Family of 6 plus bags - Can the Saratoga II do it safely?

Hey everyone,

First post here because I am looking to buy a plane that can fit my entire family. I am eyeing the Saratoga II TC. I know this question varies from plane to plane, but generally speaking, can the Saratoga 2 fit the following: Two adults with average wt of 145, Two big kids average wt of 50lbs, and two toddlers average at of 25lbs.

Say each person packs a large bag. Can we make a 3hr flight + ample reserves?

Thanks for your advice and time.



  • Hi and Welcome!

    I really can’t speak to your specific “Saratoga II TC” question, but being the owner of a Piper Seneca, and as they have about identical interiors, I can speak to that…

    So, ergonomically the answer is a resounding Yes!

    With the weights and age groups you mention, it sounds like your family would be comfortable inside.

    Starting off with the Front Row, the Captain and First Officer have ample room. If you dont mind the single overwing entry and exit and if you’re familiar with similar but smaller Piper models, you’ll like the nice shoulder room up front.

    Middle Row on my Seneca boards from the Aft Entry Door. Early Seneca’s and some early Saratoga’s without the “Club Seating” may have to board from the Front Door. These middle seats on my airplane are comfortable. I also have the “Refreshment Console” installed, which is nice to store some ice and a handful of drinks. Good place to put a few candy bars too!

    A Fan Fav are the two Rear Seats! Easy to get in and out of, comfortable and a good view out the airplane! Use a small Step-Stool for the kids to get in and out, it’s safer then just climbing in or out as you can catch a foot on the airframe and take a tumble. Ask me how I know…😳

    On the topic of Baggage, I believe the Saratoga and the Seneca are again similar. 100 lbs in the Aft Baggage Compartment, 100 lbs in the Forward Compartment. Access is easy and we often just bulk out first.

    Now, on the topic of “can you vs. should you”, that’s up to you and your airplane… Your experience, Your local Wx, Field Conditions and Terrain would all dictate good judgement. Even the Boeings I flew for 40 years, we couldn’t take “Full Pax, Full Freight, Mail & Bags and Full Fuel”.

    I hope this info helps! Good Hunting!


    N8434M KLPR

  • I don't know the Toga II TC W&B but my Lance II turbo W&B can be figured accordingly...if you put both adults in front you would be out of CG. One adult in the back to attend to the toddlers. My baggage compartments hold 100# in the nose and in the back.

  • Thank you very much both of you. That's really helpful.

  • One more thing to consider: how long will you be flying this plane? The weight requirements now will look very different as the kids grow up.


  • Yeah, that's definitely on my mind. A twin engine is probably going to need to follow in the years to come.

  • edited January 14

    Comfort aspects were already well covered.

    As it looks like the growth rate of the 4 children is already part of the calculus, might consider jumping ahead to the future aircraft rather than settling with a short term bridge. Reasoning is that aircraft values have returned to their historical upward trend, and we already recognize that another aircraft is in the near term future. But if budget is not a factor, then learning on the PA-32 and transitioning to something else will certainly work.

    Am in the same camp as Roevadas as my napkin math is flirting with the envelope's edges based on today's weights. Not helping is the open ended definition of a "large bag" per individual, so I went with 20 pounds per person. Toward the total payload, make sure that flight gear such as EFBs, headsets, handheld radios, spare oil, etc go into the W&B calculation. Main reason for mentioning the extra stuff is that we are going to play closer to the PA-32's gross territory.

    If the primary mission includes flying out of airfields with high density altitude and shorter runways, or the desire to get above weather, turbo makes sense. If the primary mission sticks to airfields with longer runways, turbo is a weight penalty. Whether turbo or N/A, when playing near gross, airfield choice should get more discrimination for both runway length and surrounding terrain.

    IIRC, the Saratoga II TC comes with onboard O2 which is good for higher altitudes, but another weight penalty if sticking to lower altitudes. Aside and related, finding an airfield with the ability to fill O2 is a growing challenge.

  • Can you tell us more about your mission? 3 hrs may be long with toddlers. Putting a parent in the back makes sense and it is not easy for an adult to climb from front to back in flight.

    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

  • Something tells me that the toddlers can outlast the pilot.

  • Ha! I was thinking more of the noise and altitude!

    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

  • Sure, so although I will fly with all 6 seats full all the time, but this is still a "requirement" since my family and I are looking forward to flying around the east coast. Typical mission would be a vacation for 2-3 nights, each person packing 20lb backpack/duffle.

    Sample missions:

    I looked at three sample missions, and the average distance is 270NM, one of these missions involves crossing the Smokey Mountains (terrain), and one of them involved landing at a field that's 3000' at 4500MSL. So far the kids are small, but yes, they will grow fast... (I'm guessing a transition to a twin or turpo prop is in the future?)

    Long term goals/mission:

    A "bucket mission" would involve flying out west (with day stops along the way) to Yellowstone and Glacier, and since I have family out West, I can see us planning a longer trip to do a "cross country", however I'm not building that into my factoring just quite yet since I don't know if flying GA is going to be my family's cup of tea (the kids sure like it, and wife liked flying it... but so far no one has piled all together into a plane).

    Some other notes:

    Because I'm between the coast and the Smokies, I go back and forth between turbo or no turbo. In winter DA is fine, but in the summer the DAs can get pretty high.

    Wife's preference would be to sit in a rear, forward facing seat (she doesn't like 'sitting backwards').

    I have looked at the C206, but it seems that the Saratoga offers comporable loading and has a faster speed. I had to rule out single engine Bonanzas since they cannot hold the bags. Would love some constructive feedback on what I just shared.

  • Might consider taking a look at a GA8 Airvan. IIRC, slower than a PA-32, but should put a check in all the other boxes. Have not checked on overall performance as to whether it will outlast utility of a PA-32 and delay transition into something else. Seating is even more spacious than the PA-32. Only challenge is that this is a bit more rare than a PA-32, and looks like the production run ended in 2020.

    Back to a PA-32, at gross, along the East Coast.

    East Coast cruising: Biggest factor for flight is the weather with pop-up convective during the warmer months, and icing from late Summer to late Spring in the more northern area. Icing might prove less a factor given the reference to the more southern Smokies. IIRC, some of the Saratoga II TC series might have ice protection which definitely helps when needing it, although is another weight factor.

    Non-Club seating: This might exclude the current Saratoga II TC target aircraft as it usually comes with Club arrangement (2nd row facing rear). Might want to reconsider avoiding the club seating as loading the 2nd row of standard seating configuration is more challenging as now 4 people will need to enter through the front door, which is higher level of effort than the rear door entry. Related, if one person needs to get from the 2nd to 3rd row with standard seating, it is pretty much the same as trying to go from the 1st to 2nd row which is not all that easy or graceful. Leg room for the 2nd row in standard seating is less comfortable than Club. Given the desire of one adult managing four children, club seating does make the most sense from a practicality standpoint by putting the adult in the 2nd rear facing row (maybe 3rd row if CG allows), and the largest child in the 1st row. Just some thoughts.

    Crossing the Smokies: Yawn. While peaks do get high between Knoxville and Asheville, should prove easily manageable. Might benefit from O2 on a regular basis despite not needing to cross the legal thresholds. Will need forward planning for O2 tank refills.

    Airfield with 3000' strip: My personal pucker factor is rising no matter what the DA. While I am personally Ok with this length with loading in the light to mid weight range and a headwind, I personally avoid sub 4000' unless the CFI demands that I do a short field just to prove I can do it. At gross with a 3000' runway, will need to hone the skills even at sea level. But this is me and everybody is free to work with their own comfort and skills envelope. Might want to play around with the takeoff distance tables for the target aircraft and then add a ~15% buffer for safety / practicality.

    Turbo: Not going to help with getting through ice, or over convective. Will help if needing to climb over some types of weather or to capture favorable winds at higher altitudes. Will help with higher DA takeoffs. Adds complexity to power management as the OE configuration usually has limits on the boost and the PIC needs to act quickly to avoid damage if the overboost indicator lights; an aftermarket wastegate mitigates the issue.

    When looking at alternative aiframes, one element I found helpful was to work through W&B on each type of aircraft. One spec that a lot of pilots overlook is CG when salivating over the payload capability. With that, few planes can manage all of the weight well as hauling stuff in the rear storage can quickly move the CG rearward, and possibly out of the envelope. I learned this first hand on many XC flights in C172s as we were limited to ~10 -15 pounds of gear (per each of the 4 people) due to CG effects, even though the plane could carry more per gross limits. On my search for the current plane, I discovered that Mooney and Beech experience the CG issue as well. Point is, while the math of people, plus fuel, plus flight gear, plus 120 pounds of luggage might total to something less than the gross weight, the CG arm might turn into a No-Go. Am not bashing any specific plane, just pointing out that payload capacity is a bit more complex than one simple sum. If anything, Pipers tend to suffer from the opposite CG effect where it is possible for the arm to move too far forward with one soul and zero fuel.

  • edited January 17

    One more thought. If not already part of the plan when hauling the family, consider cherry-picking the weather and have everybody ready to accept that an unfavorable forecast means No-Go. Reason is that flying in rough weather, or even mild to moderate turbulence, can sour the incentive to cheerfully go along if anybody associates future flights with an unpleasant previous flight's memory. And reminder, at the moment the children only outnumber the parents by way of head count. Soon enough they will have the ability to physically veto going on any flight, long before voting age.

    This also applies to the wife given that it looks like she is going to have to single-handedly manage the payload of children. Cannot see any good coming from cereal and sippy cups bouncing around the cabin.

  • Great feedback from Jacob. In the pressurized world a Cessna 340 or 414 might be worth considering. The back seats in the PA32/34 airframe are not as big as the middle seats. If facing forward is a must for your wife I would suggest having her try it first.

    Maybe a Cessna 206 or the forward seats? Piper Malibu?

    I would get a flight in a PA32 or the PA34 twin. It will help you decide what works best for you and your family.

    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

  • Much appreciated, y'all, thanks! Going to keep researching... I may have to shift my focus to a beefier plane.

  • Current Aviation Consumer has review on the Lance/Toga


    48 yrs A/P IA DAL aircraft inspector. 172N

  • Don’t forget that purchase price is only the entry fee. If pressurized, be prepared for 12k insurance, 3-5k training, 10k+ first annual, and that’s just the beginning.

  • I have a 1976 Piper Lance, PA32R-300, and I can easily carry the six you describe. My Lance has 1,426 lbs of payload capacity. At 145 +145 + 50+ 50 + 25 + 25, you have 440 lbs. Let's say you have luggage for at 40 lbs for each adult and 20 lbs for each child. Let's also say you would have 20 lbs of books, drinks, snacks, etc. With full fuel this would be 3,358 lbs. Full fuel easily gives you 6 hours of flying at altitude with proper leaning. Max weight is 3,600 lbs, well within weight limits, and with room to grow.

    On balance, PA32s are nose heavy and more weight in the back is better. On the configuration above, I am just within balance limits with the adult luggage in the front storage between the cockpit and engine. Moving the adult luggage to the rear storage, and switching the smaller kids to the middle seats and heavier kids to the rear seats, I get a balance that can work up to 3,600 lbs.

    With the kids doubling in weight (100 lbs and 50 lbs respectively), you would still be below max weight with full fuel. With the larger kids at 125 lbs, and the smaller kids at 100 lbs, you would need only 10 gallons less than full fuel (84 useable, vice 94 useable) but this would still keep you well over 3 hours of light time at altitude with proper leaning.

    Now, the Saratoga is an updated version of the Lance. It flies about 15 kts faster, but there is a lot of very nice furniture in the Saratoga that adds about 200 lbs. 200 lbs makes a huge difference in payload. As such, I really like my Lance and recommend you take a look at them, especially for flight missions that need payload.

  • For a 421C my insurance was only $6,700 even starting with a fresh multiengine rating and no time in type. I think it would easily be this 2x these days if obtainable at all with low time. My training was closer to 15k per year and all of my annuals were in the $20k+ range even owner assisted - not including the cracked engine case or another issue with an aux tank that cost me $20k+.

    So, bottom line in the pressurized twin world you should be fairly comfortable lighting $100k of cash on fire without having to contemplate selling organs.... Did you know you are totally fine with a single kidney? ;)

    Anyways, I think your biggest issue in the Piper family is the seat orientation. If your wife is ok facing backwards then I think it is a great match.

    I would suggest trying it with a local pilot. Where are you based?


    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

  • edited January 21

    Thanks, I am based out of Charlotte, NC. I have access to a Cherokee 6 (which I have not yet flown in). I am also looking hard at Cessna T206H because the earlier comments made me think I was pushing the CG envelope too hard. At this stage in my training an experience, I want to stick with a single engine piston, so I will save the multi engine for another season.

  • Ah, but the original question did focus on the Saratoga II with a turbo ;)

    Agree with VanderWerf that older PA-32s gain useful load as they move back in time by way of creature features that appeared in newer generations. Easy example is the stow-able table in newer generations which rarely gets use and eats into payload.

    Older 32s will more likely have the standard forward-facing seating as this is a newer modification. Might need to yank one seat out as some came with 7 seats. We already covered the pros and cons of this area.

    A lot easier to find older fixed gear 32s as this gets more rare with newer 32s. Gear type will effect insurance premiums as well. Overall, am not really convinced that retract is truly more expensive as there are cost offsets by way of lower engine time for the same distance flown with fixed gear. But, forget to drop the gear just once, and the maintenance costs will jump a lot.

    Another benefit to older 32s is insurance. To get a taste of the effect, work with a broker and get quotes on a 60's 6, 70's Lance, and a Toga II.

    Each generation of PA-32 has its unique aspects ranging from wing loading to fuel management. One thing they all share is good stability.

  • Consider a PA-31. You don't need the Chieftain so you should be able to find a low hour "-310" say 7000 hrs pretty easier. Run it on condition, easy to fly(for a twin), can come with all sorts of extras, like LR fuel. Only get one with crew door, and prefer after serial 750 odd if you want Garmin AP. You can climb with an engine out. Beware it is Class III, which is a huge difference. Avionics big bucks, but independent systems -yes higher maint but for me the safety factor is key. The plane won't kill you and your family(sorry to be brutal) only you will. Can't say the same in light twin where despite the best piloting skills a simple single mechanical failure could bring the ac down. Less likely in class 3.

  • edited February 4

    Might want to consider an Aztec (Aztruk)...very docile aircraft. My '67 C model has 1450# remaining and available for pax and bags when filled with 4 hours (112 gal) of fuel.

  • Later Saratogas like the II TC have much smaller useful loads. Consider looking at an earlier model Saratoga.

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