Used Aircraft Guide
March 2009 Issue
Used Aircraft Guide: Cherokee 235/Dakota
Piper’s answer to the Skylane remains popular because it does so many things well.
When Fred Weick and John Thorp set out to design a less expensive alternative to Piper’s Comanche, it’s unlikely they thought the resulting PA-28 series would become so popular, so durable or so varied. Since introducing the Cherokee 150 and Cherokee 160 (PA-28-150 and PA-28-160, respectively), in 1961, Piper has stretched, T-tailed, turbocharged and reproduced that basic airframe tens of thousands of times. Its original "Hershey-bar" wings eventually gave way to a longer, semi-tapered design, the landing gear has been folded and many different powerplants have been fitted. While much has changed, the design’s basic utility, systems, handling and reliability have remained. Three models remain in production—four, if you count the twin-engine PA-44-180 Seminole—almost 50 years later. While PA-28 Cherokees came in many flavors, the most powerful of them—the Dakota—isn’t the fastest but is perhaps the most flexible. It and earlier 235-HP Cherokees take advantage of the market’s affinity toward muscular four-place singles, a natural attraction proven popular enough to support two significant entries for many years: the Cessna 182 Skylane and Piper PA-28-235/236. The 182 came first and outlasted the 235/236: By any measure, it’s been a success. Like the Piper, it features a good combination of utility, roominess and performance. Piper’s version, however, never matched the 182’s popularity, even though it combines the Skylane’s chief attributes: decent performance, simplicity, and common, proven components. If your needs include a big dose of horsepower pulling a simple airframe, the most powerful PA-28 Cherokee is a very solid candidate.
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