When the inevitable high-wing versus low-wing argument boils up, Cessnas seem to represent the wing-on-top sentiment while Pipers carry the opposite side of the fight.
But it wasnt always that way. With its signature Cub and later the Tri-Pacer, Piper favored high-wing designs during the companys early years. But by the 1950s, Piper was in a jam.
Cessna had introduced the 172 and although the Tri-Pacer beat the Skyhawk to the market by several years, there was no chance the stodgy ragwing milkstool could compete with the all-metal Hawk. Clearly a bold stroke was needed. And Piper made it, in the form of what would become one of the most successful designs in GA history: The Cherokee.
In 1962, Piper went radical, dropping the rag-and-tube construction used on the Cub and Pacer and switching to an all-metal, low-wing design with advanced features such as oleo-strut landing gear and an all-flying stabilator. It was downright futuristic compared to the Tri-Pacer and even made Cessnas Skyhawk look old-fashioned.
The new model-the PA-28-160-was the brainchild of John Thorp, who also designed the innovative T-18 homebuilt, among other designs.
The PA-28 was to spawn a remarkably diverse family of airplanes, ranging from the Cherokee 140 all the way up to the Turbo Arrow IV. Even the Cherokee Six, although a distinct type, owes its birth the humble PA-28 series. All PA-28s share the same basic design, which through its simplicity has proven to be durable and easy to maintain. Check the ads in Trade-A-Plane and youre likely to see Cherokee 140 examples with 8000 or more hours still in daily service. Airplanes dont accumulate that kind of time unless the design and structure are sound and easily maintained.
Needed: A Trainer
With Cessna coming on strong in the trainer maker, Piper needed an inexpensive entry-level trainer. In 1964, the Cherokees rear bench seat came out and a climb prop that effectively de-rated the engine to 140 HP through a limit on RPM was added.
It was basically the same idea that decades later resulted in the last downmarket PA-28 variant, the Cadet: Offer a stripped-down, low-cost version of an airplane already in production and pitch it to flightschools.
The results were mixed. Yes, the extra space in back was nice but the 140 didnt do what the Cessna 150 did. For one thing, the 150 HP engine was more expensive to operate and maintain than the Cessnas O-200. Second, the 140 didnt handle like the ideal trainer. It had a mushy stall and less-than-crisp slow flight qualities.
Nevertheless, the 140 proved popular. While the Cherokee 160-and its sibling the Cherokee 150-was dropped after the 1967 model year, the 140 remained in production for 13 years before it was superseded by the Warrior. Some 10,213 were built.
In 1965, another prop was installed which allowed the full 2700 RPM and restored the missing power. A gross-weight increase was allowed and a removable bench seat was installed, yielding, well, a Cherokee 150, more or less. The rear seat was only good in a pinch but the competing Cessna 150 didnt have that option at all.
After that initial change, the design remained essentially static until 1969, when the B-model appeared. It sported the now-standard Piper throttle quadrant, a T instrument panel and other minor changes. An upscale Cruiser model was introduced with real rear seats, not just the make-do bench and wheel pants. The C-model in 1970 had a better engine mount that reduced vibration, overhead air vents and Pipers adjustable seats. In 1971, The D-model got a new dorsal fin, inertial-reel shoulder harnesses and an autopilot option.
The 1972 model year saw the last variant, the PA-28-140E. Optional air conditioning was offered, a unique feature in this class of airplane and probably not too desirable, given the power limitations. Subsequent model years had standard entrance steps, standard copilot brakes, and a redesigned steering linkage. The last 140s were built in 1977 and were dropped the following year in favor of the Tomahawk and Warrior.
Although not the ideal trainer, the 140 is nonetheless easy to fly, if unexciting. Thats actually a good thing: Easy-to-fly airplanes have proven to be safer than those with sportier handling characteristics.
Of particular note is the Cherokees benign stall behavior. The fat Hershey Bar wing doesnt have a sharp stall break: Instead, it mushes along in the breeze, fighting the clean break.
In the opinion of some flight instructors, this isnt desirable in a primary trainer because it doesnt teach the student much about how to recognize and deal with ugly or pronounced stalls. For the average pilot, however, an airplane thats hard to stall is a definite safety plus.
The 140 wont set your hair on fire, speedwise. In fact, dont even expect warm smoke. The low-aspect ratio wing is simple and strong, but its hardly good for climb performance. By the same token, glide performance isnt so hot, either.
Owners have told us that control forces are a bit heavier than, say, a Warrior, but that the airplane is stable, making it a good instrument trainer.Typical real-world cruise speeds range anywhere from 96 to 102 knots, even though the book calls for 115 knots at 75 percent power. Pilots count on burning about 9 GPH at 75 percent, 7 to 8 GPH at 65 percent. The speed mods described on page 30 may considerably improve speed and economy.
The 140 has a fuel capacity of 50 gallons. Piper wisely installed tabs in the tank filler necks which indicate 36 gallons, making precise partial fueling easy. In fact, the standard fuel capacity was listed at 36 gallons, with 50 gallons optional-presumably to discourage overloading.
Features Good and Bad
Piper obviously thought through many features on the Cherokee 140 but this yielded a mixed bag, in our estimation.
We like the fully opening cowl, which makes a proper engine preflight easy. We dont like screwed-down cowlings that make it impossible to see potential trouble in the engine room.
The panel layout in the later airplanes is generally good, although we would prefer engine instruments mounted closer to the pilots line of sight. The tachometer, for example, is down near to the throttle. Logical, perhaps, but the pilot has to take his eyes off the runway to make sure the engine is developing takeoff power. Cherokees have umbrella-style fuel tank caps, which have proven to be effective at keeping water out of the tanks. Flush caps rely entirely on O-ring seals, which degrade and eventually leak.
The fuel selector is located by the pilots left knee, on the sidewall. In later airplanes, its a large red handle with a positive spring-loaded latch that keeps it from being shut off inadvertently. Good design, but its located out of sight and therefore often out of mind. (Thats why fuel mismanagement accidents appear prominently in the accident record.)
Its also possible to switch to a position between tanks. We prefer the design used on the Tomahawk and the Grumman singles, in which the selector is located at the bottom center of the panel in plain sight, with a handle that points to the fuel gauge of the tank in use.
As noted, the later airplanes have good, adjustable seats that are more crashworthy than those found in many aircraft. Look for S-shaped frame tubes at the front of the seat. (The S bend allows the seat frame to deform in an impact, absorbing energy in the process.)
Compared to other two-seaters, the 140s cabin is large and comfortable, thanks to the fuselage it shares with other PA-28s. This is in contrast to the Cessna 150, which is crowded with one person aboard.
If the Cherokees rear seat is used, theres no separate baggage bay; if the airplane is treated as a two-placer, however, theres lots of room for luggage. This makes the Cherokee 140 a much better proposition as an entry-level cross-country machine than a Cessna 150.
Cherokee 140s have only one passenger door, on the right side, and no baggage door at all. This makes an emergency exit problematical, particularly for those in the backseat. The door is the standard Piper two-latch design, with a latch lever near the armrest and a separate lever overhead. This should be pointed out and explained to passengers unfamiliar with the aircraft, since the pilot has to rely on them to open the door in an emergency. One area where all Pipers shine is the flap control. Its a big manual lever between the front seats with a push-button latch. Its simple to use and its easy to see how much flap is out there. But it does take a hefty tug to deploy flaps.
Battery Box Issues
Worth noting is the design and location of the battery box. Its under the rear seat, adjacent to the spar. Its also adjacent to the fuel line for the right tank, which comes through the root rib and runs up along the bottom corner of the fuselage.
This arrangement has some interesting consequences. First, the area where the fuel line enters the cabin is lined with fiberglass insulation. This can sometimes trap water, especially since its near the door. The water can cause corrosion of the fuel line, resulting in a potential leak. The spark source? Jumping a dead battery on an airplane not equipped with a GPU plug. Were aware of at least one incident of this nature.
The insulation was pointed out by several owners: Its a good idea to pull out at least that part of the interior and check for corrosion and sodden insulation during a pre-purchase inspection. Also, check the condition of the battery box. Leaking acid in close proximity to the wing spar is bad news.
The battery box location also means a long run for the electrical cables. To save some weight, Piper used aluminum cables for a time. Most have since been replaced with copper so check the airframe youre interested in for that mod.
Last, check the seat structure above the battery box. In one well-publicized 1981 accident involving a Warrior, the rear seat collapsed onto the battery box lid, starting an in-flight fire. The airplane landed successfully but the rear seat passengers were unable to egress and died in the fire. As a result of that accident, an emergency AD was issued calling for a plywood support under the back seat.
In an age when owners are growing irritatingly accustomed to the AD-a-week syndrome, the Cherokee 140 has relatively few significant ADs. Most are one-time or recurring-inspection-or-comply type directives.
The most recent type-specific ones are 96-10-3, which calls for replacement of the flap handle bolt and 96-10-1, which calls for replacement of the landing light support and seal. A bit more troublesome is 95-26-13, recurrent inspection of the oil cooler hoses.
As far as service difficulty reports go, the largest single set of reports had to do with breaking valves and valve guides. This was closely followed by cylinder cracks.
Most of the SDRs dont follow a particular pattern that we can see. However, we did note a few clusters of interest. There were 11 reports of airframe corrosion, eight of them directly attributed to water leaking into the fuselage and getting trapped in the fiberglass insulation.
Another group, and one that also showed up in the accident record, involved the landing light. Theres a rubber gasket which forms the rear support for the light, which is mounted in the air cleaner box. If the light isnt replaced properly, the gasket can come adrift and get sucked into the carburetor. There were three reports of this happening.
We found four reports of problems with the battery cables, two of which described smoke in the cabin attributed directly to failure of Pipers aluminum battery cables. By all means, check the cables and battery box carefully. This is not to be trifled with.
Mods, Owner Groups
Several companies make aerodynamic tweaks for the Cherokee. Notable are Laminar Flow, Knots-2-U, Horton, LoPresti and Power Flow.
Contacts Laminar Flow and Power Flow at 877-693-7356, www.powerflowsystems.com/; LoPresti 800-859-4757, www.flyfast-lopresti.com/; Knots-2-U at 262-763-511, www.knots2u.com/.; Horton at 800-835-2051,www.airsport.com/hortninc.htm. The various companies make simple mods such as gap seals. Some (like Horton) make full-blown STOL kits, others (Laminar Flow) specialize in parts to enhance cruise speed. Power Flow makes a tuned exhaust system.
Many owners who responded to our reader survey noted that theyd installed one or more mods, usually with at least some benefit derived. Whether any particular mod will accomplish everything the manufacturer claims depends on so many factors that any promises should be looked on with some skepticism.
As with all airplanes, we strongly encourage potential buyers to join an owners club. The Cherokee Pilots Association can be reached at P. O. Box 1996, Lutz, Florida 33549, 813-948-3616. The Web site is www.piperowner.com.
Over the years weve been observing this model, the accident profile hasnt changed appreciably. A recent check of NTSB records for accidents between 1996 and 2000 found 125 entries applicable to our interests. About 18 percent of all Cherokee 140 accidents were fatal, with VFR-into-IMC, scud running and controlled flight into terrain leading the list for fatal wrecks.
We didnt find a significant stall/spin record, which is consistent with what instructors tell us about the airplanes flying qualities. Most stall-type accidents occur during takeoffs or go-arounds and most of these seem to be stall-mush rather than stall/spins.
Although the Cherokee fuel selector design is simple enough, as noted earlier, it seems to hide out of sight. In our recent sweep of 125 accidents, we found 12 fuel-mismanagement or exhaustion accidents, only one of which was fatal.
Engine failure accidents dont seem to have a common theme, a departure from our previous research on this model. In general, we think the Lycoming O-320 has acquitted itself well. For more detail on the accidents study, see the sidebar on page 29.
Ive owned a 1969 Cherokee 140 for the past three years. I purchased itsoon after my initial private license in order to build some time and getmy feet wet in aircraft ownership. The airframe currently has about 8000hours, and the O-320 about 1600 hours.
Some quick thoughts from my experience: The Cherokee is a joy to fly. Very simple and stable in all conditions. Ive added about all of the speed modsavailable and see 110 to 120 knots cruise at under 9 GPH, at my typical cross country cruise of 5000 to 7000 feet.
The annuals were initially costing about $2000 each, with the last at $1500, now that Ive upgraded or replaced most of the items that need work due to their age.
One thing that prospective buyers need to look out for is that to use thisairplane safely for night or IFR flying, the panel will probably need to beupgraded. Mine had no lights, just the worthless red overhead, so a full panel of Nu-lites were installed, as well as a GPS, two new radios, new transponder and so on. There seem to be many Cherokees for sale at seemingly low prices-at least way below what I see from V-Ref or what I would take for mine-but all will need extensive avionics upgrades to make them reasonably modern aircraft.
For up to two adults-I consider the back seat for storage only-the 140 is a great value for trips to 300 miles or so.
Heres my 140: The Ace Machine is one of the last Cherokee 140s manufactured and my wife and I are the second owners since new.
We have owned it for 13 years and during that time we have had the exterior painted and upgraded the panel to the point that I think it must be one of the best-equipped 140s in the air.
We installed a Century I autopilot and coupled it to the panel-mounted Apollo 612C loran, Trimble 2000A GPS and dual Terra Digital VORs.
We installed a King ADF and DME as well as dual Terra 760-channel digital radios. We also installed the Shadin digital fuel flow and Airsport Altitude Nag and IFR Alerter.
The outside was fixed up with Met-Co-Aire wingtips and all plastic parts were replaced with fiberglass parts from Globe Fiberglass before painting. The airplane had 502 total hours, airframe and engine, when we bought it and has 1230 hours now. At this rate, we figure it will last us for a long time to come.
The engine is still running strong and has had no problems so far. The airplane has been economical to operate with an average expenditure of $5000 per year for 50 flight hours. That includes the rent for our beautiful hangar. Without the hangar, you could fly it for $50 per hour easy.
We have used many hints and tips from the Cherokee Pilots Association in maintaining this bird and really appreciate their help. We also use your magazine to read up on the latest equipment and to help us in selecting the best buy for our money. Thanks for all the great advice.
-Ace and Lola Stutz
Bryans Road, Maryland
I purchased my 1967 Cherokee 140 in June, 1997, to learn to fly. Compared to a Cessna 172, I found the Cherokee 140 to be easy to fly and easier to handle on the ground.
I purchased the airplane from an A&P and part of the agreement was that he would install speed mods from Laminar Flow and Knots-2-U. These modifications increased the cruise from 112 knots to 120 knots at 8000 feet at 8 GPH and 2620 RPM.
Gas mileage and high-altitude performance was gained upon installing the Unison LASAR mag system. I also installed Electronics Internationals engine analyzer and fuel flow gauges and am convinced that no airplane should be without them.
The recent installation of the Power Flow Exhaust System increased climb by 150 FPM and cruise by 5 knots, which is now 125 knots at 8500 feet and 2650 RPM with service ceiling from 12,000 feet to 14,000 feet. I highly recommend this product due to its obvious performance improvement and clean installation.
Annuals on this airplane average about $1000 and Avemco insurance costs $789 a year. I have had only minor problems of minimal cost beyond the cost of the annual. As far as flying goes, it doesnt get much easier. Ive put 250 hours on the airplane in 2 years and am coming up to TBO. I plan to upgrade to 160 HP and re-pitch the prop to 62 inches. I expect to improve cruise to 130 knots.
-Paul T. Jones
I bought my 1973 Cherokee 140 in February 1998. The airplane had about 3700 total hours and 1100 SMOH and seemed to be well maintained. The paint was in good shape and the interior was clean but worn.
I have always liked the Piper panel layout, and particularly liked the good quality, pre-GPS set of avionics on this airplane; dual MK-12Ds with G/S, DME, ADF and an M1 loran.
I learned on the 140 and have a lot of experience in Pipers. I wanted to buy an Arrow-still do-but prices escalated beyond my range. At the time of purchase, my 140 was about $7000 less than a Warrior and $15,000 less than a 172.
It was the minimum airplane that would satisfy my needs: Maintaining VFR and IFR proficiency, taking short local trips and the occasional long trip. I also wanted to take someone along to share the experience and this 140 had enough payload capability with full fuel-475 pounds-to easily accommodate two people and baggage. Being able to fill the tanks to the tabs allowed carrying three people, with 559 pounds payload, for short trips.
After buying the airplane, I joined the Cherokee Pilots Association. Their Piper Owners Magazine and Cherokee Hints and Tips book are full of useful ownership experiences and troubleshooting solutions. Its been a big help.
I should also note that its important to get a thorough pre-buy inspection from a mechanic who knows problems for the make and model of airplane. Also, make sure that everything works. Even seemingly little problems can end up costing a lot.
I have so far put about 300 hours on the airplane and it has satisfied most of my needs. Relative to higher-powered airplanes in the Cherokee series, the 140 is quiet and smooth.
The short wing makes the roll rate crisp, and stalls are non-events. Its an easy and fun airplane to fly and maneuver. It is a little nose heavy, which must be considered on landing, but its easy to adjust to.
The short wing makes getting a soft touchdown harder than on the later models, but it can be done with practice. The wide gear and low wing make crosswind work straightforward.
The 140 is also a good IFR platform and flying the same airplane regularly has allowed me to sharpen up and maintain my IFR skills. The flexibility of ownership has allowed me to readily maintain proficiency, even during the rainy winters here in Seattle.
I have taken two long trips to the mid-west, flying about 60 hours in two weeks each time. While I wish I had more cruise speed and climb capability, the trips have been enjoyable and a good experience. This years trip was more comfortable with newly re-upholstered and re-foamed front seats.
One thing I dont like about the 140 is that it has no baggage door and a very small baggage area. The hatshelf helps by allowing space for the cabin cover and other soft gear.
The airplane came with a cruise prop and anything to help cruise speed is always appreciated. I added Laminar Flow Systems Fancy Pants and Met-Co-Aire wing tips for, maybe, an additional 3 knots.
Even with this help, I plan for about 115 knots at 75 percent. The cruise prop does allow me to reach that speed at higher altitudes than book. As best I can tell, I get book fuel flow as well, 8.4 GPH at 75 percent leaned to 25 degrees rich of peak using the K&S avionics multi-cylinder EGT system I had installed.
The cruise prop and the speed mods do seem to make the airplane feel more slippery than other 140s I have flown, and that helps to keep the flying a little more enjoyable and interesting.
The airplane has been very reliable. Early on, I had problems with water leaking into the cabin and pooling around the rear spar carry through, a common Cherokee problem. I finally fixed most of the leaks by replacing the door seal and sealing the small gaps in the lap joints on the sides of the fuselage.
I have also had the occasional electronics glitch when flying, but nothing to prevent continuing the flight. I have had more than my share of down time for maintenance, though; five weeks for last years annual and three weeks this year. Most of the down time has been waiting for parts.
Most of the problems started in the second year of ownership. The first big problem was cracks in the wing walk stiffener panel, not uncommon on older Cherokees and a $2000 job to replace.
I had to replace the number 3 cylinder in 1999. Another annoying early problem was that the overhead instrumentation light went out and that cost a total of $1400 to replace the dimmer switch and clean up some of the old wiring.
The annuals required replacing an assortment of parts that were just worn out. Minor filiform corrosion has also been an ongoing maintenance concern, which has mostly been taken care of this year by cleaning up the extensive amounts on the belly. Total costs of all maintenance and upgrades, so far, are shown in the chart Im including here (click here to view). Thats more than I ever expected for a simple airplane, and more than is typically mentioned in articles about airplane ownership.
However, its in the range of expenses for the airplanes of other owners I know. I try to have a well-maintained airplane, but still seek to make sure that any maintenance is of high value.
When I returned from overseas in 1989, I decided to either purchase or build another airplane. I have an A&P background, although I never earned a living at it.
Instead, I took the cowards way out and earned a living in engineering and management. My observations on Cherokee ownership are based on the ability to do a lot of my own work.
I think the PA-28-180 is generally a better all-around airplane than the 140. I have enough time in both to offer an opinion. But a lot depends on what you get if youre buying used; sometimes the 140 can be a better deal.
This was true in my case: I looked around for a good 180 before I settled for the 140 and I dont regret the decision. Id rather have a good 140 than a rough 180 any day.
My airplane had been an instrument training platform and was IFR current. With all Bendix/King equipment, that clinched it for me. Most of my flying is in the Great Lakes region and a lot is over water.
The 140 is a dirt-simple airplane. Unless you get into a J-3 Cub, it doesnt get any easier to maintain, systems-wise. In the 10 years of ownership, I opted for the progressive maintenance approach and improvement. Each time I do a walk-around, I do a mental squawk sheet which I fix before the next flight.
The airplane was out of rig when I bought it and I spent about three days with the help of another A&P re-rigging it. This is a must for all Cherokee owners, especially if you do any IFR work .
When I majored the engine, all the baffles were upgraded with new silicone seals and attachments. Most of the wiring forward of the firewall was replaced when the engine was out. It was interesting to see where wiring was worn in spots you would never see around the engine crankcase. One alternator bracket bolt was broken in a spot you would never see as well.
Where legal, I replace every screw I pull out with a stainless steel screw. Again, its good insurance and makes it easier to work on next time around.
All this stuff may sound like a lot of maintenance, but over a 10-year period, it beats every other airplane Ive owned. There have been no heart-stopping ADs on the PA-28-140.
As for mods, I decided to run a tuft test on my Hershey Bar wing as a baseline for where to spend my budget. The results were interesting. I took photos that showed a reverse flow around the aileron and flap gaps.
However, flow attachment near the wing root seemed good at most attitudes. Off went a check to Knots-2-U for their wing and stabilator gap seals, flap fairings and flap root fairings.
Knots-2-U supplies a quality product, but plan on spending a lot of time fitting the parts. Air is really a thin fluid and if you dont plan on agonizing your way through perfect fits, dont bother in the first place.
When K2U offered a wheel fairing kit, I ordered that one as well. Again, the kit quality is great but plan on spending a lot of fit time to get good results.
The trusty Lycoming was coming up on 2300 hours since major. AMRD offers an STC for upgrading the O-320 E2A to 160 HP and a mod for Sensenich props. The engine went to a builder who only does a few engines each year, the rest of his business life is spent making real money in the race car business. As an interesting footnote, when the engine was torn down, one cam lobe had gone soft, but it had not seemed to affect performance or differential compression. The cam was replaced with a newer, better design. The prop went to AMRD for rework.
After completing the speed mods, I was determined to obtain as much accurate performance data as I could. I read Roy Loprestis analysis of performance and data gathering, as well as any other test data approach I could study. If you want good data, take your time and plan on spending a lot of boring time converting fuel to noise and heat.
Finally, an ex-Navy test pilot friend supplied me with a true airspeed applet (algorithm) that incorporated the use of a computer program and GPS. From then on, data gathering became easier.
My operating costs are dominated by the fixed costs: T-hangar and insurance. T-hangar cost exceeds $2400 a year. Insurance runs about $620. Fuel burn averages 9 GPH. The production PA-28-140 Cherokee is a low-maintenance, low-cost, all-around great little performer. You cant beat it as a stable IFR platform for part-timers. Its limitation is load capacity, rear seat comfort (kids only) and climb performance.
K2U and AMRD are great performance people to work with and they deliver what they promise. I ran out of budget before I could go further in my speed research. But if my budget had allowed, I would have pursued experimental data gathering with Hoerner wingtips and after-market exhaust systems; maybe next time around.
Grosse Ile, Michigan
Also With This Article
Click here to view charts for Resale Values, Payloads and Prices Compared.
Click here to view “Accidents: Runway Loss-of-Control Tops The List.”