PA-28 Warrior

An affordable, easy-to-fly airplane that bridges the gap between pure trainer and entry level cruiser.

You have to hand it to Piper: over the years, the company has learned how to take a good thing and remake it into more models and variants than the average buyer can keep track of. Were thinking here of the ubiquitous Cherokee, a line with roots back into the early 1960s that lives on yet today.The Warrior stands about midway in the lineage of the Cherokee, which remains one of Pipers best sellers. Like the Cessna 172, the basic 150-HP four-place, fixed-gear single is as close to an everyman airplane as you can get.

Its a step above the two-place trainer with an airframe large and capable enough to be practical for transportation and fun flying but not so capable as to be a family airplane. Warriors wont haul a lot but theyll enough. Theyre not fast but theyre fast enough and owners report them eminently affordable to own, thanks to relatively trouble-free Lycoming engines.

The Cessna Skyhawk has and still owns this market overall and the prices of used airplanes reflect that dominance. Indeed, when we prepared this Used Aircraft Guide in the spring of 2003, we noted that Warrior prices have diminished some 11 percent over the past two years while two its competitors, the Skyhawk and Tiger, have experienced less depreciation. Message: Warriors are a good buy, pricewise, and likely to remain that way for awhile.

Always There
Although the Tiger dropped out of production-a couple of times-and so the Skyhawk, the Warrior never did, except when Piper went into bankruptcy for several years. None were delivered in 1991, but a few trickled out about every other year in recent history, a testament to Pipers determination to stay in the market, come what may.

The post-bankruptcy New Piper is still building Warriors, selling at a basic 2003 price of $166,000. It sells only a handful a year.

The Warriors history is a long and interesting one. As general aviation was entering the heyday of the 1970s, Pipers line was beginning to look a little dated. The basic PA-28 had come out in 1962 as the Cherokee 140 and hadnt changed much in the intervening years.

Piper singles all had the characteristic, fat Hershey bar wing and the company was about to lower the boom on the sleek Comanche, which sold only moderately we’ll as a high-performance retractable. Piper needed something to square off against the Skyhawk, which it really didnt have in the 140.

The 140 was more cramped, being more of a 2-plus-2 airplane than a true four-place and it didnt perform as we’ll as the Skyhawk.

The first Warrior was introduced in 1974, with a 150-HP Lycoming O-320-E3D engine. It didnt replace the Cherokee 140, although the 140 did succumb to poor sales after the 1977 model year. In keeping with Pipers standard method of building many variants of a single design rather than developing an all-new airframe, the Warrior was essentially the same as all other PA-28s.

In fact, the FAA treats all of them as one type when it comes time for the census; everything from the Cherokee 140 to the Turbo Arrow IV fall into the same bin.

But the Warrior really was different and anyone stepping out of a modest little 140 would notice the changes. The Warrior had a new, longer semi-tapered wing with a higher aspect ratio.

This wing helped the handling somewhat, with lighter roll control forces and it also boosted the climb rate. It made the model more sleek, which the marketing department surely liked and took advantage of.

Interestingly, the new wing represented a deviation from the production efficiencies originally touted as a virtue of the constant-chord wing. After all, what could be simpler to build? The old Hershey bar wing wasnt perfect but it kept production prices down and had only one bad habit: on a slow approach, it would sink like stone if you let it.

The new wing design first appeared on the Warrior, but eventually found its way into all of the PA-28 series as we’ll as onto the PA-32 Cherokee Six/Saratoga, one of New Pipers best sellers today. The most significant upgrade to the Warrior occurred in 1977 with a 10-HP boost in engine output.

Whether in response or just by happenstance, Cessna gussied up the Skyhawk with a new engine that same year but Cessnas 160-HP powerplant turned out to be the notorious O-320-H model that gave owners fits with valve train problems. It took years for Lycoming and Cessna to live down that blunder.

So the Warrior had a golden opportunity to leave the competition in the dust or, at the least, to catch up. It didnt happen. Cessna retained its grip on the market before its hiatus in 1986.

A couple of other evolutionary changes occurred in 1978, when Warriors received more streamlined wheel fairings and in 1983, when the battery was removed from under the rear seat and placed in front of the firewall. That was seen as a safety improvement since an in-cabin battery is a fire risk.

The new fairings yielded some seven knots in cruise speed according to the book, while the battery change shortened the run to the starter and helped combat starting problems. These had been further overcome, according to users, by swapping copper for aluminum cables.

The Warriors gross weight and useful load was hiked by 115 pounds and the CG extended aft to allow more of a load in the baggage compartment. (The boost is available via STC for older Warriors.) An attempt to create some interest in a moribund new airplane market was made in 1988, when Piper released a version of the Warrior targeted at flight schools called the Cadet.

Basically a stripped version lacking creature comforts, it was available in VFR and IFR versions. The experiment continued through the 1994 model year. Another spruce-up resulted in the New Piper Warrior III in 1995, which is essentially the model still sold today. Original, 1974 models fetch about $36,000 in 2003, while Cadets go for $41,000.

The 10-HP boost in power raised the 75-percent cruise speed from 116 knots to 121 knots. And the new speed fairings nudged that up to 127 knots-not exactly blinding but still in the class of the Skyhawk, while a bit slower than the Cheetah.

Owners report real-world performance is somewhat less than the book figures. One big gripe by owners of the 150-HP model, especially, is the miserable rate of climb. Climb performance is lackluster, wrote one. On an 80-degree day with full fuel and two aboard, expect 400-500 FPM from sea level. Wrote another: If I ever sell the Warrior, it will be to get an airplane that climbs much better, and is a little faster. For what its worth, the Cheetah shares this performance shortcoming, in spades.

One of the nice features of the Warriors is a generous 50-gallon fuel load, with 48 gallons usable. Burning 7.5 to 10 GPH at cruise, these birds yield a fairly good range with four to six hours of flying. Not bad for an inexpensive ride. One pilot said he flight-planned for 4.45 hours with a 45-minute reserve. In no wind conditions, thats nearly 500 miles.

While respondents in the past have rated comfort as average, the current consensus is that its quite good. Later Pipers benefit from having some of the best seats in general aviation, from both a comfort and crashworthiness standpoint.

These seats are designed with an S-tube frame similar to the legendary JAARS seat, which progressively deforms during impact and absorbs energy. For greater pilot comfort, there’s an optional vertical seat adjustment, which some say is great, but others say is prone to malfunctioning.

The fuel selector is located out of sight alongside the pilots left knee. The need to switch tanks left and right results in more fuel mismanagement errors than with the both tanks system on the high-wing Cessnas, judging from the accident reports. Naturally, its also easy to develop an imbalance unless the pilot remembers to switch regularly and there’s no aileron trim for the airplane.

This makes at least a wing-leveler autopilot a nice option, in our view, although not many of the early models had this. New airplanes can be equipped with an S-TEC autopilot set-up.

The Warriors parking brake is a robust handle sticking out from the bottom of the panel. Its simple and strong and it works. The same goes for the flap system. Its manual, positive, blessedly simple and it just doesnt break. It need a little lube and some bushings once in awhile but, in our view, Piper deserves kudos for never succumbing to electric flaps, even in the larger and heavier Saratoga.

Like most low-wing aircraft, however, entry and exit is awkward. The Warrior has only one door, so three of the four occupants have to do some contortions to get in place.

Emergency egress is problematical, since the rear windows cannot be opened in an emergency, as can those of the Bonanza. Even the Cessna Skyhawks windows can be opened and bashed out for exit.

The baggage door is fairly large but somewhat prone to water leakage when the gasket gets old.

Naturally, with a full load of 50 gallons, the Warrior wont carry four adults, but some owners report doing so with fuel only up to the tabs (34 gallons) and accepting the reduced range.

Of course, post-1982 Warriors have the biggest useful load margin, with 1099 pounds maximum gross weight. The baggage compartment will take a full 200 pounds structurally-the same as the bigger Cherokees and more than the Skyhawk and the Cheetah.

Owners say nice things about cabin ventilation, thanks to an abundance of outlets, both overhead and underneath. Unfortunately, there were complaints that in winter the overhead vents were too much of a good thing and could not be completely shut off, giving passengers the chills.

One pilot solved this problem by simply taping up the exterior air inlet on the tail in the winter. Speaking of winter, the heater is decent but vents from the floor, making the floor center section quite hot.

One owner complained that its hard to regulate heat: its either full on or full off. Rear-seat passengers sometimes want more heat, warned one owner, but if you turn it up too much, the floor vent by the pilots right foot gets hot enough to melt your sneakers.

A few owners had the air conditioners that were available as options on the Cherokee line, but complained that the cool air yield in summer was not worth the sacrifice in payload and performance, which is considerable.

Flight Handling
The Warrior shares with the other Cherokees a gentle nature, pleasant handling and such a reluctance to stall aggressively that some pilots rate it a poor teacher. Several respondents said that with both rudder and stabilator trim, the airplane does not need an autopilot. That may be true for short cross-country work, but for long trips, we think everything needs an autopilot.

Wed rate runway handling as decent, despite the large number of accidents on both takeoff and landing-especially landing-weve uncovered in past checks of FAA /NTSB accident and incident reports.

It appears most of these stem from student indiscretions. Pilots report that they like the way the aircraft handles in a crosswind landing and feel more secure taxiing in windy conditions with the wide gear stance, as opposed to operating in the high-wing Cessnas.

Comparing the Warrior with its competition is an interesting exercise. The Cessna Skyhawk has by far the best overall safety record. In a cross-country race, the Cheetah would be likely to barely edge out the big-engined Warrior with the fancy pants and leave the Cessna and the older Warriors in its propwash. And while the Cheetah has the most pleasant, facile handling, in our book, the flaps are definitely inferior for getting into short fields. The Cessna gets our nod for getting in and out of little runways.

Maintenance, ADs
As might be expected, maintaining a Warrior is neither difficult nor expensive, which is largely as Piper intended. Like the Cessna 172 and others of its ilk, its a simple, unsophisticated airframe.

As most airplanes go, the Warrior isn’t bad for ADs. In fact, its far better than average, in our view. We found nine current ADs on the airplane, nothing major. Some, such as 99-26-05 and 96-10-03 are shotgun directives that apply to parts rather than specific airplanes.

The former requires replacement of an air filter, the latter attention to flap operating bushings and cables. AD 96-26-13 requires inspection and replacement of oil cooler hoses. An older AD, 81-23-05 requires checking the under-the-seat battery box for shorting caused by the seat springs. This was the source of at least one fire, as mentioned earlier.

We checked several years worth of recent service difficult reports and found a few patterns, none particularly alarming. Some relate to the airframes age while others are obviously due to its role as a trainer.

We found a handful of magneto failures, mostly cracked rotors or damaged shafts due to bearing failures. We also noticed a rash of cylinder cracking around sparkplug holes. Although this is a common site for cracking, our previous research into SDRs didnt turn up the problem.

One mechanic reported that he found broken bolts in the gear-to-wing spar cab, both on the top and bottom. Further, the bolt holes were elongated. Again, this problem was found on a training aircraft that had seen hard and potentially abusive use.

Further related to aging aircraft, a couple of SDRs reported cracks in skins due to severe exfoliation corrosion. This, of course, argues for routine use of corrosion prevention treatments. One SDR reported the loss of an aircraft when the rubber in an Adel clamp could no longer secure the throttle cable housing. This caused the engine to be limited to 1500 RPM and, as a result, the Warrior was ditched in Lake Michigan, with no injuries.

In previous SDR reviews, weve noted quite a few magneto failures and the usual issues of sticking valves in Lycoming engines. Potential buyers should check to see if there’s roughness following engine start, since according to Lycoming, thats one sign the exhaust valves are beginning to stick. (The roughness usually clears after the engine warms up, incidentally.)

There were also several reports of broken rocker arms. Lycoming SB 477 calls for inspection and rework of P/N LW-18790 rocker arm assembly. It pays to make sure this critical item has been taken care of. Several Piper PA-28 Warrior submitters said they felt better quality control is needed in the manufacture of this part and, given the crankshaft recall of 2002/2003, better quality control in general.

One thing we didnt see were reports in spinner bulkhead cracks, a common Warrior bugaboo in the past. We believe that many of these bulkheads have been replaced with better parts and cracking, although still occurring, seems less prevalent.

One last point: Slow starting due to aluminum battery cables used to be a recurring theme but by now, most of these cables have been-or should have been-replaced. The long cable run from the battery under the rear seat to the engine obviously added to the problem.

But in 1983, as we noted, Piper relocated the battery to the engine compartment. Poor starting isn’t the only possible disadvantage of aluminum cables. In 1986, Piper issued a service bulletin (836A) noting field reports that corrosion between the aluminum terminal and aluminum wire at the battery positive post had caused overheating of the wire due to high electrical resistance. The possible result: an electrical fire.

Although we noted no SDRs on landing lights, some owners complained to us of frequent outages of the nose-mounted landing light, presumably as a result of vibration. For what its worth, this problem occurs quite commonly in other types of aircraft.

Mods, Support
An interesting mod for the Warrior is a set of vortex generators from AM R&D (815-338-7347). We have no direct information on the effectiveness of these, but all weve heard and observed about VGs to date indicates that they work as advertised and may be a worthwhile investment for the lowered stall speed and improved slow speed handling.

Other mods include the usual speed mods from LoPresti Speed Merchants (800-859-4757) and Met-Co-Aire (714-521-0871) and gap seals from AM R&D. Sierra Industries also makes a STOL kit for the airplane and Precise Flight makes a set of speed brakes, although why you would need these on a Warrior is beyond us. Sierra can be reached at 830-278-4481 while Precise Flight is at 1-800-547-2558.

For more information on mods and for a well-regarded owner group, contact the Piper Owner Society at 866-697-4737.

Owner Comments
I bought a 1974 PA28-151 Warrior a year and a half after getting my private pilots certificate and being frustrated with renting Skyhawks and Warriors. I felt the Warrior was a little better value than the 172. It is also a little easier to fly. Its easier to grease a landing and very difficult to stall or start to spin.

I was a weekend flyer renting about 50 hours a year and expected that I might fly as much as 100 hours a year if I had the availability that comes with ownership. I used the Warrior for my instrument training and soon found my mission changed, as I use the airplane to commute 200 miles each way to my once-a-week trip New York.

Now, I am flying mostly during the week and doing better than 250 hours per year, with my job subsidizing most of the costs. Owning an airplane has changed the way I fly-something that anybody who is thinking about transitioning from renting to owning individually or in a partnership should think about.

The Warrior has proven to be a steadfast means of transportation. It carries my wife and two kids, with 40 pounds of baggage. But I will either have to stop feeding the kids, carry less fuel or get another airplane pretty soon. We have gone on several great family trips. Some, like a day trip to the beach on Marthas Vineyard, would be impossible by car.

I plan for 105 knots and never do legs more than 3.5 hours, although at 7.5 GPH, the airplane can go for five hours with IFR reserves.

The Warriors sedate speed makes long trips with headwinds tedious and requires some thoughtful fuel planning. We flew to Chicago in 10 hours (two stops) and returned in six (one stop). It pops right off the runway at 1100 FPM when I am alone in the wintertime, but at gross in the summer it lumbers off and is slow to start climbing at 400 FPM.

I wont go into a field less than 2400 feet and make sure I stay below gross in the summer. This is not a airplane for high density altitude airports with full loads.

Ive had no big maintenance or operational issues, but several small ones. I replaced two cylinders and the mags on the 1200 hour engine at purchase. Since then, an annoying unevenness in the mag drop has cropped up.

Once I lost power at takeoff, aborted, ran it up uneventfully and then had no problem. I now carefully check carb heat after a long taxi or wait for clearance and make sure to do the run-up the last thing before takeoff. The engine now has 1600 hours and Im looking at overhaul options within a year or two.

It starts easy and the Tanis heater makes wintertime operations feasible in the northeast. Id like to upgrade to 160 HP, but Im also thinking that it might be nice to get the STC for mogas, which only applies to the 150-HP version. In the year or two that I hope to get out of my engine, the diesel alternative might be better field tested, too.

The avionics are original vintage and make me uneasy flying in instrument conditions. I had my 28-year-old transponder die, a nav head drift off, a Bendix/King 170B radio lose volume control and now my heading indicator is starting to precess excessively. Id like a major avionics upgrade but thats not in the budget.

Creature comforts are spartan in the Warrior. The interior was redone by Airtex in 1998 and looks good. I would like a little more room and I wish Piper had designed two doors. Speaking of doors, the door leaked so badly that I carried a towel for the passenger. A new seal has helped but the upper latch still requires frequent adjustment.

The heating is pretty awful, too, in my view. Its either melting our shoes in front or freezing. Air vents work we’ll front and back, and a Kool-Scoop in the pilots window really brings in the air during warm weather ground operations. There is virtually no heat in the back and the kids bundle in sleeping bags and hats in the wintertime.

Considering that I am using a trainer as a family and business traveling machine, I think I am getting great value. I figure $50 per hour plus fuel. That includes $20 per hours for the engine reserve because I bought a relatively high-time engine. Insurance is $1100, and tiedown is only $35 a month.

I think the Warrior is really a great value. It may not be exciting compared to many other airplanes, but that extra excitement for a Mooney or comparable high performance plane goes for a $100,000-plus premium over my Warrior and any airplane is more exciting than no airplane.

-Bob Singer
Glens Falls, New York

In 1993, I purchased a 1982 PA-28-161 that I had been renting for six months. It had 1600 hours on the engine and 5000 on the airframe. It was in good condition and had never let me down. I can honestly say that its the best investment I ever made.

Like many pilots, I did my training in a Cessna 152. Shortly after getting my ticket, I upgraded to the Warrior and never looked back. The low wing offers better in-flight visibility, nicer landings and a more comfortable interior. She currently climbs fully loaded in Florida at 650 FPM and cruises at 2900 feet at 109 knots all day long, burning 8 GPH. At higher altitudes the speed climbs to 113 knots and the fuel usage drops to 7.8 GPH. Sadly, this doesnt meet book figures, but its fast enough to pay the premium over driving.

The airplane has both rudder and stabilator trim, eliminating the need for an autopilot. Above the clouds, trimmed both ways, all she requires is a little left pedal and an occasional tweak as the fuel burns off.

The cost of owning a Warrior, although a tad more than the previous owner led me to believe, has been rather reasonable, all things considered. My overhauled engine, purchased from Colonial Aviation in Tampa and installed by Marathon Aviation in Kissimmee, was less than $7000.

Ive had virtually no problems with the engine. I was lucky and had the right mags and the right oil pump to avoid the more expensive ADs. If I had to find fault with the airplane, since purchasing it, Ive replaced most of the original instruments that have worn out at one point or another. Im disappointed that they didnt hold up a while longer, but through replacement, Ive gotten to know my airplane a little better and feel secure flying it.

Most of the maintenance is easily performed, including the routine items: oil changes, tires, brakes and plug cleaning. Recently, I totaled up all my costs, pro-rated my recent paint job and engine overhaul and calculated that my operating costs have been $38 per hour, including all repairs, insurance mortgage and regular maintenance. Throw in $16 per hour for fuel and oil and Ive got a sweet four-seater sky-high cab at only $54 per hour.

Despite several years spent tied down outside in Florida, its remained surprisingly free of corrosion. My last three annuals have produced minimal squawks, mostly little things that keep me learning more about the airplane than I really want to know. Ive invested $17,000 including paint and overhaul since purchase.

This means it cost me $1000 a year for the privilege of owning my own airplane and having unlimited access to the freedom of flying. And as a bonus, Ive had the extra reward of learning the mechanics of what keeps an airplane in the air and how much it costs! I would recommend the Warrior to anyone who wants a real four-seater whose fuel tank will usually outlast the smallest bladder on board.

-Mark Riordan
Sanford, Florida

I own a 1980 Warrior II, purchased in 1991 with 1100 hours total time. The airplane was immaculately kept before I bought it, never a trainer, and all SBs done. I just reached 2000 hours, at which time I installed a factory remanufactured engine.

It is pristine, with a ton of avionics and options. Because I fly jets for a living, what I really wanted was something fast, like a Bonanza. Im not sorry I chose the Warrior. It is so easy and honest to fly-no bad habits. If people would stop and think a bit and buy something a bit slower and simpler, then they could afford a lot more flying without giving up a modern airplane with good systems. The Warrior has much to recommend it:

Reliable engine thats inexpensive to overhaul and keep up.

The engine is accessible through a quick-open hinged cowling for thorough preflights and lower maintenance costs.

Mechanics everywhere know the airplane.

Parts are available everywhere, and the airplane is still being made.

For the money, it has about the most modern panel and shortest AD list you can find.

It has manual flaps-nothing to fail or buy.

It has the lowest interior sound level of anything for the money.

Modern tapered wing, pleasant to fly and relatively efficient, especially at altitude.

Stable IFR platform. An autopilot is not necessary to stay ahead of the airplane during an approach.

Easy to insure. Considered a trainer by insurors.

Simple left/right fuel system; 48-gallon capacity with indicator tabs for easy partial fueling.

Hefty 200-pound luggage capacity with no CG problems.

The seats in later Piper products are some of the finest placed in small airplanes. Makes Cessnas and Mooneys feel cheap.

My wife and I just flew 1100 miles in about eight hours without undue fatigue, largely because of these seats. Also, the back seat is a comfortable bench with good support; much better than bucket seats. People forget the importance of two critical items in small airplanes: Seat comfort and sound level. A slow, simple airplane that is quiet and comfortable will deliver you at your destination in much better shape than a fast, complex airplane with lousy seats and an interior sound level sufficient to sterilize mice.

I do have a few tips for prospective owners: Get the gross weight STC, which adds 115 pounds. Join the Cherokee Pilots Association. Their magazine and connections are a priceless resource. Lean the engine aggressively. Buy an engine monitor (I chose an Electronics International Ultimate Scanner). Do all engine starts and shut-downs with the alternator switch off. This protects the alternator from voltage spikes and makes it last longer.

Cost of operation runs about $60 per hour for about 200 hours a year. I spare no expenses on annuals, do oil analysis, tend to replace items before they break and so forth. This cost includes hangar, insurance, debt service, fuel, maintenance and engine reserve.

-Ken Wiseman
Calhoun, Georgia

Also With This Article
Click here to view “Resale Values, Payload, and Prices Compared.”
Click here to view “Warrior Accidents: The Usual Trainer Prangs.”