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PA-23 Apache/Aztec

PA-23 Apache/Aztec (5)

The Piper PA-23, named Apache and later Aztec, is a four-to-six-seat twin-engined light aircraft aimed at the general aviation market that also saw service with the United States Navy and other countries' military forces in small numbers.The Apache and its more powerful development the Aztec were manufactured from 1952-1981

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PA-31 Navajo

PA-31 Navajo (7)

The Piper PA-31 Navajo is a family of cabin-class, twin-engine aircraft.

PIPER NAVAJO VARIANTS PA-31 Navajo

Initial production version, also known unofficially as the PA-31-310.

PA-31-300 Navajo

Variant of the Navajo with normally aspirated engines; 14 built.

PA-31 Navajo B

Marketing name for 1971 improved variant with 310 hp (231 kW) Lycoming TIO-540-E turbocharged piston engines, new air conditioning and optional pilot access door and optional wide utility door.

PA-31 Navajo C

Marketing name for 1974 improved variant with 310 hp (231 kW) Lycoming TIO-540-A2C engines and other minor improvements.

PA-31P Pressurized Navajo

Pressurized version of the PA-31 Navajo, powered by two 425 hp (317 kW) Lycoming TIGO-541-E1A piston engines.

PA-31-325 Navajo

Referred to as the Navajo “C/R” for counter-rotating. Variant of Navajo with counter-rotating propellers introduced with the PA-31-350 Chieftain. 325 hp (242 kW) Lycoming TIO-540 / LTIO-540 engines.

PA-31-350 Chieftain

Stretched version of the Navajo with more powerful 350 hp (261 kW) engines that rotate in opposite directions (a Lycoming TIO-540 and a Lycoming LTIO-540) to eliminate critical engine issues.

PA-31P-350 Mojave

Piston engine variant of the PA-31T1 Cheyenne I; 50 aircraft built.

PA-31-350T1020

Also known as the T1020/T-1020; variant of the PA-31-350 Chieftain optimized for commuter airline use, with less baggage and fuel capacity and increased seating capacity (nine passengers). First flight Sept. 25, 1981; 21 built.

PA-31T3

Also known as the T1040/T-1040; turboprop powered airliner with fuselage of the PA-31-350T1020, and wings, tail and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-11 engines of PA-31T Cheyenne. First flight July 17, 1981; 24 built.

PA-31-353

Experimental version of PA-31-350; two built.

T1050

Unbuilt airliner variant with fuselage lengthened by 11 feet, 6 inches (3.51 m) compared to the PA-31-350.

EMB 820C

Version of Chieftain built under license by Embraer in Brazil.

Neiva Carajá

Turboprop conversion of EMB 820C, fitted with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27 engines flat-rated to 550 shp. The Carajá’s MTOW of 8,003 pounds was 1,000 pounds more than that of the Chieftain.

Colemill Panther

Re-engined Navajo with 350 hp (261 kW) Lycoming TIO-540-J2B engines, four-blade “Q-Tip” propellers and optional winglets. Conversion designed by Colemill Enterprises of Nashville, Tenn.

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PA-34 Seneca

PA-34 Seneca (5)

The Piper PA-34 Seneca is an twin-engined light aircraft. It began production in 1971 and still being produced.

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Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche

Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche (1)

The Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche is an American twin-engined cabin monoplane designed and built by Piper Aircraft. It was a twin-engined development of the PA-24 Comanche single-engined aircraft. A variant with counter-rotating propellers was designated the Piper PA-39 Twin Comanche C/R.

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Piper PA-42 Cheyenne

Piper PA-42 Cheyenne (1)

The Piper PA-42 Cheyenne is a turboprop aircraft still being produced today.

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Piper PA-44 Seminole

Piper PA-44 Seminole (1)

The Piper PA-44 Seminole is an twin-engined light aircraft.

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Moving Up to a Twin? Read this First

Moving Up to a Twin? Read this First

 

Photography by James Lawrence

A practical and honest examination of the pros and cons of flying and owning a twin-engine Piper.

Few single-engine pilots have not looked longingly at a sexy twin from time to time. To pilots who are used to only one fan in front, the twin seems cool and exotic. As someone with thousands of hours flying a twin, I will let everyone on a little secret: They are cool!

Of course, cool does not equal practical. And while some are fortunate enough not to worry about practicalities, most people considering upgrading their ride are the practical type. I will sort through the myths, pitfalls and rationales for upgrading to a twin-engine aircraft.

These days, a pilot curious about purchasing a twin usually starts on the internet, often asking questions on one or more of the popular forums. Usually someone will chime in with the blanket statement that twins are twice or three times as expensive to operate as a single. 

Someone else is bound to chime in that insurance is impossible for someone without significant twin time. Another will quote Richard Collins’ contention that twins have a fatality rate per accident that is four times greater than that of a single-engine aircraft. 

Collins is correct on the statistic, but it’s misused as an anti-twin argument. Collins’ statistic appears to compare all single-engine crashes with all twin-engine crashes. This is misleading in two respects. The first is that twins have a higher stalling speed on average than twins. Thus they crash at a faster speed. A set of statistics that does not differentiate a Piper Cub from a Cessna 421 is, in my opinion, flawed.

The statistic is also flawed in that it does not account for the number of engine failures in a twin that do not result in a crash and end in a safe landing at an airport. Those incidents are not tracked and are usually not reported. 

Having said that, a twin-engine aircraft is costly and might be overkill for some pilots’ needs. If one’s main use for an airplane is to look at scenery and for the odd hundred-dollar hamburger, then the cool factor is all you are really getting for your airplane-owning dollars—and you’re definitely paying extra for it. 

Certain missions do argue for a twin-engine airplane, however. Pilots that make frequent flights over water or remote areas—especially at night—are probably safer in a twin if they keep their skills current. For frequent operations in low IFR conditions, twins offer redundancy and capability that most singles do not offer. 

Business-related travel, or the need to get back home for business purposes, are the kinds of flights where a capable airplane is more critical. Local flying or traveling with no particular deadlines to be anywhere, such as retirees often enjoy, diminishes the need for weather capability and redundancy.

Twins can usually carry a bigger load than can the average single, unless the single is turbine-powered. But turbine singles are a whole other level of cost and complexity; beyond the scope of this discussion.

 


The advantages of redundancy

Much of the potential safety advantages of a twin-engine aircraft come down to redundancy of propulsion and systems. This is of benefit to anyone using an aircraft for travel when timeliness of completing a flight is important. 

Electrical system – Electrical system redundancy is of greatest importance when flying in IMC conditions. This is particularly true when low IFR eliminates the option to hold a compass heading and descend through the clouds to VFR underneath. 

Anyone who has shot an ILS to minimums when the nearest VMC is a couple of states away knows how desperate the situation would be without electric power for key navigation equipment. Even in decent weather at night, electrical power is more than a convenience. Many are the stories of pilots flying home with a flashlight held in their mouth. 

More and more, modern high performance singles are offering backup alternators that will provide a second source of power. These backup systems vary in capability. If the alternator fails on a single, even if you have a backup alternator you will only be able to run some critical equipment. Twins have the built-in redundancy of dual alternators and can usually run most or all of the equipment on the output of just one alternator.

Engine redundancy – While modern high performance singles offer much-improved systems redundancy, albeit often at a much higher cost than an older twin, even the most tricked-out Cirrus SR22 offers no propulsion redundancy. 

Most all twins will fly on one engine, giving the pilot many more options when it comes to selecting a location and manner of landing after the failure of one engine. 

While an aircraft parachute such as those installed in a modern high performance single can save lives, in open water or extremely rugged terrain, the parachute mostly just alters the angle and speed of impact after losing an engine.

For pilots based on an island or who need to regularly cross large bodies of water, the second engine can literally be a lifesaver. One common example in this country are the pilots who need to cross Lake Michigan on a regular basis. 

In addition, night flying over much of the United States does not offer appealing options for a dead-stick landing. Many flight instructors sardonically explain the hazards of night dead-stick landings by advising their students, in mock seriousness, that as they are gliding down in the dark that they should turn on the landing light when getting close to the ground. Then they tell the student that if they don’t like what they see, they should turn off the landing light. 

Out in much of the west and most of Alaska, even daylight is not much help when it comes to trying to find a place to make a survivable crash landing. Over dark, inhospitable terrain, a second engine is a great comfort and should provide a higher level of safety.

Weather capability – Twins have traditionally been a better choice for reasonably all-weather operations. For decades, if you wanted the equipment for weather penetration, a twin was your only option. De-icing equipment was only available on twins. The same was true for weather radar. 

Improvements in technology have made high-end, high performance single-engine aircraft much more weather-capable. TKS anti-icing systems, pneumatic de-icing boots, lightning detectors and the ability to obtain Nexrad have all helped improve the all-weather ability of some high performance singles—but at substantial cost, as these aircraft are usually fairly new. 

Still, twins are best suited for onboard radar, also the old-fashioned pneumatic de-icing system does not rely on a limited store of fluid, which can be difficult to obtain when away from base unless one is only flying into the major reliever airports that are geared to accommodate the business flyer.

Larger loads – Horsepower is what picks up big loads. With few exceptions (and without getting into the turbine market), singles are limited to slightly over 300 hp. 

Piston twins can double the horsepower which can translate into more speed, more useful load, or a combination of both. Even if you can fill the tanks on your single and punch out into weather with three passengers, your passengers are not likely to be too comfortable doing so.

 


A twin pilot’s responsibilities

 

In addition to the added financial commitment that a twin requires, obtaining the safety benefits requires a greater dedication on the part of the pilot/owner. 

Training – Many singles can be flown by the proverbial seat-of-the-pants. Twins, with their higher wing loading and the ever-present possibility of being put into an asymmetrical thrust situation, must be flown by the numbers. 

Twins require more thought on every flight, as the pilot has choices to make if an engine fails. For this reason, an instrument rating and regular recurrent training are nearly mandatory. This is particularly true for the novice twin driver. This is an area where insurance companies have some say. 

Insurance – Contrary to some of the wisdom dispensed on the internet, the newbie twin driver can get insurance. It will come with strings attached and a hefty price tag for at least the first year. A VFR-only private pilot will have the fewest options and pay the most for insurance. 

Many insurers believe that an instrument rating should be the minimum level of licensing for a new twin engine pilot/owner—and I believe that, too. 

A requirement of 25 hours of dual instruction is a common requirement, which if the rating is to be gotten in the just-acquired twin, is probably a minimum anyway. After the first year, the insurance premiums will come down drastically. That high first year premium just needs to be considered as a startup cost.

Insurance companies used to give lower rates for twins as the common assumption was that twins are safer. But the reality is that they require greater proficiency and if there is a runway excursion, landing gear problem, etc., there are two engines to tear down and two props to have repaired or replaced. 

Piloting differences – While everyone focuses on the engine-failure-after-takeoff scenario, it is likely that other aspects of twin engine operation cause more grief. Depending on what a new twin driver has been flying in the past, the twin may offer significantly higher approach and landing speeds. 

The higher wing loading and the additional drag caused by an extra windmilling prop has caught more than one pilot unaware on landing and resulted in some shop time. Needless to say, the jump from a single-engine Comanche to a Twin Comanche is much smaller than the jump from a Cherokee 140 to an Aztec.

Costs – Corresponding to the increase in complexity that a new twin owner will experience, there is a concomitant increase in expense. 

The rules of thumb spouted on the internet or around the coffeepot at the local pea patch are of less value than runway behind you or sky above you. The increase in cost going from a Cherokee 140 to an Aztec will be in whole-number multiples. The increase in cost from a Comanche 260 to a Twin Comanche is maybe a third more at most. 

Real-world fuel expenses are not hard to obtain. Unplanned maintenance expenses—in other words, fixing what breaks—are much more of a guess. Annual inspection, engine reserves, a larger hangar if needed, higher insurance, additional training and recurrency costs can all be figured fairly closely.

If the additional costs and commitments are not deal-breakers, and if one’s typical mission will benefit from the redundancy and capability that twins can offer, then upgrading to a twin can be an eminently reasonable decision.

Kristin Winter has been an airport rat for almost four decades. She holds an ATP-SE/ME rating and is a CFIAIM, AGI, IGI. In addition, Winter is an A&P/IA. She has over 8,000 hours, of which about 1,000 are in the Twin Comanche and another 1,000 in the Navajo series. She owns and operates a 1969 C model Twinkie affectionately known as Maggie. She is a recognized authority on Piper Comanche aircraft. Currently she is serving as Director of Operations for a commuter airline in Southeastern Alaska. Send questions or comments to

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Revisiting the Twin Comanche: A Flight review of the PA-30

Revisiting the Twin Comanche: A Flight review of the PA-30

After a 30-year gap, the author gets a chance to fly another Twin Comanche and realizes he rather likes it.

Its name rather gives the game away with this iconic light twin. The Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche design started with the single PA-24 Comanche, a laminar-winged rocket which itself was a breakaway from the sturdy but slow aircraft that Piper was famous for at the time such as the Cub, the Cherokee and the Apache. 

Beech had taken the GA world by storm with the Beech Bonanza, and Piper had to up its game—literally. In order to keep up, along came the PA-24 in 1958. But when the Bonanza begat the Twin Beech and subsequently the Baron, the idea of giving the PA-24 to Ed Swearingen to re-engineer as a twin was a truly inspired one. 

The result was an aircraft which could fly faster than the much later Piper Seminole on less horsepower and yet lift more. And despite losing some effective wingspan due to its twin-engine installation, the Twin Com has only 9½ inches more span than the single.

The Twin Com first flew in 1963. It was and is a fantastic little aircraft able to fly at 160 knots below 10,000 feet, burning just 9 U.S. gallons a side on a combined total of 320 hp. Turbo Twin Comanches are particularly fast at altitude, typically cruising at 195 knots or 225 mph at 20,000 feet. With speed mods to the wings, fillets (i.e., fairings) and engine nacelles, this figure climbs—speeds of 200 knots-plus on Twin Comanches are easily doable. 

Despite their success, Piper was out of its comfort zone with the Comanches, and when a flood destroyed the Lock Haven factory in 1972, the company possibly used the excuse to stop production when only just over 2,000 Twin Coms had been built. The counter-rotating PA-39 was just getting started, with not even 200 leaving the production line. 

After the recession in the 1980s/1990s, Piper looked at its existing stable of twins and considered restarting twin production. But it was reckoned that the labor-intensive construction of the Twin Com would result in a cost of at least $1 million per aircraft in build cost alone. The much cheaper but less capable Seminole was brought back into production as a result. 

Nowadays PA-30s and particularly the small handful of PA-39s are cherished aircraft with a keen following and strong owners groups who make a point of using the types’ long legs to arrange fly-ins all over the world. 

 

A bit of a handful

My first experience of the Twin Com was when I did my twin rating in 1985. At the time, both the aircraft which I hired (G-AVVI and G-AXRO for the spotters) were in commercial use as charter aircraft at London Southend Airport (EGMC). 

I remembered finding the performance a big leap from the Piper singles that I had flown in. I listened intently to the stories I was told of the infamous laminar wing, how the aircraft could fall from the sky if you flew it too slowly or by the seat of your pants without paying attention to the airspeed indicator. 

In aerodynamic terms, up until development of the Twin Comanche, Piper had been very much a one-trick pony, using the old Cub airfoil on its subsequent faster aircraft. These high-lift wings convert airspeed to lift much more readily than with laminar designs. If you’ve ever wondered why a laminar-winged aircraft cuts through the gusts while the average high-lift-winged Piper will have your head impacting the roof, now you know.

The one big disadvantage with a laminar wing is that its stall is usually much more dramatic than with a traditional airfoil such as a Clark Y. I found this out flying into Le Touquet (LFAT) in northern France not long after getting my twin rating. I was coming into land on the now-disused southwest runway and had reduced my speed to minimum approach of around 80 mph—well below the single-engine safety speed of 105 mph—because I had already committed to land and the runway was short. 

As I flared to land, I encountered negative wind shear and the aircraft felt as if it literally fell out of the sky. I managed to firewall the throttles to cushion the impact—but the landing was hard enough that once I had taxied clear, I stopped and got out of the aircraft to examine the main gear to make sure there wasn’t any obvious damage before continuing. 

I got away with no damage, but the incident left me shaken.

With the above experience still in my data bank after all these years, I was intrigued to reacquaint myself with the Twin Com. I’m in my 50s now, so not as sharp as I was, but I’m experienced on swept-wing jets and various laminar-winged high performance aircraft, so I was expecting to not be unpleasantly surprised by the Twin Com. 

Then again—you never know, do you? 

  
  

An introduction to N25PR

Owner Mark Hadley showed me around his immaculate 1967 Twin Com Turbo B at North Weald Airfield (EGSX), complete with its beautiful and original blue-and-white paint scheme. You can tell it’s a B because of the extra side windows and the facility for an extra row of seats. 

The first thing that strikes me is its size—so much smaller than the beefy Apache and Aztec, and smaller still than the Seminole trainer that came later. 

A Twin Com has 40 less horsepower and 200 pounds less MTOW than a Seminole, but it can propel a similar load considerably faster. No surprise then that it is at least 20 percent better in every way than the old Apache that it replaced.

Climbing inside a Twin Com is the aviation equivalent of entering Doctor Who’s time machine, TARDIS; the toy-like airplane reveals itself to have a quite large cabin. 

It’s a serious machine in every way. Controls, levers and dials are in abundance, sprouting from the deep instrument panel. The windscreen almost seems like an afterthought, and the effect is akin to looking out of a letter box—until you get the seat position just right so that your eye height is halfway between bottom and top of the screen. 

The next thing I notice are the engines projecting out much farther forward than with many other light twins, so that you sit well behind the props. I’d imagine a World War II de Havilland Mosquito must feel a tiny bit like this. 

Once strapped in, the area around the front seats is actually quite roomy. At 44 inches across the cabin, it is 2 inches wider than a Baron, and even the rear seats can be occupied by two adults. 

Between the seats—a space wide enough for a traditional flight case—there are panels which lift or detach to expose emergency landing gear lowering apparatus, the fuel tank selectors and an archaic fuel draining setup, which I remember didn’t work very well. What you have to do is raise the panel and then pull each drain knob in turn and observe fuel flowing through a clear plastic pipe to see if any water appears. 

In reality, the pipes are usually covered in dust and grime and they also have an annoying habit of working their way inside the bottom of the fuselage which means the drained fuel exits inside the aircraft before finding its way through some or other gap and outside. Probably not a good idea to avail yourself of the cigarette ashtrays in the cabin. 

The most obviously unusual feature of this cabin, though, is at the bottom of the throttle quadrant: there project two overly large turbo controllers—verniers, like the throttle/prop controls from a Cessna—which are used to bring the turbos online at altitude; and, more importantly, which are used to wind them offline during a descent. If you don’t, you will overboost the engines. 

Out there on the wingtips are the optional 15 U.S. gallon tiptanks, which up the total fuel capacity to 120 U.S. gallons and, because of the cantilever effect of weight distribution, also increase MTOW by 125 pounds to 3,725 pounds. One-hundred and twenty gallons divided by 18 gph equals 6.6 hours, providing a 1,100 nm range on 320 hp! And for the turbo version it’s 1,300 nm-plus! As I said, a serious machine in every way. 

  

Two versus one

The starter, mags, fuel pumps and generators are a line of toggle switches at the base of the instrument panel. Engine starting is classic fuel-injected Lycoming: crack the throttles open, hit the fuel pumps until you see an indication of fuel pressure, pull the mixtures to lean, make sure the generators are switched off, crank each engine in turn after switching the mags on; and, as it fires into life, bring the mixture levers up to full rich. After startup, check oil pressure rising and bring the generators online. 

Very straightforward it may be, but there is always a sense of occasion starting up a twin—I remember thinking as a twentysomething that I had finally arrived when I soloed one of these aircraft, and that same rush is still with me more than 30 years later. 

I release the brakes with the chrome locking T-handle in the panel under the control column and allow the Twin Com to roll forward under idle power before checking the toe brakes. There is quite a bit of weight on the nosewheel due to those projecting engines, but the steering is actually light and progressive. 

A little care has to be taken about the geometry of the toe brakes—they are too upright for my taste; because of a running injury, my right foot can’t go less than about 70 degrees to my lower leg, and you can easily taxi with the brakes deployed inadvertently. I slide my feet down a little to stop myself. We are a long way under our MTOW, so the aircraft feels sprightly. 

The engine runup and pre-takeoff are quite involved and I opt to use my old commercial pilot checklist from the 1980s, which has been typed out and photocopied to death. But if it was good enough for the commercial pilots of the time, then it’s good enough for me. 

I advance the throttles fully forward and the aircraft accelerates well. The previously heavy elevator comes alive in the prop wash and I hold the column neutral as we gather speed. 

At 70 knots (80.5 mph) I raise the nose and the aircraft unsticks abruptly. I apply the toe brakes and then raise the gear with the tiny selector to the left of the panel. Gear retraction is normal. 

The airspeed indicator is pegged at 1,500 fpm before I bring the throttles and props back to 25/25 then sync the props by pulling one prop lever back and forth to locate which way slows down the “wah wah wah” noise; then keep going until the noise stops completely. From the ground the Twin Com sounds quite noisy because of its unusual exhaust pipes, but in the cockpit there isn’t as much noise as in a comparable single. 

As we break out of the circuit and head for the Essex coast I start to get a feel for the aircraft again after my 30-plus year gap. It feels like a larger aircraft than it is. The elevator is firm but correct for this type of airplane, roll control is lively and with high hysteresis in roll—or roll inertia—due to the wing-mounted engines. If you come from high-wing singles, this will take some getting used to, and you will find yourself seesawing in roll until you settle down. 

The Twin Com is actually lovely to hand-fly and I didn’t use the autopilot at all during our hourlong flight. Formation flying with the camera ship was pretty straightforward, although it was easy to get unsighted during the breakaway maneuvers due to all the hardware obscuring the view. 

The turbo controllers are used as follows: when the desired manifold pressure can no longer be obtained by advancing the throttles in a climb, you turn to the verniers and start winding them in until manifold pressure is restored. By 20,000 feet they will be all the way in and you will be flying at 195 knots (225 mph) or better. 

In the descent, the opposite is the best way to proceed—rather than abruptly disengaging the turbos, just leave the throttles fully forward and progressively wind the turbo verniers out until they are all the way back, then slowly retard the throttles. Yes, it requires a bit of work, but then this is a 50-year-old airplane.

  

One out

Next, we try flying on a single engine. I get owner Mark to feather our left engine as I keep control of the aircraft and allow the camera ship to fly alongside. 

The rudder is powerful and I can easily hold the out-of-trim forces with one engine shut down, although the use of rudder trim and a little bit of aileron trim means I can actually fly hands-off. Why aileron trim? Because a wing without the benefit of prop wash creates less lift—even a laminar one. 

Slow-speed flying is also predictable, as is the abrupt g break you get clean or dirty. Add power and the g break is accompanied by a wing drop of as much as 45 degrees. To stop it, just unload the wing with a shove of forward column and that’s that. All laminar wing aircraft that I have flown are the same as this.

 

Approach and landing

Back on the approach the Twin Comanche behaves itself, just so long as you remember to adhere to the correct speeds. I am having no problems going down, slowing down, and fitting into slower circuit traffic at North Weald. 

The aircraft is not particularly trim-sensitive, and the old fashioned, roof-mounted trim wheel feels instinctive as I progressively wind it backward for nose-up trim as we slow down, and then introduce progressive flap, then gear down (no trim change). 

I fly finals at 105 mph, remembering the old blue line safety speed from my training many years ago; then back to 90, then 80 as I cross the fence. Throttles closed at the same time as, but not before (laminar wing, remember) a small flare and we land on the main wheels in a flat attitude, quickly followed by the nosewheel. 

Some owners pump the main wheel oleos to the full extension to avoid this, but then the ride suffers on the ground. Running down along the hard at North Weald feels the same as the ride you get in a 1950s British sports car.


How much?

I looked at the U.S. market for used aircraft and PA-30s were all in the $45,000 to $120,000 price bracket. That’s pretty wide, but it reflects the cost of replacing two engines and two propellers in addition to the usual variations in condition and equipment. 

I couldn’t find a single PA-39 for sale—and that’s Situation Normal considering how few were made. 

A large (6-foot, 4-inch and 252-pound) friend of mine has been looking for a twin for some time to commute 600 nm at a go, and was looking at Barons and Cessna 310s, which have twice the burning/running costs of a Twin Com. He thought the PA-30 too small—but I think he might well change his mind when I arrange for a flight in one in the next few weeks.

A bit of a handful? Not at all; just don’t get slow.

Bob Davy is s commercial pilot and aviation journalist from London, England. He spends most of his time flying around Europe in Avro RJs for airlines and private clients. He has 15,000 flying hours in nearly 300 different fixed-wing aircraft. Davy knows he is lucky because he regularly flies three of his five favorite aircraft: the P-51, the Nanchang CJ-6 and the Pitts Special. (His other two favorites are the Hawk and Spitfire). Davy has been published all over the world. In addition to writing hundreds of flight tests, he has also written a novel, “In Case of War Break Glass,” which takes place in World War II and is loosely based on the life of Robin Olds. The sequel is underway. Send questions or comments to . 

Photographs by Keith Wilson

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Apache: Piper’s First Indian

March 2005-

In the years immediately after World War II, General Aviation was growing—but not very predictably. Manufacturers were constantly going from feast to famine, and several old, venerable airplane companies had gone broke when they found they couldn't survive the market fluctuations.
There was one emerging market, however, in which a few of the more far-seeing planemakers were interested—Business Aviation—bigger, faster, more sophisticated (and profitable) equipment that was flown for commerce instead of for enjoyment.

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A total renovation of the PA-31

In 1967, Piper Aircraft began marketing a six- to eight-seat cabin-class twin known as the PA-31 Navajo. Several variants were produced, including a T1000 series aimed at the commuter airline marketplace.
Production of the Navajo ended in 1984 with 3,942 built. Piper had—and still has—the Seneca and Seminole light twins in the lineup, but its cabin-class aircraft offerings thereafter have been limited to single engine models.

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Piper Flyer’s Guide to the PA-23 Apache- Part I: History and Maintenance

Piper Flyer’s Guide to the PA-23 Apache- Part I: History and Maintenance

April 2014- The PA-23 Apache was Piper’s first twin engine aircraft. In 1952 Piper began construction and testing of a prototype, but the original design—with 125 hp engines, a twin tail arrangement and fabric covering—was unsuccessful.

The aircraft was tweaked and the new design included 150 hp Lycoming engines, retractable landing gear, constant speed full feathering Hartzell propellers, all metal construction and a more conventional single tail.

Now called the Apache, the 150 hp prototype flew in 1953. The design received its FAA type certificate on Jan. 29, 1954. There were 2,047 Apaches and 4,930 Aztec models produced from 1954 to 1982, including a few U.S. Navy models.

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The PA-31 and Its Kinfolk

November 2005- In October of 1958, Piper proposed a twin-engine version of the successful Comanche single. This was not the PA-30 Twin Comanche, planning of which had begun two years earlier but development and production of which would be several years hence (thus the skip in numeric order).

Piper initially planned for the model to be developed in California by Bill Lear, and would furnish a PA-24 Comanche airframe and two 200 hp IO-360 engines. Whether this actually ever happened is not recorded, but in 1962 the PA-30 project was given to San Antonio designer Ed Swearingen.

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Flying the PA-31

November 2005- Our charter company operated a 1970 model PA-31-310 Navajo for several years. We purchased it out in California, took the insurance-required flight training and flew it home to Florida, making a stop in Vegas for the night, and another at the Grand Canyon, just to sightsee.

After the 15-hour ride home we thought we knew her pretty well. Six months later we had put about 75 hours on the old girl and had grown to know her even better.

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Piper Seneca III-V

July 2005- One time-tested way to create a light twin is to take a single, remove the engine, and replace it with two engines on the wings. Sometimes the engines are smaller than those on the single—as in Piper’s Twin Comanche. Sometimes the engines are as powerful as that on the single—as in the Beech Baron.

Piper took the first approach with the PA-34 Seneca: it’s basically a Saratoga airframe with the 300 hp single engine replaced by two 200 (later 220) hp wing engines. The result is one of the longest-running twins in General Aviation.

The original Seneca was introduced in 1972, and you can still buy a brand-new Seneca V from Piper today. The original PA-34-200 Seneca had some problems, notably a low single-engine service ceiling.

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