Those interested in the Cherokee 140 are people who know the limits of a budget but love to fly. They are now or may one day be in the market for their first airplane: a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-fly and maintain machine that can perform that essential miracle of lifting them into the sky and taking them someplace.
A lot of little airplanes can do that, of course. What makes the 140 different is its roominess and stability, which make it a good candidate as an entry-level cross-country airplane, including IFR trips for airplanes equipped with even a minimal panel. Looking for thrills in a snappy little weekend flier? Forget the 140. Its stodgy and that fat wing blocks the view.
Looking for a true four-place airplane? Dont buy the 140, despite its rear seats. Fill them up and its over gross with zero fuel. But for one or two people looking to make a trip with a couple of small bags and their Labrador, if not their first-born, it does a yeomans job of traveling the skies at minimal cost.
It took Piper a long time to respond to the introduction of the all-metal, tricycle-gear Everymans airplane, the Cessna 172 in 1956. The closest thing Piper offered was the stodgy tube-and-rag high-wing Tri-Pacer, dubbed the Milkstool for introducing tricycle gear to the lower end of the GA market in 1951.
Piper needed some quick and bold thinking. Six years isnt quick but what reached the market in 1962 was indeed bold at the time. John Thorps now legendary design, the low-wing all-metal PA28, was a radical departure for a company known best until then (and even now among non-pilots) for its high-wing fabric taildraggers. It spawned a diverse family of airplanes from the Cherokee 140 up to the Turbo Arrow IV and, even though its technically a different type, the Cherokee Six.
Not only threatened by the 172 but the popular 150 trainer Cessna introduced in 1952, Piper did something the simple and durable PA28 design would allow it to do again and again: adjust and tweak and introduce an entirely new airplane for a particular market without a lot of R&D.
Thorps design evolved into the 140 trainer in 1964 when Piper removed the rear bench seat and put a climb prop on its Lycoming four-banger that limited RPM and effectively derated it to 140 HP. It never beat the 150 in the trainer market, except perhaps among schools that did a lot of instrument work. Its O-320 engine was more expensive to run than the 150s O-200. Its forgiving flight characteristics if not downright lack of agility, including a mushy stall and sluggish control response, didnt force students to fully come to grips with some of the basics of good piloting. But the 150 did not offer that wide cabin, all that fuel capacity (50 gallons compared to 26) and the option of putting someone in the back. That kept the 140 in production for 13 years, with 10,213 built through 1977. After that, the Tomahawk and the Warrior split its niche.
The first big change in the 140 series came in 1965, when another prop allowed 2700 RPM, the bench seat went back in and a higher gross weight (2150 pounds compared to 1950 pounds) was allowed.
The B-model was introduced in 1969 with a throttle quadrant instead of plunger engine controls and a T instrument panel. Option packages and a few minor changes defined the models C through E.
The 1970 model C had a better engine mount that reduced vibration, overhead vents and adjustable seats. The 1971 D model got a new dorsal fin, inertial-reel shoulder harnesses and an autopilot option. The 1972 Model E offered air conditioning. Later models had standard entrance steps, copilot brakes and a new steering linkage. The 1974 Cruiser 140 had rear seats, not a bench and wheel pants.
A good later-model 140 can be had for around $30,000 or less. Early models average in the mid-$20,000 range. One owner tells us he bought a 1968 fixer-upper in 2004 and turned it into a little gem with several mods and upgrades, all for less than $25,000. (But he is an A&P and did his own work.)
Prices for the PA-28 140 began to retreat slightly in the late 1990s, even before fuel prices soared, while similar airplanes-the Cessna 172, for one-continued to appreciate. Its limited utility compared to a number of choices on the used market may be keeping a lid on its value. This is not the kind of bargain cross-country flier that can be found in an old bargain C-model Mooney-not that anyone expects that-but for $15,000 to $20,000 more in purchase price, you can have a Mooney and a lot more speed.
Theres no way around it. The Cherokee 140 is not nimble or quick. Its clunky. Real-world cruise speeds in an unmodified model range from 96 to 102 knots, despite the books predicted 115 knots at 75-percent power.
The climb is sluggish, with a book value of about 650 FPM. Good luck seeing that in the summer. With its boxy shape and Hershey-bar wing, its no glider, either. Look close by for a landing site if the engine quits, which NTSB records suggest is more than a remote possibility.
Its handling is heavy, from its steerable nosewheel to its ailerons. Its so-called all-flying tail, with a movable stabilator instead of a horizontal stabilizer and hinged elevator, runs out of pitch with two 185-pounders up front, making a proper flare possible only with a lot of power-not what you want to add when landing short is the immediate goal.
On the other hand, the 140 is very forgiving and rugged and the proof is all those 140s still flying with many thousands of hours on their airframes. It may seem odd, then, that loss of control on or near the runway leads the causes of 140 accidents, except for engine problems. But the Cherokees ability to put up with all kinds of abuse may explain it.
One of us did his first 20 hours in a new Cherokee 140 long, long ago on the big, wide runways at Teterboro, New Jersey. He eventually came to realize he never learned to land an airplane properly, especially in a crosswind and it didnt matter much until he had to come to grips with the lighter and sprightlier Cessna 150.
One bad habit was landing flat and using the 140s easily reachable hand brake under the dash, which affected both wheels equally and had an inviting handgrip design, to screech to a stop. Another was never learning to maintain crossed controls through the flare and landing in a crosswind, something the Cherokee always forgave-at least during those first 20 hours.
But give it enough of a crosswind and at some point the 140 will act like any airplane, veering into the wind or lurching off the sidelines because of the side load on the landing gear during the touchdown.
Get behind the power curve and, with its boxy shape and low-aspect-ratio wing, you will sink rapidly earthward with no energy left for a flare. The resulting hard landing and possibly a porpoise off the runway is all too familiar to some 140 pilots. Ignore density altitude and gross weight limits and it will take you into the trees. Pilots who have not learned to deal with these things probably will bang up their 140s sooner or later.
Stalls are a non-event. Those who trained in the 140 dont know what a break feels like and have no clue what to do if a wing drops because it never seems to happen. Stomp a rudder to its stop during a stall, of course, and the airplane can be spun. Two people died when they could not recover from what appeared to be a flat spin during instructor training in a 140 in England in 1996.
Investigators calculated that the CG of airplane at the time was very slightly nose-forward of utility category limits. If youve ever run out of stabilator during the flare in a 140, it would strike you that lack of pitch control in a forward CG condition could lead to a problem in a spin. But it takes work to get that to happen.
Good pilots who arent looking for a lot of performance or sporty handling will find the 140 a perfectly pleasant airplane to fly. Stay within its limits and know its mild quirks and you and your 140 will lead long lives motoring happily over hill and dale. Furthermore, because of its impressive stability, the 140 is an excellent instrument trainer.
The book says the 140 holds 36 gallons. Theres really room for 50, good for more than five hours with VFR reserve at a typical 9-GPH burn at 75 percent. Flying solo, thats a nice feature of this airplane. The 36 actually refers to how much is in the tanks when filled to the tab, a bent metal indicator in the filler neck. Presumably Piper always listed the capacity as 36 to discourage pilots from thinking this machine can be filled to the brim and flown off with a load like a Skylane.
Thats not the way it is. The useful load, according to book values, ranges from 770 pounds for the original model to 1000 pounds for the high-gross 140 4+4. Add full tanks and the remaining useful load ranges from 470 to 700 pounds. Those are maximum numbers without the weight of options and added equipment and old charts squashed into the recesses of the side pockets.
In addition to its sturdiness, simplicity, roominess and easy handling, we like these Cherokee 140 features: A fully opening cowl that reveals everything under the hood; the orderly panel layout in later models; umbrella-style fuel caps that keep water out of the tanks; good, adjustable, crash-worthy seats on later models (look for the S-shaped frame tubes which deform on impact); lots of baggage space when the airplane is used as a two-seater; quick, simple mechanical flaps with a big, easy-to-use lever (check for compliance with an AD for the attach bolt) and a big fuel selector thats spring loaded on later models to prevent inadvertant shutoffs.
Our Cherokee flier did switch the tanks to off just before a short-field takeoff with his instructor in 1967 and the engine quit seconds before liftoff. That instructor must still be talking about those great brakes; our guy had about three hours time then and didnt have a clue how close he had come to disaster.
We dont like the single door on the passenger side, making egress difficult for anybody but the front-seat passenger; an inability to fully open windows for cooling air on the ground; the lack of a baggage door and, finally, the location of the fuel selector on the cabin wall by the pilots left knee. Its hard to see and its easy to switch to a position between tanks.
The 140 has relatively few type-specific airframe ADs and its simple, sturdy design has stood the test of time. Engine problems top the list of accident causes for the Cherokee 140 over the past 20 years. Likewise, a lot of Service Difficulty Reports going back 20 years had to do with internal engine and powerdrive problems, from valve and cylinders to crankshafts and pistons (54 out of 414 SDRs). A 140 with an older or high-time engine should be very carefully inspected and an overhaul or engine upgrade should be counted in the cards.
Corrosion is another common problem. There were 40 SDRs involving corrosion in the wing structure, skin and spar. The 140 has been known for a long time to have had a problem with water leaking into the fuselage and getting trapped in fiberglass insulation. Owners also have reported complications that have resulted from the battery placement under the rear seat, next to the spar and the fuel line to the right tank. Leaking battery acid in this area is not a good thing. Likewise, fiberglass that protects the fuel line where it enters the cabin traps water and can corrode the line, allowing fuel vapor to collect near the battery. Jumping that battery without a GPU plug is a gamble.
For a time, Piper used aluminum cables to save weight on the long run to the battery box. Most have been replaced with copper by now. Check to be sure.
Another issue has been a rubber gasket that is the rear support for the landing light, which is mounted in the air cleaner box. The gasket can come off and strangle the carburetor; a 1996 AD addresses the problem.
MODS, OWNER GROUPS
Owners highly recommend The Cherokee Pilots Association for the information and support it offers. The 4500-member group has a newsletter as well as chat groups and a 370-page technical manual full of Cherokee hints and tips.
Executive Director Terry Rogers is easy to reach and helpful. Located in Lutz, Florida, it can be called at 813-242-7814 and Rogers can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. The association is on the Web at http://www.piperowner.com/.
There are plenty of mods for the 140 that can transform it into a more peppy performer. Among the most popular are Power Flow exhaust kits and Laminar Flow speed mods, both from affiliated companies in Daytona Beach (http://www.powerflowsystems.com/; 877-693-7356 and http://www.laminarflow-systems.com/; 888-327-8140).
Met-Co-Aire in Fullerton, California, sells Hoerner wingtip conversions said to improve cruise and climb performance and lower stall speeds (http://www.metcoaire.com/; 800-814-2697). Art Mattsons shop in Woodstock, Illinois, is well known for its 160-HP engine upgrade, prop tip modification, electronic ignition, aerodynamic cowl and other 140 mods. His AMR&D Web site is at http://www.pipermods.com;815-338-7347./
You cannot beat a Cherokee 140 if you are looking for an economical, easy to fly, sturdy steed for the majority of missions in a 300-mile radius of your home field.
Is it fast? As fast as most of the Cessna 172s out there. Does it have a reasonable useful load and weight and balance range? Yes, if you do the math. Will it carry as much as a 182? No, but then it sips fuel at a rate that does not require a call to your loan officer after you top the tanks.
My current ride is a 1969 with dual digital King radios, HSI, KLN-88 and Garmin audio panel. It has the same useful load as most of the 172s I fly. Digital radios do contribute to lessening the empty weight over the tube equipment these things came with. Its current for IFR and I use it for that, but I choose my trips carefully. Low IFR is a deal stopper for me in the 140 but, for 80 percent of most local instrument missions, the airplane is safe and easy to fly.
Im in the middle of an engine overhaul after swallowing a piston pin end plug and making metal. The parts/case overhaul at Divco, a new crank (to replace the existing one that failed the SB505 inspection), new jugs, all AD compliance and everything to build the motor to new specs-done on my field by a talented IA-is in the $10,000 range. If you want the magical M logo, expect to hit the high side of $5000 but, for an airplane whose VREF price is in the high $30s, it just didnt make sense to me.
Fuel burn at 5000 feet, leaned 50 degrees rich of peak, is just over 8.5 GPH for a TAS of 108 knots. Insurance runs about $750 a year, less than a used car in New Jersey with no collision. Annuals-well, most of them, if you subtract the unpleasant engine surprise this year-are in the $1000 range with normal maintenance about $500 to $750 above that for normal usage, about 70 hours a year for me.
Plusses: Crosswind landings make you look like a hero. Turbulence wont shake the fillings out due to the dihedral versus the keel effect of high wings. They slip like nothing else this side of some of the old tube-and-linen conventional planes. Stalls? Power on is a non-event; power off you just sink nose high. Mushing accidents are not unknown.
Access to the engine compartment for preflight and maintenance is a snap. Those wide and big cowling doors let you really see how many birds took up residence versus the little oil door on some other models.
Minuses: When its raining out after you land, you will get wet. The door is notorious for its bad sealing so a cabin cover is called for when tied down if youre not lucky enough to have access to a hangar. The strut seals will need attention about every three years.
There is an extremely active mailing list called email@example.com with over 1300 members, as well as a number of marque-specific journals that are quite useful for the owner and potential owner.
I currently own the first Cherokee 140, used for the certification of the type. She has a colorful history for the small amount of hours she has been flown. Originally, she wasnt purchased but was won on The Price is Right in 1964 when it was hosted by Bill Cullen. In her logbook, there is a notation of reassembly after the show was over. N6000W was also the subject of promotional postcards distributed by Piper in the 1960s.
I purchased N6000W on eBay. Currently, N6000W has just over 1900 original hours and is still on her first engine. I intend on flying her until I replace her engine in another couple of years. The only changes in N6000W are the updated radios and a transponder installation.
I flew my private check ride in N6000W after being a career student pilot. N6000W has become the family recreation vehicle and last year returned to California, where it was last based, for a visit to Carson City and Yosemite on vacation. Our current plans for N6000W are to bring her back to her original paint. Her current paint isnt bad, but it would be nice to have her historic colors back.
Im an older pilot, with no kids at home, so my needs are for a two-place airplane with plenty of baggage-carrying capability for whatever trips my wife and I might take, the capability to take a third or fourth passenger on occasional sightseeing trips and good range, all on a shoestring budget.
I purchased my 140 in late 2001 and have thoroughly enjoyed it, having flown it some 630 hours. I have a great A&P who takes care of every maintenance need at a reasonable cost and he has installed many mods as well.
In addition to most speed mods, my 140 boasts a new six pack instrument panel with great new avionics and electronic engine instruments. Flying with the new panel has been a joy and while my cross-country trips may take a little longer than with a faster airplane, I am very pleased with overall performance.
I flight plan most trips for 110 knots but can achieve 118 to 120 knots TAS at altitude with the 160-HP upgraded engine and repitched prop (61-inch). There have been no planned flights cancelled due to maintenance items and only twice have I had to have maintenance done while not at my home base. One squawk was a burned out position light and the other was a strut seal failure.
I have flown N3736K in significant IMC, including night IMC, and have found the 140 to be an excellent instrument platform, especially when making stabilized approaches to minimums.
I pay $833 annually for insurance. I pay $110 per month for a nice T-hangar. Economy cruise uses 8 to 8.5 GPH of 100LL while high-speed cruise uses about 9.5 to 10 GPH. The recently overhauled engine with Millennium cylinders uses about one quart of oil in 20 hours. The oil is changed every 25 hours and the filter every 50 hours. Annual inspections generally run about $800 to $1000 (without doing upgrades), but this also includes necessary preventive maintenance and recurring ADs. As long as you dont get the urge to upgrade, the 140 is an economical airplane, but even when you over-invest, you get a very capable airplane for a modest cost, which I calculate to be about $76 an hour including everything.
J. Gary Hendricks
My wife and I bought our 1968 Cherokee 140B in May 2004 as a fixer-upper. An estate settlement had left the airplane sitting for almost seven years before we acquired it. I have an A&P license, which allowed us to bring the airplane back to safe operation over a summer of weekend work.
I earned my private license in the airplane and now have almost 200 hours. It is everything a new pilot could want. It has a very forgiving nature in every flight area. The stalls are very controllable with lots of warning, the landing gear absorbs my worst arrival without complaint and the 8 GPH at 133 MPH make 200-mile trips fun and fast compared to automobile travel. If I want to cruise at higher speeds, I can move the passenger to the rear seat and the airplane will see 140 MPH at 75 percent power. (Cherokees are noseheavy anyway.)
Our original Narco avionics (one comm, one VOR and one ADF) were supplemented with an Apollo loran by the previous owner. I was able to buy a Collins stack from a mid-1980s Arrow that was being Garminized. For a reasonable price, I installed two comms, two navs with glideslope, ADF, transponder and audio panel. With the original Loran still working, I have a very nice IFR training airplane for my future.
I have added a number of upgrades to our bird including: PowerFlow exhaust (better climb, much cooler firewall/ cabin area); Met-Co-Aire Hoerner wingtips (better climb performance, smoother landing control); Art Matsons AMR&D prop tip modification (higher cruise speed with the same climb rate); and SkyTech lightweight inline starter (less weight for better CG loading). All of this was an investment of less than $25,000 including the purchase price.
Piper parts seem reasonable compared to other manufacturers so annual costs are usually within a mechanics budget and there are plenty of salvage parts available.
Andy & Sharon Jones
In price, the Piper Cherokee has lagged other used airplanes of similar performance and creates some great buying opportunities. My Cherokee 140 has shown me the value of a well-cared-for, high-time airframe and what it can do for the bottom line.
After finishing up my private, I started to seriously look at what would fulfill my ambition of airplane ownership. Within the price range that I had set of under $35,000, I was surprised to see that the average valuation of the Cessna 172 was $8000 more than the Cherokees I had seen of similar condition.
I couldnt get over how the Cessna was priced much higher comparatively. To be truthful, I really longed for a Grumman Cheetah/Tiger or a Cessna Cardinal. But to find one in the condition I wanted was beyond my means.
Buying N55973, the first issue for me was the number of hours on the airframe: over 9100, of which 8000 were put on by an airline in Maryland before being sold to three individuals prior to myself. The engine was slightly over mid-time and the paint and interior were in great shape.
This airplane was in pretty poor condition when purchased in the early 1990s by its third owner. He paid half what he would eventually sell it for and did a complete interior replacement, overhaul of the engine and new paint. After a thorough prebuy and inflight check of all its equipment with my A&P/IA, it became mine.
With my current setup of a 60-inch pitch on the prop and the 160-HP STC, I can plan on 670 FPM climb. Top speed with pilot only at 2500 feet is 140 MPH. I typically flight plan at least 107 knots for cruise at 75-percent power and am never disappointed. Fuel consumption is 9.5 GPH due to, I believe, the prop pitch and the 10-HP increase.
Every airplane has its unique tendencies and, although Ive heard much about how Cherokees can drop like a rock on final, its just not that big a deal. Hold power in until the field is made and squeak it on. Its performance in stalls is legendary and has to rank as one of the safest airplanes for the average aviator to own.
Ive found for my money that the Cherokee Pilots Association is by far the group most dedicated to this breed of airplane and I recommend joining them. The bulletin board is absolutely loaded with valuable information. Ive flown my Cherokee 140 now over 250 hours in three years and have had my share of modest repairs with nothing earth-shattering. Most were things I would expect to find in an airplane over 30 years old. Ive replaced an alternator, overhauled the attitude indicator, replaced the aileron hinges, had a seat frame welded, replaced a cylinder at the last annual-it had a bad exhaust valve -and Ive replaced two tires. This doesnt take into account things like rigging the flaps and ailerons, purchasing an overhauled prop and adding some rustproofing.
When purchased, N55973 had Art Mattsons (AMR&D) 160-HP mod. At this point, the only other mod it has is Arts aileron gap seals. I plan to replace the wingtips with Hoerner-style replacements and then take a long look at the other modifications available.
In 2004 at the Cherokee FlyIn, it was a surprise to be told that N55973 was runner-up in its class. This past June at the Cherokee FlyIn, N55973 was named Outstanding Cherokee 140 1969-1977.
Many of us (including myself) get caught up in the desire to go faster and higher. If we really think about most of the flying we do, wed realize that an airplane like the Cherokee 140 is perfect in so many respects.