Calling all Lance owners

I'm new to the Piper Owner Society (not an actual owner yet, but hopefully soon). I'm a PP with 210 hrs. mostly in PA28A's and R's. I have HP (C182) and Complex (PA28R) endorsements and I'm currently studying for my instrument written exam. After renting planes for 2+ years and fighting the commitment phobia of aircraft ownership, my wife and I have finally decided that we want to purchase a plane. We live in Charleston SC and we want a plane for long XC's (Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Seattle, New England, Bahamas, Grand Cayman) and our budget is ~$150,000. We have been looking mostly at the Piper Lance and the Bonanza F33. I'm leaning toward the Lance because I love the size & comfort of the plane (almost like a mini-airliner), I'm partial to Piper airplanes because most of my time has been in Pipers, and, although it's not the fastest plane out there it still holds it own in the speed category, IMO. Also, the CG issue in the Bonanza's concerns me a little for long XC's.

I'm currently looking at conventional-tail NA Lance's, although I would love to hear feedback on the T-tail. Is the T-tail really an issue? I see a lot of them for sale on Controller and Trade-A-Plane. I would love to hear any feedback from current owners on their experience flying, owning and maintaining the Lance. Does it require transition training like a Bonanza or Mooney? Can you recommend an A&P/IA in the SC area (or anywhere) that specializes in Lance's (for maintenance & potential upgrades but most importantly for pre-buy inspection)? Are there any Lance owners in the Charleston SC area that would be open to showing me their plane? Thanks!

Ryan Bliss
603.521.4736 Mobile
ryanbliss@rocketmail.com

Comments

  • Hi Ryan - welcome! Whatever you buy, you and your wife are sure to enjoy it, and all the places it will take you.

    Suggestion: when we bought our PA34 about six years ago, we went through quite an ordeal trying to find the "right" A&P. The first signed off the annual, and returned the plane with more squaks than we brought it in with. The second went into the inspection with the belief that an annual for ANY twin ought to cost at least $60K, and made a whole bunch of unauthorized and unnecessary repairs. And the third, well let's just say Mike Busch should write a book about him.

    Finally, our sheer desperation inspired a little common sense. We searched the FAA database for all Senecas registered in Massachusetts, and sent a letter to the owners asking them to share their experiences. To our surprise, they all responded within a week or two, and gave us a wealth of information. We got names of mechanics to avoid, and our three all made the list. Four owners gave us
    a glowing recommendation for a gentleman who was formerly director of maintenance for Westerly Airways, and in charge of their fleet of Navajos and Senecas. He's been our AP/IA for the last three years, and quite frankly the best mechanic we've ever worked with.

    So the suggestion is to send a letter to your local F33 and Lance owners, asking for advice. You're sure to get plenty!

    Bob

  • edited July 7

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your feedback! That's a fantastic suggestion and I will absolutely follow your lead. My top priority is to have a Lance-whisperer, so to speak, to manage the pre-buy, annual and any other work that needs to be performed.

    By the way, my wife and I are from New England. We relocated from Hollis NH to Charleston SC. I'm originally the Cape (Brewster) and my wife is from Foster-Glocester RI. The first leg of my PP solo XC was from Nashua Airport (ASH) to WST. We used to make frequent day trips in a PA28R from ASH to BID.

    Ryan

  • We have a few Lance owners on this forum so stay tuned and I'm sure one will chime in. As for T-tail, I have 500 hours in a T-tail Seminole. Not an issue at all. And the Lance is the best bargain out there. Having owned Seneca's for 30 years I can attest to how great the cabin is. Two areas to look into before you buy. 1. Insurance, which went up 30 to 50 percent this year. Since you're low time without an instrument rating be prepared for high insurance rates your first year. 2. Make sure you do a thorough check for corrosion, especially under the back seats. It cost me $8,000 to have corrosion repaired in my Seneca there.
    Good luck, excellent plane!

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

  • Great tips, thank you very much Scott! It’s great to hear that the T-tail isn’t an issue. That opens up the marketplace for me even more.
  • I got my PP in my PA28-235 which I had for 12-years. We upgraded to a PA32RT-300T Lance II a couple of years ago. We wanted a wider cabin, more seats, high flyer for long X-countries. Stationed in western KY, we've been to Montana, South Dakota Nevada, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina and the mid-west states. We planned to be at KJZI the end of June but COVID19 changed all that.

    I don't see the difficulties with the T-tail, after a few hours it's a non-issue. My first order of business after a thorough pre-buy and check-out was getting my IFR ticket. Find a bird with the electronics you want already installed, it will save time and $$. Insurance companies prefer you to be IFR rated.

    Being a legacy aircraft, expect higher maintenance costs and money for upgrades like interior plastic, lighting, door seals, and other items...you are always upgrading.

    My advice...write down all the electronics you want, if you have questions, this forum is an excellent resource. I would also suggest a turbo, flying faster, over weather and mountains is a great time saver. Take your time looking, it took me about 2-years to find my bird and I'm very happy with her. My wife also enjoys the extra room.

    Its a great platform, you won't be sorry.

  • And here's the finest Lance that I know! Any idea who owns this? lol ;)

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

  • Hey there Ryan,

    First of all congrats on your decision to buy a plane. My wife and I just recently sold our PA28-181 (Archer II) that we owned for 3+ years and bought a 1978 Piper Lance II (PA-32RT-300). I have to admit we were looking for a straight tail Lance but couldn’t find one either close enough or in the right condition. My wife are a little different than most. We wanted to find a Lance that had a low time engine but needed other improvements like paint, interior and avionics. We found a perfect match close to where we live in Richmond, VA. It had a recently overhauled engine but the paint, interior and panel were tired and outdated. We arranged a test flight with the owner and drove to Maryland to see and ride in the plane. That was all it took for me to fall in love. My wife was very nervous about the t-tail and was reluctant to even go see it. However, it just so happened I met a gentleman a month earlier that owned a t-tail. Before going to see this plane I reached out to him and he gave me some great insight. He said while it does fly a little differently than a straight tail it takes no time to get used to it. I found that to be the case. I already had 10hrs of complex/high performance time in my instructor’s Bonanza, but was also required to get 10hrs of training by an instructor in the Lance and another 5hrs of solo time before I could carry passengers. That instructor time was invaluable. This was my first retract/ high performance plane but because the panel was very similar to the Archer it didn’t take long to figure it out. Finding an instructor with t-tail experience was the hardest part, but most insurance companies will except straight tail Lance experience. There’s not a lot of difference. I was already instrument and commercial rated...which also helped on insurance.

    I racked up nearly 60hrs flight time in the (new to us) plane before I flew it to PA to get both the paint and interior redone. It’s still there. I’m hoping to have it back in 3-4 weeks. The panel is getting completely upgraded in December this year. This will likely be our forever plane so we don’t mind spending the money.

    The point I’m trying to make is, don’t hesitate to buy a t-tail. Yes, the stories of longer take off and landing roll and higher approach and rotation speeds are true. Bit this didn’t concern me. I don’t land or take off on grass strips or runways less than 3000ft. If you regularly fly in and out of strips less than 3000ft you might want to reconsider. Otherwise, they are fantastic planes and usually far less than a straight tail or Bonanza equivalent. Good luck with your search and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

    Jim

  • Dear Ryan, Your choice, in my view fell on the most underrated Piper. Most pilots (most of whom never flew a t-tail Lance) rubbish them. If you are not going to operate from/to short/rough strips there is no reason why you should not buy the t-tail. I have 560 hrs tt as pilot, 45 on the t-tail Lance. The t-tail is no more difficult to fly than a conventional tailed plane. Just fly it on the numbers. I recently did a 1400nm trip in one day; 4 people, lots of luggage. She cruised at 155 knots the whole day. Install an autopilot and you have your own mini-airliner. One instrument which in my view is a must is a good engine analyser. It is a complex engine and cylinder 2 tends to run hotter than the rest. Hope you find a good one!

  • Hi Ryan, I have a Piper Lance II, and have flown it for nearly 800 hrs. The Lance is probably my favorite plane, second would be the Comanche 250. The Lance has a large cabin, plenty of power, and is reasonably fast. Ours is a PA32RT-300, normally aspirated, "T"tail. We have flown it over most of the central US, from Birmingham to Boulder and from Houston to Oshkosh. We plan for 160 kts but regularly show 164-165 true at altitude (8,000 ft or better). I typically leave the back seats out for hauling "stuff" between our home (Houston) and our ranch property in northeast Texas.

    We have most of the Knots 2U speed mods and they do add to the cruise speed. We did the Houston to Boulder flight non-stop in a little over 5 hours on about 75 gal of fuel (94 usable). I have also just completed Phase 1 of a restoration of a "straight tail" Lance and will be looking to sell the "T" tail shortly. I may consider writing an article down the road about the restoration process, once I complete the last phase of the restoration (paint striping, completion of the full Garmin suite, etc). Comparing the 2 aircraft, the "T"tail is a little slower getting off the ground and lacks the elevator authority of the straight tail at slow speeds but appears to be the faster of the two at altitude.

    Let me know if you are interested in seeing my Lance or discussing Lances in more detail. We are located at KDWH in Houston, My contact info is below if you want to make contact to discuss further. Good luck!
    Kerry Kirkland
    713-553-9623
    kkirkland@mindspring.com

  • Ryan:

    I've been a part owner of a P32A-300 (Six), Lance (non-turbo, non-T tail), and now a Saratoga (retract non-turbo, low tail).

    Before you buy, make sure you have an A&P [-IA would be nice] that is very familiar with six place Pipers. You want to make sure that the rudder horn is not cracked, if it is, you can't get the nose wheel and the rudder to match. On the ground, you might need the rudder trim differently than in the air (because of P-factor). I've been in a 6 with a cracked rudder horn and we could not get things to align until it was replaced. Let me put it this way, we could not get the rudder in rig until it was replaced.

    Given the area you list for flying, unless you need to fly above FL120, I wouldn't go with a turbocharged plane. I have worked with 5 different IO540s (the list above all used IO540s), and every one of them went TBO +500 with no problem (TBO 2000, we made it to 2500). I'm told that most TIO???? do not make TBO.

    Flying in TX, you will wish you had gotten A/C if you had the chance and didn't (I once flew out of Meacham in FT Worth -- we tended to fly at night once day temps crossed 80F). Be sure that the A/C has been working, or you will probably run into the same issues cars have -- You don't use the A/C, the seals dry up and all the refrigerant leaks out and then you have other issues. Make sure you always turn off the A/C (even if it already is off) before you roll out onto a runway.

    I can tell you that a single axis auto-pilot is the minimum to have in a Lance. It makes your life so much easier in IFR. But, having an A/P with altitude hold is like having a real co-pilot the right seat.

    In getting a Lance, make sure that the door seals are good, because if they are a bit old, you will get noise inside the plane. We didn't know how much until we got a newer lightly used Saratoga with basically new door seals. I can sit in the second row of seats (club config) without a head set and have a conversation -- makes that much diff.

    Transition to a Lance.

    My transition to a Lance from a 6 required (insurance co) 5 hours with CFI, 10 hours solo before pax. I had over 150 Hi Perf, and 200+ Complex. So I decided to do the CPL long X/C in the Lance to burn time. I also did a time to climb from 4000 to 11000 with and without 10 degrees of flaps -- the 6 climbs faster with the flaps. The Lance did much better clean. So you need to know how the Lance you get differs from what you have been flying.

    Landings

    We learned that our Lance liked 25 degrees of flaps on final and over the threshold, 75-80KIAS, power off, then add just a bit of power and you would chirp the mains on touch down. 95KIAS was the target speed for turn to final.

    BTW -- It is like driving a truck when IFR. It doesn't bob around like a C172 or C182.

    Because I've flown behind a 3 blade prop on a 6 and this Saratoga, I'm more in favor of the 3.

    "T" tail. The T tails sell for less in my experience. The reason is, the stabilator does not gain authority to lift the nose until you get to, I think it was, 60KIAS. So you can't load the wings. I could pull the nose of our lance off the runway at about 45KIAS to load the wings. If you don't ever have to do short field, then you don't care. Turbo-powered may get you to 60KIAS much faster -- I dunno, I've not flown a turbocharged engine.

    HTHs

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