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10/29/2015

UsedAircraft:PiperCherokeeSixKeepingtheFamilyHappyAOPA

NewsandVideo>AllNews>UsedAircraft:PiperCherokeeSixKeepingtheFamilyHappy

UsedAircraft:PiperCherokeeSixKeeping
theFamilyHappy
TheSixistheperfectaerialminivan
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March1,2010

RickDurden

IflifereallybeginswhenthekidsmoveoutandyouacquireaCirrusSR22thenwhatdoes
apilotownduringthatperiodwhenitisstillnecessarytocartthekids,thedog,andtheir
stuffaroundwhiledreamingoftheCirrus?AmostsuitableairplaneisPipersclassic
carryall,theCherokeeSix.
LessthanadecadeafterthefourplaceCherokeeseriessprungfromthefertilemindsof
FredWeickandKarlBergeyintoblackinkinPipersledgers,Pipersensingagoodthing
stretchedthefuselagemightily,allowingittoaccommodateasmanyassevenpeople,
simultaneouslyaddingaforwardbaggagecompartment,morefuel,anda260horsepower
engine.Then,perhapshavingexhaustedits1965vintageofcreativity,Piperproceededto
callitsnewestNativeAmericantheSix.
Designedtocaptureaportionofthefixedgear,bigsinglemarketthatCessnahadlatched
ontowithitsmodels205and206(andsoonwouldaddtheseventoeightseat207),theSix
provedanimmediatesuccess,largelybecausethecabinwasgargantuanforitsdayand
passengerfriendly,atruerarity.FeedbackfromthefieldsoonconvincedPipertooffera
300horsepowermodelaswellasclubseatingfortherearseats.Bothchangeswere
enthusiasticallyreceived,withvirtuallynooneorderingallforwardfacingseatsonceclub
seatingbecameavailable(themiddlerowofforwardfacingseatswascramped),andthe
260horsepowerversionsteadilylostsalesbeforebeingdroppedfromproductionafterthe
1978modelyear.
Sixesimmediatelywentthroughouttheaeronauticalworld.Thevoluminouscabinbeckoned
everyonefromflyingclubstobushoperators,flightseeingservices,andsmallfreighthaulers
toeventhefloatplanecommunity.Aftermorethan40yearsinservice,thingshaveshaken
outandageneralpatternofCherokeeSixusagehasemerged.Thedocilehandling
endearedtheairplanestoflyingclubsandFBOsthatdesiredalargesingleonthelinebut
whoserentalcustomersincludedpilotsstillinthelearningstages.Bushoperatorsgradually
turnedawayfromtheSixbecauseofacombinationofthelowwing,whichwassusceptible
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todamageonunimprovedrunwaysonlyaverageshortfieldperformanceandaninabilityto
withstandthepunishmentofdaytodaybackwoodsservice.Overtime,theCessna206and
207,withtheirgreaterusefulloads,gravitatedtotheharsherenvironmentswhereutilitywas
moreimportantthancomforttheCherokeeSixcametoexcelwhereconsiderationforthe
passengerwasprimary.OneofthemostpopularusesofthevenerableSixisbypilotswho
wanttokeeptheirfamilieshappy.Asanaerialminivan,theCherokeeSixissuperb.
Growingfamily

NoelWeigelofDublin,Georgia,hadusedaCessna172XPasafamilyairplaneforsome
yearsuntilchildnumberthreemeantitsimplycouldntcarryallthatwaskidessentialfor
evenaweekendtriptotheshore.Afteracarefulsearch,Weigelpurchaseda1975
CherokeeSixwiththe300horsepowerengineupfront,oraPA32300intypecertificate
parlance.AccordingtoWeigel,ithasmettheneedsforfamilytravelevenforthose
membersofthegroupwhoarenotconvincedflyingisheretostay.(Sincethiswaswritten,
Weigel,asahappyCherokeeSixownerofmanyyears,upgradedtotheSixsretractable
gear,taperedwingdescendent,thePiperSaratogaHP.)
WeigelintroducedustohisSixbypointingoutthatithasthefactoryairconditioningoption,
whichaddsabout100poundstotheemptyweight.LivingintheSouth,hisexperienceis
thattheabilitytokeepthecabincool,nomatterthealtitude,iswortheverysinglepound.
Keepingthekidsandspousecomfortableisnotjusttheroleofagoodparentitmaymake
thedifferenceastowhetherthefamilyownsanairplaneatall.
Witha2,090poundemptyweight,WeigelsCherokeeSixhasa1,310poundusefulload,
onlyslightlylessthantheaverageSix.Withall84gallons(504pounds)ofusablefuel
aboard,806poundsmaybeplacedinthecabin.AfewexamplesoftheSixcomecloseto
beingabletocarry1,000poundswithfullfuel,buttheSixdoeshaveagotchaintheformof
anotherlimitation,unusualinsingleengineairplanes:Ithasazerofuelweight(sometimes
calledwingbendingweight).Whenworkingaloadingproblem,thecabinloadmustbe
figuredfirst.Oncetheemptyweightoftheairplaneandthecabinloadreachatotalof3,112
pounds,alloftherestoftheweightmustconsistonlyoffuel.Despiteyearsofrhetorictothe
contrary,theCherokeeSixhasneverbeenafillthetanksandtheseatsairplane,and
manypilotswhohavetriedtodosohavediscoveredthatthetreesattheendoftherunway
cansuddenlybecomehuge.Nevertheless,84gallonsoffuelismuchmorethanmosttrips
require,sotheairplanehastheflexibilitytocarrymoreinthecabinforashortertriportofill
thetanks,takelessstuff,andgoalongway.The100poundcapacitybaggageareasin
frontofandbehindtheoccupantshelptokeepthecenterofgravitywithinlimits.
PreflightingaSixispureCherokee,withalittlemoreacreagetocover.Therearefourfuel
tankstocheck,eachwithitsownquickdrain.Theoutboardshold17gallonsusablewhile
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theinboardshold25each,andhaveahandytabshowingthe18gallonlevel.Therearetwo
downsidestothefuelsystemthatapilotneedstokeepinmind:Therehavebeenmorethan
afewforcedlandingscausedbyfuelstarvation,despitethepresenceoffuelonboard,
becausepilotsdidnotkeeptrackofwhichtankheldfuelandfuelsamplingiswork
intensive.Thefuelstraineroutletisunderthefuselage,withitsdrainleveronthefrontofthe
spar,underthecopilotsseat.Tosamplethefuel,positionabigjarundertheairplane,then
allow10to15secondsoffuelflowfromeachselectedtanktoassurethefuellinescontain
nothingbutcleanfuel.
Ownersreportthatalternatorandairconditionerbeltsseemtohaveshortlivesifthepulleys
arenotexactlyaligned,sotheconditionofeachbeltshouldbeapartofthepreflight.The
staticsourceisontheleftsideofthefuselage,forwardofthewing,asistheplugfor12volt
externalpowerstarting,whichgetsthegroundcrewmanunpleasantlyclosetothepropeller.
ThedoorsontheleftrearsideofthefuselagehavesoldalotofCherokeeSixes.Onallbut
afewversionstherearetwotheforwardopensmuchlikeacardoor(butwithtwolatches)
andthenthereardoorswingsverticallytobeheldopenviaastraparrangement.Baggage
hastobeliftedonlyashortdistanceandpassengersfortheclubseatscanentergracefully.
ThelargeopeningapparentlywasessentialtocompetewiththeCessna206forthefuneral
business,becausemanysmallFBOsmadegoodmoneyhaulingbodiesandthelargedoors
ofeachairplaneallowedloadingacasket.Inoneofthemostfamousaircraftadvertisements
ever,PipernotwillingtodisplayacasketloadedaspinetsizepianoinaCherokeeSixto
showitcouldbedone.
Readytofly

Oncethepassengersarecomfortableandyouhaveboardedthroughtherightside,over
wingdoor,itstimetolookovertheflightdeck.Thefourfootwidecabingivesplentyofroom
foreverythingontheinstrumentpanel,somethingthathasprovedvaluableovertheyears.
Thefuelselectorisprominent,awiseideawhenfuelmanagementmeansselectingfrom
fourtanks.Themanifoldpressuregaugeandtachometeraretheonlypoorlyplaced
instruments,locatedatthebottomofthepanel,makingthepowercheckonthetakeoffrun
challenging.ThepresentationontheammetercanbeconfusingmorethanoneCherokee
Sixpilothasrunabatteryflatinflightbecausethegaugedoesnotclearlyindicatea
discharge.Powercontrolsareonaquadrant,initiallyabigairplanemarketingploythat
provedquitepopular.
StartingthefuelinjectedLycominginWeigelsairplaneprovedeasyonceprimed,the
enginewascrankedwiththemixtureatidlecutoff.Uponsignsofignition,themixturewas
movedforwardthedesiredamount,usuallyonlyathirdtohalfway,asrunningfullrichat
idleisagoodwaytofoultheplugsonanenginethatwasoriginallydesignedfor91/96
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octanefuel.WeigelsLycomingstartedatdeadidle,between800and900rpm,makinga
mostsatisfyingsoundofcontainedpower.
VirtuallyeveryCherokeeSixsitsnosehighontheground,sotaxiingvisibilityisakinto
beinginatailwheelairplanethereisabigblindspottothepilotsright.Itissometimes
necessarytoSturnabittomakesurethewayisclear.SomeearlySixeshadveryheavy
nosewheelsteering,butWeigelsdemonstratednosignofponderousness.
Runupiscompletelyconventionalforanairplanewithaconstantspeedprop.Themixtureis
broughtfullforward,powerincreased,propellerexercisedonce,magschecked,controls
movedtothelimits,instrumentsandradiosset,acheckofalldoorlatchesismade,andits
timetodepart.
Normaltakeoffismadewith10degreesofflap,thefirstofthreenotchesonthemanualflap
handle.Asthepowercomesup,thenosedrops,sotheairplanesitslevelasitaccelerates.
Pfactorisverynoticeable,especiallywhenthenosewheelisraisedpriortoliftoff.Behavior
ontakeoffisdirectlyrelatedtoweight.Light,aCherokeeSixleapsoffthegroundandclimbs
withvigor.Loaded,especiallythe260horsepowermodels,theyseeminglycantakeforever
toleavetheground,andthenonlywithreluctance.Experiencedpilotstakethe300
horsepowerairplanemanualsclaimof1,140feettocleara50footobstacleonagross
weighttakeoffwithlotsofsalt,andallowtwicethatdistancemoreifthereareonly260
horsesupfront.
Intheair,thelongnoseblockstheviewforward,necessitatinggentleturnsfortraffic
avoidancebutithelpsmakeselectingapitchattitudeeasy,allowingforveryprecisespeed
control.Bestrateofclimboccursat105KIASatsealevel,with115knotssuggestedforen
routeclimb.TheSixisabsolutelysolidintheclimb,withverysmoothcontrols,andafaster
rollratethanonenormallyexpectsfromtheCherokeeseries.Itshandling,especiallywhen
light,isenjoyable.Steepturnsarefranklydelightful,andwiththelongnoseasareference,
altitudecontrolisfairlyeasy.Itdoesdecelerateabout15knotsinthefirst180degreesof
turn,solotsofnoseuptrimisneeded,whichcallsforplanningastheelectrictrimisvery
slow.
Slowflightrequiresonlythatthepilotshowawillingnesstoapplylotsofrightrudder,
otherwisetheairplanedoesnotwafflearoundatall.StallsaretypicalCherokeethereisa
noticeablebuffet,thestallwarningclatters,andthenthenosebobsupanddownabitasthe
descentrategoesoutofsight.Pullinghardwillresultinastraightaheadbreak.Lowering
thenoseslightlyhastheairplaneflyingagain,althoughpromptapplicationoffullpoweris
essentialtobreaktheresultingrapiddescent.Eventhen,ittakessometimetoaccelerate
awayfromthehighdragendoftheenvelopeandestablishaclimb.StallingaheavySixat
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lowaltitude,inspiteoftheveryobviouswarnings,maybethelastthingapilotdoes.
Settleddownincruise,expecttoseeaTASof140knotswithafuelburnof15to16gph.
Morepowerresultsinburningmorefuelratherthangoingmuchfaster.Therearespeed
modsfortheSixthatwillbumpupthecruisespeedabout5percentorso.However,speed
isnotwherethisairplaneshines.TheCherokeeSixsroleintheaeronauticalkingdomisto
providecomfortforthosefolksinthebackwhomayhavevetopoweroveryourownershipof
anythingwithwings.Becauseithashighenoughwingloadingtomaketheridefinemostof
thetime,thosewieldersofthevetoareunlikelytouseitunlessyoudosomethingfoolish.
Asaninstrumentplatform,fewarebetter.Thesignificantwingdihedralhelpsprovidean
overallresistancetodisplacementandgeneralstabilitythatmakesinstrumentapproaches
howhumevents.Becauseofthelongnose,anotchofflapsisderigueurforallapproaches
tokeepthedeckanglelowerandallowaviewoftherunwaywhenbreakingoutofthe
clouds.Instrumentapproachesaregenerallyshotat100KIAS,whichisnicelybelowthe
maxflapspeedof108knotsandaboveVY,soaspeedytransitiontoahealthyclimbcanbe
carriedoutifamissedapproachisnecessary.Agoodspeedonfinal,withfullflaps,is80
KIAS,slowingto75priortotheflare.Eventhoughitisbigandcandevelopaprodigious
sinkrateonfinal,aSixwillfloatsurprisinglyfaringroundeffect.Oneoftheworstmistakesa
CherokeeSixpilotcanmakeistocarryanyextraspeed.Doingsohashistoricallybeenan
invitationtoeitherlandonthenosewheelandwheelbarrowintoignominy,floatandlose
directionalcontrolinacrosswind,orjustplainrunoutofrunway.
Withappropriatespeedcontrolandawillingnesstoraisethenose,aCherokeeSixwill
rewarditspilotwithsomeamazinglysmoothlandings.Donecorrectly,itwilllandin
noticeablylessdistancethanisneededfortakeoff,soonceapilothasalittletimeintype,
heorshesimplycomesinonspeed,touchesdownslowly,doesnttouchthebrakes,and
modestlyacknowledgestheacclaimfromtherearseatsduringrollout.
Whentakingthefamily,smooth,comfortable,androomyarethewatchwords,callingfor
shallowbanks,lotsofroomforpeopleandthings,andanabsenceofexcitementwhenaloft.
TheCherokeeSixistheairplaneforthemoment.Thekidswillloveyouforit,andwhenthey
finallymoveoutandthetwoofyouarefreetoroamthecountry,youmayjustdecideitsthe
perfectairplaneforthataswell.
RickDurdenisapilot,aviationattorney,andfreelancewriterlivinginColorado.

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