Piper Colt, a Two-place Bargain
The Piper PA-22-115 Colt was a minimized Tripacer. The Colt held only two passengers, and had no flaps nor rear window. Its purpose was for use as an inexpensive primary trainer.
By: Norm Goyer
In prewar America, Piper Aircraft of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, had an immense following in our growing air-minded nation. The “Piper Cub” was almost the generic name for any aircraft with one engine. Newspapers would report incidents, “A small Piper Cub (it really was an Aeronca Chief) was involved in a buzz-job over a remote beach on Lake Greenscum. As swimmers scrambled for their clothes, nobody happened to recall the license plate number on the airplane, except it began with NC. Observers also noted that the young male pilot had his Brownie stuck out the window.” The reporter also thought that North Carolina was a long way from home for a tiny airplane, like a Piper Cub. Now, I believe that some explanation is in order for current young pilots. This “buzz-job” was not a hair cut, we used to call them “crew cuts”. An airplane buzz-job is a low, fast, fly-over from a hidden position so the buzzees don’t know you’re coming. Surprise! The Air Force Thunderbirds have their own version of this maneuver; at certain airshows, one of their F-16s sneaks away and comes roaring over the crowd at 100 feet and 600 mph. Now that’s a buzz-job. A Brownie was a Kodak entry camera of choice mini-box camera with its own flash-bulb. The so-called license plate was really the CAA aircraft registration number, which was painted on both wings and tail. The feds have since have dropped the C. At that time, NC meant National Commercial. The CAA was the FAA, before the post war name change; same feds, different name but they were still there to help. Yeah, right.
The Colt looks just like a Tripacer in the air with its distinctive “milk stool” landing-gear placement.
When the war was finally over, Piper continued to build their super-popular Cub, using the same welded-tubing and linen covering, doped yellow with a black lightning bolt. Then they built an orange three-passenger version called the J-5 Cub Cruiser. There was a blue J-4 Cub Coupe with side-by side seating. In the early 1950s, they dropped the J which might have been the initial of the designer of the Cub, Walter Janouneay. The new designation was PA (Piper Aircraft). The first was the PA-8 Piper “Skycycle”. Then came the PA-11, Piper Cub “Special”, PA-14, the four-place “Family Cruiser”, PA-15, “Vagabond”, known as the “Bag of Bones.” PA-12 “Super Cruiser”, PA-16 “Clipper”, was a slightly enlarged four-place version of the PA-15. Then came the PA-17, a duded-up PA-15. The PA-18, was famous Piper “Super Cub”. The Piper PA-20 Pacer was the father of the PA-22 Tripacer. Finally we are arriving at the subject of this Bird of the Week, the Piper PA-22-108 Colt. This was a Tripacer with a Lycoming 108-hp engine, with only two-seats, no flaps and no second window. Piper built about 2,000 of the Colts from 1961 to 1963 It was both inexpensive to buy and to operate; it made an ideal primary trainer.
If you are interested in either the Tripacer or the Colt, we suggest you contact the Piper Short Wing Club, which is an excellent organization for their owners.
The Colt, at this time, has to be one of the best buys for a two-passenger, sport/fun aircraft. Why did all of these Pipers fade into oblivion except the Super Cub? While they were manufactured using 1930 tube-and-fabric materials and techniques, other manufacturers had been building all-metal aircraft for decades. The engine has a high TBO; the plane cruises at 115 mph, and it stalls at 56 mph. But the best part is the current asking price, thousands of dollars less than other two-passenger aircraft. The Piper Colt is Norm’s April 2009 “Best Buy” for a fun aircraft. Just make sure you have an licensed technician check out the fabric and engine along with any ADs.