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PA-28 Cherokee

PA-28 Cherokee (16)

PA-28-140 Cherokee Cruiser

Two place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-E2A engine of 150 hp (112 kW), gross weight 1,950 lb (885 kg). First certified on 14 February 1964. Approved as a 2,150 lb (975 kg) gross weight four place aircraft on 17 June 1965.

PA-28-150 Cherokee

Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-A2B or O-320-E2A engine of 150 hp (112 kW), gross weight 2,150 lb (975 kg). First certified on 2 June 1961.

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Premier Edition Piper Dakota

Premier Edition Piper Dakota

A “new-from-the-wheels-up” Premier Edition Dakota from Premier Aircraft Sales is a leading example of Piper’s legendary PA-28 series. 

Like many of you, I learned to fly in what is now described in Piper parlance as a high-wing “Wichita Spam can.” Cessna’s 150, 172, 182, 206, 210 and 336/337—I worked my way up through them all. I thought high-wings were the way to go.

Then in 1983 I got introduced to a brand-new Piper PA-28-236 Dakota. This, to me, was a game changer. Sure, the 182 was and is a wonderful airplane, but the 235 hp Dakota was all that and a bag of chips. In particular, the Dakota can carry a bigger load than the 182s of that era and, of greater significance to me, I think it looks cooler than the Skylane. 

That combination of good looks and good performance are two of the many reasons why Fort Lauderdale-based Premier Aircraft Sales selected the venerable Dakota to create what many would call a better-than-new option for today’s pre-owned aircraft buyer.

“What we chose to do was to take a very good Piper product and update it to today’s standards,” explained Fred Ahles, president and founder of Premier Aircraft Sales, Inc. “I was looking for a project and then I was approached by Bill Nutt about creating a next-to-new Dakota for his son and the project took off from there.”

“There is no good used equivalent for the Dakota, and you can’t buy a new equivalent at close to the price that we can refurbish one for,” he explained. “I think a comparably-equipped new Archer sells for around $500,000 today.”

“Basically, we are selling our Premier Edition Dakotas for between $260,000 and $325,000 depending on the avionics,” Ahles added. 

“That’s a lot to pay for a 37-year-old airplane, but it’s a heck of a lot less than buying a new Piper Archer. And the Premier Edition Dakota is faster and can carry more. All in all, we—and our customers—think it’s a very good value.”

While Premier doesn’t promote the Premier Edition Dakota as a next-to-new airplane, that’s essentially what it is. Premier takes the elements of a typical refurb project and kicks it up quite a few notches.

 

First comes the “mother of all annuals”

As Barry Rutheiser, Premier’s sales manager explained it, when the company locates a low-time candidate for the Premier Edition makeover, the engine is removed and the airframe is subjected to what he describes as “the first really good annual inspection any of these airplanes have had in at least 10 years.”

“We follow the Piper factory recommended guide and do everything in the book,” Rutheiser said. “We’ve found that typically these older airplanes have been in the hands of owners and mechanics who were doing the minimum to pass FAA muster every year. But that’s not what a Premier Edition buyer wants to have.”

“Our annuals have been running between $20,000 and $30,000 on these airframes—and that doesn’t include the engine,” Rutheiser explained. “That’s bringing everything up-to-date, including replacing every piece of cracked plastic and fixing all of the fiberglass components to like-new.”

The Premier annual also includes a super-detailed inspection by the experienced Piper technicians at Premier Aircraft Services, the company’s in-house MRO. 

“We see all kinds of age-related issues in the airframe, which all get addressed by the shop,” Rutheiser said. “Nothing is left unfixed. It’s really the mother of all annuals.”

One of the items that Premier addresses is the long-standing Piper Service Bulletin 1006 that details a corrosion inspection of the main spar behind fuel tanks. “The inspection is recommended to be done every seven years, so that’s what we do,” Ahles said. 

“You may not have a visible fuel leak, but we find seepage in the little lines at the back of the tanks that feed the fuel system. It’s small, but over time it can build up and cause corrosion on the wing spar. So, of course, we inspect the spars for any signs of damage.”

“When we have the fuel tanks out, we clean and inspect it all. We have yet to find one that doesn’t have some type of leak,” he said. “These are simple little eight-dollar rubber hoses that cost around $2,200 to change—but to do [the job] right, it has to be done.”

“Who wants to buy an airplane with a leaking fuel line? Not me,” Ahles said. “And I won’t sell one, either.”

After the airframe is inspected tip-to-tail and repairs are made, the control cables are all recalibrated to factory-new specifications and new stainless steel hardware is installed. 

As mentioned earlier, when the airframe begins its annual, the engine is removed and sent to Certified Engines Unlimited, Inc. at North Perry Airport (KHWO) in Hollywood, Florida. 

“Certified Engines does a complete overhaul of the Dakota’s 235 hp Lycoming O-540, including new factory cylinders,” Rutheiser said. “It’s a first-rate overhaul.”

 

It’s exhaust-ing work…

“Another thing I’ve always liked about the Dakota is the way the exhaust pipes come down on the side of the lower cowling. It’s pretty cool,” Ahles said. “But when you open the cowl and look inside these older airplanes, the exhaust looks like a patchwork quilt—there are so many patches welded on. It’s pretty ugly.”

“That’s not in keeping with the Premier Edition concept, so we take all that off and have a local sheet metal fabricator remake all those components,” he said. “When it’s all assembled and put back on the engine, inside the freshly-painted cowling and firewall, it just looks brand-new.”

Rutheiser pointed out to me that Premier is currently doing its first Premier Edition transformation on a Turbo Dakota. And while it’s exactly the same ground-up process, there is one big difference: they replace the original fixed wastegate turbocharger with a new generation Merlyn variable wastegate unit.

“The Merlyn will literally transform the engine’s operation,” he said. “I put one on my airplane, and engine management is now so much easier—and you get way better performance. In the case of the Turbo Dakota, we are literally improving on Piper’s original design.”

Along with all the new goodies under the cowling, Premier Edition Dakota buyers also have the option of upgrading to a new Hartzell three-bladed propeller, which gives the airplane greater climb and cruise performance as well as a quieter cabin. 

 

New airplane smell comes standard

Once all the mechanicals are brought up to factory specifications—Ahles said the team turns its attention on the interior, starting with totally refurbishing the seats. “We have a really good interior shop nearby and they take the original seats and strip them down to the bare frames. This is not a low-cost operation—it’s first class stuff,” he said. 

The seat frames are tightened up and repainted. Then the shop uses the best seat foam on the market to reshape the seat bottoms and backs. 

“These are much more comfortable than what Piper originally installed,” Ahles explained. “We aim to make them as good as what you find in the new Meridian. The goal is to create seats that are really comfortable.”

“Depending on what the customer wants, the seats are covered in either a high-quality vinyl or leather—and all the owners so far have opted for leather,” Ahles added. “A couple of them have also wanted to go with wool carpeting. It’s very nice.”

When it comes to the avionics package, Ahles said each owner specs out the panel to their liking. Premier offers everything from a basic six-pack of steam gauges to a next generation-ready glass panel built around Garmin’s new G500 TXi display and GTN 750 touchscreen GPS units. Every Premier Edition Dakota leaves the shop fully ADS-B Out compliant. 

While every Premier Edition Dakota the company has completed to date is a custom completion, Rutheiser said that they do start with one of three basic configurations depending on cost. 

“Everyone wants a starting point,” he explained. “We offer a Premier Silver, Gold and Platinum—but I really try not to refer to them too much, because each owner has their own vision of what they want their Dakota to be.”

 

All dressed up and someplace to go

Obviously, you can’t do all this work on the airframe, engine, cabin and avionics and just rattle-can on any old paint job.

“We have all the paint work done by Ormond Beach Aviation in Ormond Beach, Florida,” Rutheiser said. “They do a great job. Colors are basically up to the individual owners, but we emulate the paint scheme found on the current PA-28s to ensure consistency.”

“After arriving at Ormond Beach, the airplane is stripped to bare metal and acid washed. All of the details—around the window surrounds, door edges, access panels—everything is prepped and painted to the highest quality,” he said. “Then it all gets clear-coated to ensure durability.”

“I’d dare say that the final finish on these airplanes is equal or better to anything that Piper turns out of the factory today,” Ahles said. “That’s not a knock on the factory—they do very good paint jobs in Vero Beach—ours are just that good.”

“And 20 years from now, Premier Edition airplanes will still look terrific.”

The devil is in the details

While investing nearly 900 man-hours totally refurbishing the airframe, engine, interior, avionics and paint down to the tiniest detail would be enough for most folks, it’s not quite enough for the folks at Premier. They want the Premier Edition Dakota program to offer benefits beyond what you’d expect

So Ahles’ team has taken their program further and provided buyers with the option to get great financing and a “power-by-the-hour” engine maintenance program. “The team at Scope Aircraft Leasing has agreed to finance these aircraft at the completed cost, and that’s a really big deal,” Ahles explained. 

“Most times, when you take a nearly 40-year-old airplane and upgrade it at the cost of a couple hundred grand, the finished price is a lot higher than the bluebook value—and that can make financing really hard to get.”

“Scope has seen what we are doing and offers, with 20 percent down, full financing on the rest of the purchase price,” he said. “That’s really helped the program get going. If you already own your Dakota, Scope offers attractive financing on the cost of the Premier Edition upgrade.”

With regard to the piston engine maintenance program, Ahles explained that while every Premier Edition Dakota is covered by a nine-month warranty from Certified Engines Unlimited, Premier has worked out an attractive program with PistonPower™ to provide an optional hourly cost maintenance program on the engines.

“It’s like a power-by-the-hour program you find on turbine engines, but it’s only for piston engines,” Ahles said. “They offer a menu of coverage options. For example, we offer a three-year program under PistonPower that covers the cost of any repairs to the engine up to a major overhaul. Owners can also sign up for a more extensive program that covers that cost when it comes around.” (See the sidebar on Page 47 for details. —Ed.)

“In addition, aircraft enrolled in a PistonPower program will also get a higher residual value from the Aircraft Bluebook, Vref and many banks,” he said. “That’s a double benefit for the owner.” 

Last but not least, as part of the Premier Edition Dakota program, Premier’s Chief Pilot Corbin Hallaran gives each owner a thorough checkout in his or her airplane as part of the delivery process.

“Corbin is not only a terrific pilot, but a terrific instructor as well—the best in the business,” Rutheiser said. “He does a very detailed walkaround with each owner and then gives them as much dual instruction as he feels they need before he will turn them loose with the airplane. It’s all about safety. If both the new owner and Corbin are not comfortable with the way they handle the airplane, they don’t leave here.”

 

You can make any Dakota a Premier Edition Dakota

While Premier Aircraft Sales started the Premier Edition Dakota program to stimulate sales of legacy Dakotas, Ahles said that if you’re lucky enough to already own one of these exceptionally capable airplanes, Premier is ready to work with you to upgrade it to your specifications.

“Should an owner bring us their Dakota, we can do any or all of our upgrades on their aircraft,” he said. “It’s totally up to the owner’s wants and wishes.”

As for the price, that’s based on what you want done. “I’d say it’s best to start with one of our detailed annuals and go from there,” he said. “That way, the owner will know what condition the aircraft is really in and determine their upgrade path.”

 

Bill Nutt “premiered” the Premier Edition Dakota

William “Bill” Nutt is the kind of guy you’d like to have in the next hangar over. He’s owned a lot of different kinds of airplanes over the years, and most recently he has had a Piper Archer, V-tail Bonanza, F33A Bonanza, T-34, a Baron, Piper Meridian and Piper Matrix. But the story behind why he went looking for what would ultimately become the Premier Edition Dakota revolves around his son, Alexander.

“My son is in medical residency in Billings, Montana and I wanted him to have an airplane that was a solid instrument platform and would also give him the performance to handle the high altitudes,” Nutt explained. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the Dakota so I started looking for a really nice low-time model for him.”

“I talked to Fred (Ahles) at Premier about the project and he thought it was a great idea. He shared my vision of making a Dakota better than Piper would today,” he said. “It’s one thing to refurbish an airplane for me, but when it’s for my son, it had to be perfect in every respect.”

And according to Nutt, that’s just how N43AN (for “Alexander Nutt”)—the first Premier Edition Dakota—turned out. Nutt found the ideal subject Dakota: a 1980 model in Georgia that was in excellent condition but had reached TBO so the owner wanted to sell.

“This was a great airplane to begin with,” Nutt explained. “The current owner had it for over 20 years and had taken excellent care of it. Premier sent their mechanic to do the pre-buy and then they flew it back to Fort Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) to begin the upgrade.”

“One thing I insisted on was to paint the new panel in light beige, because I think it makes the instrument scan easier,” Nutt said. “We painted it like a new factory Archer DX and it really looks great. It turned out exactly like I wanted.”

Nutt spends his winters living at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida and currently keeps the Dakota at the club’s private airport, 07FA. 

“The Dakota is the perfect airplane for having fun flying,” he said. “People think it’s just an Archer with a bigger engine, but it’s not. It’s a much stronger, more robust airframe.”

“I can get in it alone and get an honest 135 knots all day,” Nutt continued. “I recently did something I’d never done before. I took off from Ocean Reef and headed to Billings. It took me two-and-a-half days and was a lot of fun. With the new engine, smoother Hartzell propeller and modern avionics, it was really an enjoyable trip.”

“I’ll have another...”

Nutt said he’s having so much fun with the nimble Dakota, he doesn’t want to let it go—so he bought another one and Premier is doing its Premier Edition magic on this one, too.

“This one will have the complete Garmin glass avionics panel including the new Garmin autopilot,” he said. “Plus, I’m having the engine upgraded to 250 hp. That will make it even better suited for flying in and out of the grass strip we have at one of our ranches in Montana.”

“The Premier Edition Dakota lets me really enjoy flying,” he said. “Last week I made three great trips around South Florida: I took my one son and his girlfriend to Key West to see friends. I flew my other son and his wife to Naples and then I flew my daughter and her two boys to Palm Beach for the day.”

“The Dakota is just that kind of airplane,” he said. “And the Premier Edition Dakota is the best version yet of a wonderfully fun-to-fly airplane.”

 

Dale Smith has been an aviation journalist for 30 years. When he’s not writing aviation articles, Smith does commission aircraft illustrations specializing in seaplanes and flying boats. Smith has been a certificated pilot since 1974 and has flown 35 different types of aircraft. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

PISTON ENGINE SERVICE PROGRAM 
Piston Power

 

PREMIER EDITION DAKOTA
Premier Aircraft Sales Inc.
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Smooth, Simple, Stable: Piper's Archer DX

Smooth, Simple, Stable: Piper's Archer DX

According to Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook (2015–2034), the world’s airlines will need to recruit and train some 558,000 new pilots over the next 20 years—with the vast majority needed in the Asia Pacific region. 

The challenge for the training-aircraft manufacturing industry, heavily based in the United States, is developing an airplane that will provide the level of advanced system familiarity that these students will need and powering it with an engine that doesn’t rely on hard-to-get 100LL Avgas. For a U.S. aircraft manufacturer, it seems like right now is a great time to introduce just this type of training aircraft to the global market.

A global training market 

“From Piper’s perspective, the fact that the trainer market is becoming more active with respect to large fleet purchases prompted us to actively develop a new training aircraft that had a powerplant that is relevant worldwide,” explained Piper’s director of marketing and communications Jacqueline Carlon. 

“Diesel aircraft engines are far more cost effective outside of the U.S., and keeping in mind that we are selling a lot of aircraft into Asia and throughout the Pacific Rim region, this engine type became our obvious choice.”

“Our solution was to partner with Continental Motors to develop a firewall-forward diesel package using its 155 hp turbodiesel CD-155 engine on the Piper Archer,” Carlon said. “We felt this engine gave us the best combination of power, reliability and efficiency.”

As you probably recall, long before Continental bought the rights to the Thielert/Centurion diesel engine technology, the original company had earned an STC to retrofit the then-Thielert 135 hp diesel onto the Piper PA-28-161 Warrior. 

Since the STC already existed, why not just offer the new CD-155 on the Warrior, which is already a market-leading training platform? 

“The primary reason that we focused on the Archer for the diesel engine offering was the fact that we did not certify the Garmin G1000 in the Warrior. It has the G500 displays,” Carlon explained. 

“The majority of large providers require the G1000 package for advanced training. That kind of made the decision easy.”

Creating the DX

As you would expect, there’s a bit more needed to create the DX than just sticking a Continental CD-155 on the Archer’s nose. Because of past experience with the PA-28-161 STC, Piper’s learning curve was shortened, but not eliminated. 

One of the most challenging parts of the project was getting a fully-equipped Archer LX (S/N 701) over to the Technify Motors’ facility in Sankt [St.] Egidien, Germany. That’s a long trip for a little airplane—and while it’s become common practice, navigating several winter storms along the route made this trip a bit more challenging.

Once S/N 701 arrived, the Technify team was ready to get rolling. Markus Steinberg, head of quality and certification at Technify Motors GmbH [Continental Motors] explained that while the company could use some of the data from the earlier Warrior STC, the Archer DX project required some fresh thinking. 

He said that one of the biggest changes was the modification of the Archer’s engine mount and nosegear.

“The devil is always in the details,” said Steinberg. “We could not use the standard engine mount because the angle of the [Archer’s] nosewheel is slightly different and we didn’t want to risk any nosewheel shimmy due to the heavier engine. So we had to copy the angle of the nosewheel on the Warrior and integrate that into a new design for the Archer.

“Of course, since this is a common rail injection diesel engine, we had to modify the factory fuel system with new return lines while ensuring that all the materials and components were capable of dealing with jet fuel,” he continued. 

“We also had to install a second ship’s battery behind the rear seats for the FADEC. That was a major upgrade.”

All totaled, Steinberg said that the DX transformation necessitated 13 changes to the existing PA-28 STC. Among the bigger changes are a new three-blade MT composite propeller and spinner, reworked electrical and fuel systems, and a new cowl design incorporating an integrated air scoop for heater cooling.

“I think the most challenging of them all was the integration of the new G1000 software,” Steinberg explained. “That was new to Garmin as well. This new software version is different from [what is] flying on other aircraft, so we had a lot to learn.”

Steinberg and his team are rightfully proud of the fact that even with 701 arriving a bit late, they were still able to celebrate its first flight with the Continental CD-155 diesel engine on Christmas Eve 2014.

“Timing was a major issue. We had to have the EASA STC issued by April in time for the aircraft’s introduction during the 2015 Aero Friedrichshafen airshow,” he said. “One thing you learn about schedules is after the day comes the night—so if you’re not done, you just keep working into the night.”

Time to fly

Recently I had the opportunity to fly the DX and put it through its paces. I’m figuring pretty much everybody reading this magazine has flown a member of the venerable Piper PA-28 family at least once so I’m going to concentrate on what’s different about the Archer DX. 

Walking up to the airplane, the first thing you notice is the propeller. The three-blade MT propeller really gives the Archer DX a shot in the arm from a styling perspective. 

Before saddling up, Piper’s Chief Pilot Bart Jones walked me through the preflight. Again, it’s pretty much the same as with any Archer. The only real difference is when you first flip on the master power, you need to give the battery indicator on the G1000 a look just to make sure you have plenty of juice in the battery to crank the diesel over. Starts with ground power are prohibited. 

Next, take a minute to look up in the front of the cowling. There’s a little door you open to check a sight glass that shows the gearbox oil level. Speaking of oil, the Continental diesel uses AeroShell Diesel 10W-40, which is not typically found at FBOs. It’s a good idea to carry a quart or two with you. 

The only other difference is when you drain the sumps, you need to make sure the fuel is the color of weak tea and not the blue of 100LL. Piper has placed large “Jet A-1” stickers and used heavy-duty stainless steel fuel filler caps on the DX, but you need to be wary of misfueling the Archer. (If it were my DX, I’d want to supervise every refueling.)

Climbing in the left seat and strapping in is all typical Archer. As you would expect from the top-of-the-line model, the DX’s interior is very nice especially for an airplane aimed at the training market.

Push to start

As you’ve no doubt read somewhere, the diesel engine is literally push-button easy to start. Set the brakes, ensure the thrust lever is set to idle (you have to love having a “thrust lever” in an Archer), flip on the ship’s power, wait for the glow control light to go out, reach up to the overhead switch panel and press and hold the starter button until the engine starts. 

But pay close attention. If you have your headset on, you won’t actually hear the engine start; it becomes obvious when the prop starts spinning. The entire procedure is done in less time than it took you to read this.

Next comes a FADEC Backup Battery Test—a procedure that includes a test of the emergency battery. As I mentioned earlier, the battery’s health is extremely important in the Archer DX. Since the FADEC runs the airplane, and the aircraft’s electrical system runs the FADEC, you need to make sure the alternator is charging the battery before you leave the chocks. 

You do have a second ship’s battery (and the FADEC has a backup battery of its own), but it’s only good for 30 minutes of flight. An alternator failure in an Archer DX is a “land as soon as you can” occurrence.

While these tests are being done, you’re giving the engine oil and coolant time to reach operating temperatures. Once the temps are in the green you can taxi to the runup area and perform the pre-takeoff steps including the mandatory FADEC and Propeller Adjustment Function Check. 

Speaking of taxiing, the first thing that’s obvious when you advance the thrust lever to taxi is how incredibly quiet and vibration-free the diesel engine is. It’s turbine-like in its feel and operation—another benefit when you’re talking new-generation trainer. 

Once we reached the runup area, Jones walked me through the routine. Everything is pretty much like you’d expect but when it comes time to run up the engine, instead of pushing this and cycling that, you just set the power to idle and press and hold the FADEC Test button. The dual channel computers do the rest while you monitor the G1000 displays. 

The last check is to push the thrust lever up to the stops and hold it for a count of 10. You need to see at least 94 percent power with the tach between 2,240 to 2,300 rpm. Max rpm is the same in the diesel Archer as you’ll find in the Avgas model.

Up, up and away

One last thing before calling Vero Beach Tower for takeoff is to set the flaps to 25 degrees. Since I can’t recall ever using flaps for a normal takeoff in any Archer, this step got my attention. 

“That’s the standard takeoff setting for the DX,” Jones explained. “Because this is a 155 hp engine, the 25 degrees of flaps give you the same takeoff performance as the 180 hp Archer.”

Jones and I checked, and according to the POH, the standard Archer would need 1,700 feet of runway to clear the proverbial 50-foot obstacle on a standard day. The 155 hp DX would need 1,673 feet of concrete with 25 degrees of flaps. 

Cleared for takeoff, I advanced the thrust lever to the stops and just flew her off like any Archer. And that’s pretty much how the DX felt for the 1.5 hours Jones and I spent carving up the sky above Vero Beach: an Archer is an Archer is an Archer.

Thanks to the constant speed propeller, you’d really never know you are giving up 25 hp to the Avgas version. The climb numbers for both aircraft are within three fpm of each other—with the DX taking the lead. Jones attributes this to the FADEC and constant speed propeller. 

You can’t talk diesel without mentioning fuel economy, and Jones pointed out that you really don’t see big advantages until you get up higher. Doing touch-and-goes is pretty much a wash.

On this flight we leveled off at 5,500 feet, where I set the power at 70 percent. Once everything was stabilized, the G1000 indicated 101 knots with a TAS of 112 knots. 

Fuel flow was just under six gph, so a full load of 48 gallons of Jet-A would give us an endurance of eight hours. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Jones said that had we climbed even higher, we would have seen both higher speeds and lower fuel burn, offering operators a much more efficient engine/airframe package. 

“The turbocharger and FADEC takes all the guesswork out of engine management in the DX,” Jones said. “You are getting the optimum performance and efficiency at every altitude and you don’t have to be guessing if you’ve got the mixture right. The computer takes care of it all.”

Aside from the FADEC and, as I mentioned earlier, the amazingly quiet cabin—while we were cruising along, Jones and I were able to remove our headsets and hold a regular conversation (try that in a standard Archer)—the DX handles like any Piper PA-28. Smooth. Simple. Stable. Reliable. Everything I’d want in a training airplane. 

Yes, the Archer DX does cost more than the standard model, and yes, the Continental CD-155 does have a 1,200-hour TBR (Time Between Removal)—which the company is working diligently to raise—but even with those points, the diesel powered Archer DX will make a really great training platform.

A better learning environment

As Carlon pointed out, along with the global fuel flexibility of the diesel, the quiet operation and smoothness of the cabin will provide an exceptionally comfortable setting. 

“It’s a much better learning environment for basic and advanced students,” she said. “It’s quieter with less vibration, which means students and instructors will feel less fatigued after hours in the cockpit. Less fatigue means better learning.”

Even after only 1.5 hours in the left seat, I couldn’t agree more.

 

Dale Smith has been an aviation journalist for 30 years. When he’s not writing aviation articles, Smith does commission aircraft illustrations specializing in seaplanes and flying boats. Smith has been a licensed pilot since 1974 and has flown 35 different types of General Aviation, business and World War II vintage aircraft. Send questions or comments to .

 

RESOURCES >>>>>

Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook (2015–2034)

boeing.com/commercial/market/long-term-market/pilot-and-technician-outlook

 

Piper Archer DX

piper.com/aircraft/trainer-class/archer-dx 

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Tom Grove's Cherokee 235.

A Fun Flying Machine: Tom Grove’s Cherokee 235

September 2015

With a little (okay, a lot!) of help from his friends, Tom Grove’s Piper PA-28 Cherokee 235 was deemed Outstanding in Type at EAA AirVenture in 2014.

“I think I caught him in a weak moment,” PFA member Tom Grove explained to me when I asked him how he came to own his newest aircraft, a Cherokee 235. The previous owner—who flew it for 27 years—is a personal friend.

“The plane was all original until about 12 years ago,” he said. Then, his friend started some serious refurbishing. Today, it’s a top-of-the-line example of a legacy aircraft.

Grove also owns and flies a 1979 Tomahawk, which you’ll read about in a future issue of Piper Flyer. “I fly both [aircraft] pretty regularly,” he said. And he really enjoys flying around Texas with his buddies.

“I needed a good four-place airplane that could really carry four people, camping gear and other stuff,” he explained. The PA-28-235 allows him to do so easily. “I use it mostly for just playing around, getting hamburgers, flying to Louisiana to visit family, and an occasional long trip.”

 

Living the $100 hamburger life
As a retired American Airlines check airman, Tom Grove is fortunate enough to live a $100 hamburger life in his retirement. Residing at Eagle’s Nest Estates, an airpark community in Midlothian, Tex., with Rheta, his wife of 47 years, the couple has easy access to their planes, a 3,200-foot lighted runway in their backyard—and plenty of opportunities for socializing with fellow pilots.

Grove and his flying companions can enjoy breakfast or lunch at Lancaster Airport (KLNC) just six minutes away, or they can get a bowl of the best tortilla soup in Texas (Grove maintains that he and his friend Tim are tortilla soup experts!) at Dallas Executive (KRBD), just eight minutes away.

On the weekends, they can head out for the best Sunday brunch at Hicks Airport (T67), a short 12 minutes away. For a world-famous barbecue treat, they head west 32 minutes to the Hard Eight restaurant in Stephenville, Tex. (KSEP). (Regular readers of Piper Flyer may recall Hard Eight BBQ from an article entitled “Best of the Best Airport Restaurants.” This two-part series by Dan Pimentel ran in February and March 2015. —Ed.)

 

Cross-country Cherokee
Tom Grove does a lot more than fly-out lunch runs. Shortly after he acquired his 235, he and some friends took an extended flying trip from Texas to Utah, Nevada and Arizona. The mission, Grove told me, was to canyon fly—“and generally have fun,” he added.

Grove and his friends camped at the Utah Back Country Pilots fly-in held at Huntington, Utah. They also flew in to the private airstrip at Caveman Ranch Lodge in Moab, Utah.

When I asked him what the best part of the trip was, Grove quickly said, “I got to fly the Grand Canyon corridor and Canyonlands National Park (KCNY) twice with my longtime flying buds!”

Another unforgettable memory for Grove and his friends includes landing at Bullfrog Basin Airport (U07) on the Arizona/Utah border and spending time at a resort in Lake Powell. They arrived just before the United States government closed Glen Canyon National Recreation Area due to sequestration. “Fortunately,” Grove recalled, “it wasn’t closed by air! The park was really spectacular.”

 

A cool, fun flying machine
Many of Grove’s flying friends are well acquainted with aircraft restoration and have been closely involved in projects on N8771W. In fact, Grove’s 235 wouldn’t be the award-winning plane it is today without the help of many, many hands.

“I would like to thank all my friends at my home base (2TS6) for the hard work, long hours in cold and hot hangars, and the time and energy they’ve given to me and my airplanes,” Grove said.

“Without Jimmy, Steve, Marvin, Dan, Tim and JJ, my airplanes would just be pieces of dusty metal in a hangar, instead of really cool, fun flying machines that make great memories.”

 

“Phase one” upgrades
Firewall-forward
“In 2003, a collective effort was started to do a firewall-forward engine overhaul,” Grove explained. “Everything was removed from the engine compartment. The firewall, inside of the cowlings and engine mounts were carefully painted by Jimmy,” he said.

“The engine then went through a major overhaul, with lots of attention to detail by Jimmy, an A&P; Steve, an A&P/IA and me, the Master Flashlight-Holder, Tool Boy and Hangar Cleaner,” Grove recalled.

“After everything was assembled, the engine was painted Lycoming gray with crimson Millennium valve covers and hung back on the airplane.

“All hoses were replaced and firesleeved, along with the addition of a heavy-duty oil cooler and an Airwolf external spin-on oil filter,” he continued.

“The exhaust system was replaced, along with new ignition wires, all-new engine baffles and a new starter. A dual toe-brake system was added. All glass was replaced. Then, dual batteries were installed on an FAA Field Approval,” Grove explained.

The whole process took about a year.

 

Panel
In 2004, the Cherokee’s instrument panel underwent a partial overhaul. “At that time, they updated the panel shape—removed the big hump in the top—and overhauled the Century autopilot, attitude indicator and directional gyro,” he recalled.

“They also added an Electronics International instrument package, including an FP-5 Digital Fuel monitor; SC-5 Superclock, VA-1A Volts and Amps, OPT-1 Oil Pressure/Temperature, R-1 Tachometer and M-1 Manifold Pressure gauge.” An Insight engine analyzer (red LED) was also added.

 

Aesthetics
In 2006, the interior was redone. “The original design in 1964 did not include headrests,” Grove told me, so Steve and Jimmy installed later model front seats. They also removed the rear bench and added later model Piper individual seats in the back. New matching seatbelts were installed.

The aircraft then received a custom three-color leather interior, and matching carpet was installed by a company located at Northwest Regional Airport (52F) in Roanoke, Tex. (The shop has since closed due to the owner’s health. —Ed.) Also that year, third side windows were added.

 

Aerodynamics
N8771W received late model main landing gear wheel fairings, new wing gap seals and wing root fairings.

In addition, the previous owner added aileron and flap and stabilizer gap seals and a late model extended vertical fin stabilizer.

 

Paint
The airplane was repainted in 2007 at A-One Aircraft Paint on the field at Midway Airport (KJWY) in Waxahachie, Tex. The paint scheme is crimson and a two-tone gold. The tasteful design and colors were selected by the previous owner and his wife.

“The main color is sand, not white,” Grove said, “and one of the accent stripes is called ‘Las Vegas gold.’

“Several coats of paint plus two coats of clear coat make this plane look like a high-dollar, corporate-jet paint job,” he continued.

 

Acquiring the plane
“One day, my wife and I were flying back from Alexandria, La. (KAEX) in our Piper Tomahawk after visiting family. The airplane was loaded to maximum with her sewing equipment, which she needed for our bimonthly, week- or two-week visits,” Grove said.

“She mentioned, ‘We could use a four-place airplane that could carry more stuff—or people.’ Now, my wife, being as wise and practical as she is, was absolutely correct.”

He continued, “After some discussion on budget, we decided that maybe my good friend, Steve, might be willing to sell us his now-very-beautiful Piper Cherokee 235.

“After all, I had known the airplane for 10 years; it had even lived in our hangar for a few years when it was an ugly duckling in its original Piper orange and brown paint.”

Furthermore, Grove said, “I’d watched the engine go through a firewall-forward engine overhaul, partial panel upgrade, paint and interior. It seemed like a natural choice to make: low-time, clean airframe; low-time, bulletproof engine; and a good load hauler.

“The next day I called Steve and announced, ‘Steve, I would like to buy your 235.’
“I think he was in shock, because in all the years we had known each other, I’d never expressed an interest in buying it,” Grove explained. “In his disbelief, he tossed out a number you only give to a good friend.

“It was right in the middle of where I’d hoped it would be, and without hesitation, I said, ‘I’ll take it! I’ll be right there with a check.’”

“Before either one of us had a chance to get buyer’s or seller’s remorse, the deal was done. Within a day or two, we exchanged keys and paperwork and taxied the airplane over to my hangar.
“And that,” Grove said, “is how the good ones never make it into the classified ads!”

He added, “Since we live on the same airport community, Steve still has full visitation rights, and is still involved in all the new projects and maintenance.

“He also knows they keys are in it anytime he wants to visit his old friend of 27 years.”
Grove bought the plane in 2012 when it had about 2,700 hours total time.

“During the time my friend owned it, he’d installed a very nice IFR Narco radio stack,” Grove recalled. “I bought it with that panel. It had the old 1960s-style switches—and the old ‘60s wiring,” he said.
N8771W’s O-540 had 300 hours since overhaul, and the prop and governor had been overhauled at San Antonio Propeller.

Grove took it on the cross-country to Utah the following year, and soon, more improvements were to come.

 

Wiring
“After we returned from Utah, I decided to redo some things,” Grove said.

He took the plane to Avionics 1st at Dallas Executive (KRBD). “Dennis Sorber, Lloyd Timmons and Gus Moreno got rid of all the old switches and relays,” he recalled. “Dennis gutted almost all the old wiring and replaced it with very nice custom-built harnesses made on-premises.”

“An all-new split electrical bus system was installed; all circuit breakers were replaced with new; and a split master rocker switch was installed,” he said.

“They replaced the old 1960s toggle switches with very reliable factory rocker switches and dual avionics switches.” These electronics components give Grove excellent peace of mind.

 

Avionics
Grove started planning his instrument panel project several months before work began. “I used Panel Planner software from One Mile Up. It lets you select every radio, instrument, warning light, switch and knob,” he explained.

“The software allows you to rearrange your panel to your heart’s content—in full color and in full detail.

It even gives you a cost breakdown before any money is spent at your avionics shop,” Grove said.
“My actual panel was so close to the pictures I’d printed from the software, it was amazing.”

N8771W received a completely new upper and lower instrument panel. A new extra-strength metal panel was custom fitted, and all holes, circuit breakers, switch locations and flight instrument locations and controls were carefully placed to allow easy access and viewing.

“The completed panels were then painted to match my interior and sent to a silk-screening company to have all the labels, checklist and limitations imprinted,” he said.

“Next, Dennis Sorber and his team reinstalled my Aspen 2000 Evolution package,” he explained. “They had installed it a year earlier, complete with Synthetic Vision and Terrain Warning on both displays and XM weather.”

“In the center stack they installed a Garmin 340 intercom, and Garmin GNS 530 and GNS 430 WAAS. Just to the right of that, they reinstalled my Garmin 560, which also has a Garmin GDL 39 ADS-B receiver for additional stand-alone weather and traffic alerting,” he said.

“In the far right of the panel, they reinstalled my Century 21 autopilot and added an Aspen EA-100 autopilot interface to control it with digital precision. Just below the autopilot, they installed my Garmin 327 transponder.”

“I didn’t put in a big fancy analyzer,” Grove explained, “but the new G1 engine analyzer is a good color display instrument.

“It flattens the temperature bars, which makes it easy for leaning, and gives you numerical values for your EGT and CHT, as well as colored bars,” he said. “I usually see temps at about 370 to 380.”

“Avionics 1st is very easy to work with and provided a very nice finished panel. With such a large project, there were a few minor problems at completion time, but all items were resolved without hassle,” he said. “It’s a good shop; I will definitely use them again in the future.”

 

Other changes
The previous owner upgraded to a later model alternator for its better-quality electricity and higher capacity.

Grove upgraded to a later generation lightweight Sky-Tec starter and Sky-Tec starter relay. “The people at Sky-Tec in Granbury [Texas] are very friendly, and a treat to deal with,” he told me. “A great Texas company, full of Texas hospitality.”

Other aftermarket improvements include Bogert Aviation battery cables. “I’m a firm believer in Bogert cables. I’ve put Bogert on every plane I’ve ever had,” he commented.

He elected to keep the vacuum pump on the aircraft, just to have a truly free-standing backup system.

 

… and a Lindy Award winner, too!
With 46 years of flying and many more to come, Grove has made several trips to EAA AirVenture and other aviation events. With his Cherokee in such fine shape—and some pushing by friends JJ, Danna, Steve and Dan—Grove decided to admit the aircraft for judging in the Lindy Awards just two summers ago.

“Steve and I loaded up the 235 and headed for Oshkosh,” he said. “To our surprise, N8771W received the award for ‘Outstanding in Type’ in the Contemporary (1956-1970) class for 2014.

“The paint job is what probably won me the award at Oshkosh!” he joked. (That, and all the help from his friends!)

“It was a real honor to be chosen from so many airplanes for an award at such a great worldwide event,” Grove said.

“But just as rewarding was the smile on Steve’s face when we walked up to the airplane and saw the announcement hanging from the prop.

“We were like two proud parents—didn’t stop smiling for weeks!”

 

Heather Skumatz is managing editor for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

Airwolf Filter, LLC
airwolf.com

A-One Aircraft Paint
a-1aircraftpaint.com

Aspen Avionics
aspenavionics.com

Avionics 1st
avionics1st.com

Bogert Aviation
– PFA supporter
bogertaviation.com

Electronics International
– PFA supporter
buy-ei.com

Garmin
– PFA supporter
garmin.com/en-US/explore/intheair

Insight Instrument Corp.
– PFA supporter
insightavionics.com

One Mile Up, Inc.
panelplanner.com

San Antonio Propeller Service
sanantoniopropeller.com

Sirius XM/XM WX Weather
– PFA supporter
xmwxweather.com/aviation

Sky-Tec Partners Ltd.
skytecair.com

Utah Back Country Pilots
utahbackcountrypilots.org

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Piper PA-28 Cherokee

PA-28-140 Cherokee Cruiser
Two place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-E2A engine of 150 hp (112 kW), gross weight 1,950 lb (885 kg). First certified on 14 February 1964. Approved as a 2,150 lb (975 kg) gross weight four place aircraft on 17 June 1965.
 
PA-28-150 Cherokee
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-A2B or O-320-E2A engine of 150 hp (112 kW), gross weight 2,150 lb (975 kg). First certified on 2 June 1961.
 
PA-28-151 Cherokee Warrior
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PA-28-160 Cherokee
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-B2B or O-320-D2A engine of 160 hp (119 kW), gross weight 2,200 lb (998 kg). First certified on 31 October 1960.
 
PA-28-161 Warrior II
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-D3G or O-320-D2A engine of 160 hp (119 kW), gross weight 2,325 lb (1,055 kg). First certified on 2 November 1976. Changes from the PA-28-160 include a tapered wing. Certified on 1 July 1982 for gross weight of 2,440 lb (1,107 kg).
 
PA-28-161 Warrior III
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-320-D3G engine of 160 hp (119 kW), gross weight 2,440 lb (1,107 kg). First certified on 1 July 1994.
 
PA-28-180 Cherokee
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-360-A3A or O-360-A4A engine of 180 hp (134 kW), gross weight 2,400 lb (1,089 kg). First certified on 3 August 1962.
 
PA-28-180 Archer
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-360-A4A or O-360-A4M engine of 180 hp (134 kW), gross weight 2,450 lb (1,111 kg). First certified on 22 May 1972. Changes from the PA-28-180 Cherokee include a five inch fuselage extension, wing span increase, larger horizontal tail, gross weight increase and other minor changes.
 
PA-28-181 Archer II
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-360-A4M or O-360-A4A engine of 180 hp (134 kW), gross weight 2,550 lb (1,157 kg). First certified on 8 July 1975. Changes from the PA-28-180 include a tapered wing.
 
PA-28-181 Archer III
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-360-A4M engine of 180 hp (134 kW), gross weight 2,550 lb (1,157 kg). First certified on 30 August 1994.
 
PA-28-201T Turbo Dakota
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, turbocharged Continental TSIO-360-FB, engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,900 lb (1,315 kg). First certified on 14 December 1978.
 
PA-28-235 Cherokee Pathfinder
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-540-B2B5, O-540-B1B5, or O-540-B4B5 engine of 235 hp (175 kW), gross weight 2,900 lb (1,315 kg). First certified on 15 July 1963.
 
PA-28-235 Cherokee Pathfinder
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-540-B4B5 engine of 235 hp (175 kW), gross weight 3,000 lb (1,361 kg). First certified on 9 June 1972. Changes from the 1963 certified PA-28-235 Cherokee Pathfinder include a five inch fuselage extension, wing span increase, larger horizontal tail, gross weight increase and other minor changes.
 
PA-28-236 Dakota
Four place, fixed landing gear landplane, Lycoming O-540-J3A5D engine of 235 hp (175 kW), gross weight 3,000 lb (1,361 kg). First certified on 1 June 1978. Changes from the 1972 certified PA-28-235 Cherokee Pathfinder include tapered wing.
 
PA-28S-160 Cherokee
Four place, fixed landing gear seaplane, Lycoming O-320-D2A engine of 160 hp (119 kW), gross weight 2,140 lb (971 kg). First certified on 25 February 1963.
 
PA-28S-180 Cherokee
Four place, fixed landing gear seaplane, Lycoming O-360-A3A or O-360-A4A engine of 180 hp (134 kW), gross weight 2,222 lb (1,008 kg). First certified on 10 May 1963.
 
PA-28R-180 Arrow
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, Lycoming IO-360-B1E engine of 180 hp (134 kW), gross weight 2,500 lb (1,134 kg). First certified on 8 June 1967.
 
PA-28R-200 Arrow
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, Lycoming IO-360-C1C engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,600 lb (1,179 kg). First certified on 16 January 1969.
 
PA-28R-200 Arrow II
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, Lycoming IO-360-C1C or C1C6 engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,650 lb (1,202 kg). First certified on 2 December 1971. Changes from the 1969 certified PA-28R-200 Arrow include a five inch fuselage extension, wing span increase, larger horizontal tail, gross weight increase and other minor changes.
 
PA-28R-201 Arrow III
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,750 lb (1,247 kg). First certified on 2 November 1976.
 
PA-28R-201T Turbo Arrow III
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, turbocharged Continental TSIO-360-F or TSIO-360-FB engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,900 lb (1,315 kg). First certified on 2 November 1976.
 
PA-28RT-201 Arrow IV
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,750 lb (1,247 kg). First certified on 13 November 1978. Features a T tail.
 
PA-28RT-201T Turbo Arrow IV
Four place, retractable landing gear landplane, turbocharged Continental TSIO-360-FB engine of 200 hp (149 kW), gross weight 2,900 lb (1,315 kg). First certified on 13 November 1978. Features a T tail.
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