Aircraft Review

April 2009 Issue

Used Aircraft Guide: Piper Comanche

Piperís first all-metal single holds its own almost 40 years after production ceased, with legions of dedicated owners, maintainers and modifiers.

Aviation history is littered with "what-if" questions. What if Fred Noonan had been a better navigator? What if the Hindenberg hadnít approached Lakehurst, New Jersey, with a thunderstorm nearby? What if the Susquehanna River hadnít flooded Piperís Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, factory in 1972ówould the venerable Comanche still be a leading light in Piperís line-up? Despite its relatively high parts count and labor requirements compared to, say, the Cherokee Arrow, there are many good reasons to think so. First hitting the market in 1958, the PA-24 Comanche was a radical departure for Piperóuntil then, the company had built mostly rag-and-tube taildraggers. Instead, the Comanche was a thoroughly modern design focused on speed and good looks, and targeting the high-performance piston-single market being tapped by the Beech Bonanza and Cessna 210, among others. Piperís sleek, roomy all-metal design featured an oval-section fuselage, tapered laminar-flow wing and sharp-edged styling. The looks still turn heads today and a South African company is even building an all-composite look-alike for the kit-built crowd, the Ravin. More important for the discriminating used aircraft buyer, the Comanche lends itself to upgrading, and owners who bring the airplane up to the state-of-the-art tend to hang onto them forever.

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