IO-520 now has1,350 hours, has never had a jug off and has 78
compressions across the board. I am confident I will make TBO.
Where to go for more Viking info:
Definitely devour Tom's BellancaViking.com website and look at the Vikings of the Month he posts. Tom has also added a Viking FAQ that is far more comprehensive than my ramblings at
Also, check out several of the links on there (Max Schuermann's site is good - he's an A&P/IA and his page has some of the best history on the old line that I know of.; Todd Peasley's site is good - he's a Navy jet pilot; my site is ok for tell-it-like-it-is info). There is a Viking newsletter that Gary Robinson publishes for the group he founded, International Viking Owner's Group (IVOG) and of course there is the Bellanca/Champion club.