Prospective PA-28 buyer questions
Thanks in advance for welcoming me to these forums. I came here looking for some expert advise on Pipers, as I hear many different things from various different types of pilots at the airport I work at. I do not currently own an aircraft, but I have been looking for a Piper to purchase as my first for quite a long time now. I am very familiar with the specifications of each variation of the Cherokee, but I am not familiar with the real world performance and experience involved with each one. I am a 22 year old that got my private pilot at a Part 141 program with the goals of obtaining an aircraft that I can get my instrument and commercial rating in, build hours, and have the recreational utility to carry my family up to our alternate vacation home. Myself, my parents, and my dog weigh approximately 675lbs so I would say a useful load of 900lbs or more would be ideal.
I am particularly interested in 200 horsepower Arrows, however I am still exploring Cherokee 180s, Archers. I have seen some nice 235s/Dakotas as well that I might consider making a partial ownership for instead. I enjoy flying a complex aircraft and the benefits that come along with one; the experience, the hours, and the performance. The biggest problem I see with having one of these aircraft is parking it indoors is not an option- at least for a year or two. Is parking a retractable gear aircraft outdoors something to be concerned with assuming it is flown often? Additionally, I understand the significant cost in maintenance for a complex aircraft, but do you all feel that it is worth what you get out of it?
I have also heard from some individuals at my airport about how terribly sluggish Arrows are, particularly in takeoff and climb. I usually take what comes out of these individual's mouths with a grain of salt. I will do all associated performance and weather calculations with my flight and even add a significant margin of error to the results I come up with, so I personally feel this wouldn't be an issue even if it was true... but I've still been assured that it will be. So, I am curious to hear how Arrow pilots feel about these comments and I'd like to know what the real world difference in performance between an Arrow and a Cherokee 180/Archer really is considering the added horsepower but also the added weight.
What do you all think?
I am a new aircraft owner myself. My family has had Archers and Arrows since 1979 starting with a 1979 Archer then 2 different Arrow II’s, my dad sold the last Arrow in 1995.
I am just getting through my first year of owning a 1973 Arrow II. I flew my plane, well I rode in my plane while my friend and instructor flew it to remember how all the buttons work on my new electronic toys. We got in back after 4 months of new toy install. Look for a thread started by me in Modifications I think to see my toys. He flys an E175 for work and I can’t get my plane away from him he has so much fun flying the 50 year old Piper.
We took off from KLHQ in central Ohio OAT was 6C winds calm. DA was -600 feet and we had air under the tires before 1000 foot indicator on the runway. Did gear up, pulled a little fuel and prop back to 2500 and set 90 mph ias. Flying at 90 is uncomfortable because of the angle but we did it to see what the new G5’s said our vertical speed was, 1500-1700fpm holding 90. That speed is standard for my Arrow as that is what ForeFlight said in the past. My friend is 185, I am 245 and we had full fuel, 300 pounds no bags.
We lowered the nose to get 500fpm climb and that was about 120mph. Much more comfortable angle. After reaching 4000 feet we pulled power back to 17”MP so we could set up the RNAV/LPV approach.
We did a speed run 25” 2450rpm 11.6 GPH fuel and got deep in the yellow about 170mph and accelerating slowly when we pull power. That is harder than I run the engine but speed mods go on this week. Normal is 21-22” and 135-140mph at 9.8-10.1GPH. Those numbers came from the analog gauges the 25” is from the new toys.
I have flown Pipers most of my life, I got my license in a 150, I have only sat in the back seat of a 182, 182RG and 210 so I cannot compare and contrast. The Arrow I have is the strongest performer of the 3 Arrows I have time in by a lot but it has less than 100 hours on a rebuilt engine.
Ask any other questions you may have.
I guess my takeaway from this is what many other Piper owners on the field have told me, and that's that the people I heard this from don't know what they're talking about. They're the type of guys that don't do any of their performance calculations anyway, throw 3 people in the passenger seats and expect the plane to take off like it is at empty weight.
I appreciate the reassurance though... I think I'll be quite fine considering I am used to 160hp and 180hp aircraft. I'm sure it will feel like quite an improvement.
Would you be comfortable talking a little bit about maintenance costs?
Do you or your family have any experience with knowing if parking a retractable gear Arrow outdoors is an issue or not? - assuming the aircraft is flown frequently.
Have some time in both straight and folding gear PA28s.
Regarding effects of outside storage on the RG, will need the better experts to offer insight.
To the core questions, while offering inputs is easy, it seems that we have the questions a bit out of order.
When deciding which path to take, consider taking a step back and completing the requirements list. So far, we have a few items like
- 900 pounds useful load.
- 3 people, 1 dog.
- commute from home base to vacation home.
Anything else for the list? Examples:
- single hop to destination?
++ Derived requirements:
==== ability to add power for offsetting 20 knot headwinds?
Once a robust set of requirements are on the slate, the decision makes itself.
Toward whether RG for the same airframe is faster, Yes! Used to go on trips where I took the Cherokee 180 (with wheel pants) and a buddy took the Arrow (both normally aspirated). Was able to keep pace just once when the Arrow's gear would not fully retract from an alternator belt failure. That was the only time I got to the vacation destination first as the Arrow spent 1/2 day in the shop.
Regarding additional cost of a complex aircraft, you get some of this back by way of fuel costs as the fixed gear spends more time in the air (presuming constants like cruising each at the same power setting) over the same distance. Even the 235 (if optioned correctly) can get down to a miserly fuel burn. As an example, I am able to cruise the IO-540 at ~115 KIAS with a burn rate of 9.5 - 10.5 gph.
Another element tilting in the favor of constant speed prop is that reducing cruise RPMs is potentially beneficial for both engine life and lower cabin noise.
Regarding the Arrow's climb rate, the only thing I have seen are reports where a 3 blade prop results in about the same climb rate as a 2 blade (maybe a bit better), but the cruise speed drops by a knot or two. In terms of climb sluggishness, even when at gross in an Arrow, would still not want to get stacked behind a 172 4 banger. Not bashing the 172, just say-in.
My Arrow had 17 annuals pencil whipped, doubt the engine cover came off. When we found stuff from 1972 that was listed as being replaced it got a full C check, everything came out, all control surfaces removed all cables replaced all hydraulic and brake lines replaced. I had an ADSB transponder added and replaced all lighting with LED’s. The master cylinders for the brakes got rebuilt and a lot of questionable wire was replaced. Also an entirely new stainless steel exhaust system. The first annual hurt, it was $40,000.
I just dropped another $35,000 on electronics and new interior at my local shop, they knew the annual was coming so they did annual stuff while installing new parts. On my last flight the alternator belt broke so we will be removing the prop. I am told not to expect the bill to exceed $2,000, they found nothing wrong with the plane but I may want to replace, rebuild my mags. I want electronic ignition but the folks on YouTube and the airport have all had issues with E mags, so nothing like 1920’s technology powering 2020’s aircraft.
I have been banished to outside living, not ideal but a hangar will open soon or be built, the heavy equipment moved in to start construction. I have a Bruce’s Aircraft cover for my door and windows and an insulated engine cover and 2 aircraft heaters. If I go far away we take a Yamaha generator to power the heaters, it only weighs 40 pounds.
My dad had his planes in Northern California, much more mild winters than central Ohio but much hotter summers. His planes lived outside uncovered, the sun damaged the fabric. His paint was unaffected as far as I could tell, we waxed them twice yearly. I am installing flap gap seals, I fear they will trap snow and ice but I should be inside by summer and winter will depart soon, I think, I am a meteorologist.
I took the same crap from the know it all hangar pilots about why did I buy a Piper? I am 6’6” tall and don’t move that well bending under the wing of a Cessna is impossible for me. Straight up, I can’t afford to join the Bonanza club. I lost my medical but my wife is also a pilot so I can crawl up the wing and get in the copilots seat. I tried to get a Lance but could not find one that was…safe in my $150,000 or less price range. I also like the engine replacement price on the Arrow. But the clincher was off Airport landings in a Piper. Fuel OFF. Gear stuck up or over ride to stay up. If ditching gear up may be survivable gear down is deadly. If landing with stuck gear, look at an Arrow, the mains hang out of the wing keeping the wing off the ground and fuel tanks above the sparks. Then there is the replaceable steel belly. Last and most importantly, they ride nicer in afternoon chop. Then the most basic of reasons, my wife and I both have the majority of our time in Arrows. I just told them, I know how to fly an Arrow and I like the way they fly.
Mooneys, you give up head room, there is not enough for me now.
Cessnas, 172, 172XP wing is too low, not enough power to lift the load.
Cessna 182 & 210 can’t afford to join the club.
Cessna 177, thought about it, nice big cabin, none for sale.
Bonanzas, see above, can’t join club.
Obviously 900 pounds useful load includes passengers, dogs, cargo and fuel.
For an Archer, it is not reasonable to fly with 675 lbs of people and dog. That is too heavy. Assuming not staying in the local pattern.
Certainly just an opinion.
Very helpful reply. That comment about the C172s was what I really needed to hear in regards to what I’ve been told about performance, which I can now confidently disregard.
Additionally, the comment about the constant speed prop is something that I had not even thought of. I mainly just saw it as a slight performance while also making it a complex aircraft along with the retract gear.
Now in regards to other requirements for the aircraft, yes, there are more. Training and hour building is my biggest priority since I do have a goal to fly commercial later down the line. I guess the reason I didn’t emphasize it very much is because I feel as though I understand the pros and cons between the options I have in regards to Cherokee models and I think they cancel each other out. With the added maintenance costs and insurance associated with an Arrow, I think that the complex time building as well as the very slight difference in fuel efficiency you mentioned cancel that out. A fixed gear Cherokee of course is one of the most common training aircraft in the world and there really isn’t too much you can go wrong with it, but of course I would still have to rent a complex aircraft for some period of training while it also wouldn’t have the added performance benefits with the extra bit of horsepower and reduced drag. If you have any other thoughts I may have not considered about IFR and Commercial training in these aircraft though, by all means throw in your two cents. Nobody is going to hurt my feelings here being critical.
I think my other requirements are what brought me to the Cherokee family to begin with and maybe aren’t so specific enough to favor a specific varient. That is in relation to Cessnas, Mooneys, Grummans, and other comparable aircraft. The maintenance simplicity, useful load, and interior space pretty much brought me down to Cessnas and Pipers. After having pretty much all of my hours in Cessnas, a few flights in various Piper models brought me to the conclusion that I like the way Pipers fly more. I have no requirements to fly into small grass strips like a Cessna would excell at, while at the same time I feel Pipers are a better bang for your buck. The interior feels more fit and finished, they fly smooth, and the performance often exceeds a similarly priced Cessna (for example, you would need a Hawk XP or Skylane to achieve many of the performance characteristics of an Arrow, at a higher price too.)
Some smaller requirements that I do not consider deal breakers or specific to one Cherokee varient include luggage space (I would like to fit a snowboard or two), price, and then aircraft systems.
I feel as though I pretty much have my eyes set on an Arrow now that performance isn’t a worry at all. The only thing that might cause issues is parking it outdoors, which some input on that was received in the other comment. I guess if I am flying the plane often and keeping the landing gear moving and exercised the likelihood of failure may be lessened, but I won’t count on that.
Thanks again for the reply.
I read that thread you pointed me towards by the way. I thought it was a riot. It was a good read.
After seeing the aircraft I you bought and how long it had been since it flew, I realized asking you about maintenance costs was kind of a rigged question.
In relation to parking outdoors I kind of had the same idea. I’ve been looking at aircraft with gap seals and have heard of problems with water and ice accumulation. My biggest concern is what I can’t cover up- the landing gear and the gear wells.
What do worry about, rust, water or mice on the gear? I saw in England plexiglass cones/cylinder that go around the wheels to keep the cat at play while the mice are away or something like that.
Bruce’s Aircraft Covers makes nearly a complete airframe condom, you can protect yourself from golf ball size hail and other nasty stuff.
If I missed it, sorry, I own teenage girl(s) cats, horses and a human, the drama is strong, so, where do you live?
I have watched birds in/on my plane. The did not enter the engine where cooling air goes in but they come up from the nose wheel. They showed no interest in the mains.
Toward the rodent factor, I go with the RV crowd's use of peppermint oil as it seems to lower the likelihood of mice. Put drops around the hangar perimeter every 2 - 3 months. Before a cross-country where I know the plane will sit outside, I put some on the gear and tie-down attachment points.
Last I checked, birds cannot smell. So physical barriers for the engine bay are best (as already mentioned).
by next week we'll have Scott Sherer's 3+ hour webinar on prebuy and first six months of airplane ownership available on the website, I'm working on making that live now. It will be at https://piperowner.org/webinars/
I'll post again when it's ready.
Digital Product Manager
Piper Owner Society
With the given requirements of 900 lbs. and a vacation home, many of which are at altitude, you might take a closer look at the later model 135's, the ones with more legroom in the back, or even later model 136 Dakotas. these are the heavy lifter PA-28s, and they have pretty decent power for those higher altitudes (if you need that).