This week, thanks to a listener request, we are covering the Piper Arrow series of single-engine airplanes. We also talk about a new weekly live stream series we want to start for current and future aircraft owners, as well as aircraft mechanics and pilots. Plus, aircraft ownership news, the tip of the week, and your feedback.
More About the Piper Arrow:
The venerable Piper Arrow is a four-place, high performance, complex single-engine airplane loved by many pilots and owners. It has seen a lot of use for flight schools for commercial pilot training, as well as owners needing a little more performance. As Don alluded to, the Arrow may be a logical step up from your Skyhawk or Cherokee when you need a little more speed and useful load.
Now some of you out there may be considering a Piper Arrow after owning or flying a Cessna product. Obviously there is much debate over the handling characteristics of a high-wing versus a low-wing airplane, as well as other factors such as visibility and accessibility. Fortunately, I’ve put a video into the show notes that goes into a lot of detail of the features, pros and cons of high-wing and low-wing airplanes that may help you get a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of both types. You can find that video under the “Bonus Video” section of the show notes.
If you’re looking at purchasing a Piper Arrow, you’re also likely to be looking at other four-place high-performance aircraft such as the Cessna 182, Commander 112TC, Mooney M20 or Beech Bonanza. But it’s safe to say that Piper got virtually everything right with the Arrow series. The Arrow represents an easy-to-fly airplane with a well-balanced budget for performance and efficiency. The Piper Arrow is the big brother to the Piper Cherokee, officially designated the PA-28R. As with many Piper’s, the “R” is the designation for Retractable Gear. Now the Piper Arrow has undergone many revisions since its inception in 1967, including engines, interiors, systems, and even tail sections.
The first in the series designated the PA-28R-180 equipped with a four-cylinder fuel injected Lycoming IO-360-B1E engine, producing 180 horsepower with a gross weight of 2,500 pounds. Two years later, the Arrow was upgraded with a 200 horsepower Lycoming IO-360-C1C engine, accompanied by a gross weight increase to 100 pounds. Being 200 horsepower, this version of the Arrow is considered a high-performance aircraft, requiring a check out and endorsement. It’s also a great airplane for commercial pilot training.
The Piper Arrow II was certified in 1971 and includes a five-inch fuselage extension from the earlier model. The Arrow II is equipped with the Lycoming IO-360-C1C engine, producing 200 horsepower with some models having a –C1C6 engine. The Arrow II has a gross weight of 2,650 pounds and also features a larger horizontal stabilizer and wider wingspan.
The next in the series is the Arrow III, officially designated the PA-28R-201, was certified in 1976. The biggest difference in this version is a gross weight increase to 2,750 pounds. Now the Turbocharged version of the Arrow III was certified and produced concurrently to the normally aspirated version. The turbocharged Arrow III, designated the PA-28R-201T, features a Continental TSIO-360-F or –FB engine. Both engine versions produce 200 horsepower with a gross weight of 2,900 pounds. Obviously if you do a lot of high-altitude flying, or do a lot of flying in and out of high density-altitude airports, you’ll want to consider the turbocharged version.
Next on the list is the Arrow IV. The normally aspirated Arrow IV featured the same Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 engine, producing 200 horsepower and gross weight of 2,750 pounds. But the most notable difference between the Arrow III and the Arrow IV is the IV’s love-to-hate t-tail. More on thetail later. Again, the normally aspirated IV was produced concurrently with the turbocharged version featuring the TCM TSIO-360-FB engine with the same performance and gross weight. The Arrow IV series also saw minor changes to the cabin and cockpit.
Now the Arrow IVs were built non-stop until the end of 1983. Thanks to the economic downturn in the early 1980s, Piper ceased production of the Arrow until 1989 when 27 more aircraft were delivered. In 1990, Piper traded the T-tail for a conventional tail and delivered 15 more aircraft between 1990 and 1994 before production ended. Following Piper’s bankruptcy, the Arrow went back into production with an upgraded panel and other features, none of which include a factory autopilot.
It’s probably safe to say that the Arrow isn’t the fastest, roomiest, or even the most aesthetically- pleasing airplane, yet it has enough of those qualities to contribute to its nearly 50-years of popularity. According to AvWeb, “The Piper Arrow is a sensible, well-behaved, moderate airplane that never goes out of style.”
The airplane has a fuel capacity of 25 gallons per side for the Arrow and II and 38.5 gallons per side for late-model Arrow IIIs and up. Earlier models burn anywhere between 9.4-10.2 gallons per hour at 75 percent power to just shy of 13 gallons per hour for later models, giving a safe endurance of about six hours or 650-700 nautical miles. Useful load for the aircraft range between 1,120 to 1,151 pounds depending on the model; each of the Arrow’s have baggage capacity of 200 pounds. As far as costs, you can expect to budget about $0.69 to $0.82 per nautical mile depending on engine reserves and turbocharging.
Now when it comes to selecting an Arrow, it’s important to pay special attention to the gross weights and useful loads of each version. Depending on your mission, not all Arrows will fit the bill. Additionally, each of the engine options have different TBOs. For example, the 200 horsepower Lycoming engine has a TBO of 1200 hours compared to the 180 horsepower version at 2000 hours. However, much of the 200 horsepower fleet has been upgraded to 2000 hour TBO thanks to exhaust valve replacement. Overhauls for the engine variants can range between $27,000 and $35,000.
When compared to competitor airplanes, the Arrow is a bit slower than the Bonanzas and Mooneys. The Arrow also has a lower wing loading so it will not ride as well in turbulence. It’s also known to require a lot of back pressure for liftoff and settle quickly during landing if not on speed. Some owners also report the Arrow IV is a bit challenging to handle in slow flight with controls feeling unbalanced.
What about maintenance? Well, the average Arrow is more than 30 years old. Moreover, many have been used by flight schools. While there is a large inventory of aircraft, good ones will undoubtedly sell quickly. Nevertheless, there are some maintenance issues to weary of including corrosion and cracking. In fact, there’s a recent AD out there that requires inspection of the right wing rib for cracks. There are also a number of Service Bulletins that when complied with, add value to the airplane. Also, Dean Showwalter of the Airplane Owner Maintenance Podcast put out a video that we’ve included in the show notes that describes an important area to inspect... The Piper Cherokee series of airplanes incorporate a stabilator system. Interestingly enough, the stabilitor is only held in place with two quarter-inch bolts on either side. Thus, it’s vitally important to check the condition of the attach points and these bolts. Watch Dean’s video to see more.
Welcome to The Airplane Intel Podcast, the weekly General Aviation podcast for aircraft owners, operators, pilots and mechanics. We deliver practical advice, tips and strategies to make aircraft ownership simple, safe and cost effective.