Who’s Who in Piper Light Twins

By:      Norm Goyer

The first Piper light twin was the PA-23 Apache, Aztec with larger engines. The Aztec is a very strong  aircraft and makes an excellent family aircraft.

The first Piper light twin was the PA-23 Apache, Aztec with larger engines. The Aztec is a very strong aircraft and makes an excellent family aircraft.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the history and specifications of these Piper light twins. NG

Light twins suddenly have become a possibility when one thinks of purchasing a larger airplane for a little money. But as we all know, there is no Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy also answers to Mommy. Yes, there are some great buys in light twins and yes you get a lot of airplane for your dollars. But, you also get a whole lot of expensive dual parts to maintain and keep the ponies supplied with alfalfa and grains at some of the highest prices ever posted at FBO gas pumps. Oh yes, the mechanical charge for an hour’s work on your double banger will cost way to close to that of a heart surgeon. But if you have an uncle or a good buddy or a wife or hubby who just happens to be an FAA I A with the tools and research material you could be in luck because, there are some dynamite light twins for sale.

But, all is not peaches and cream in the light twin market. It seems that light twins are used very heavily in flight schools whose students need multi time to qualify for airline hiring. A large number of light twins on the market are in fact “worn outs” from flying schools. They look good and have had good maintenance, but TBO on engines, props and other components are waiting to pounce on the new owner, and this is why their price seems to be a real bargain. But again, there are the really good buys also waiting for a new owner. Light twins with mid time or less engines, props not needing an overhaul in the near future and avionics that will get you where you are going with good clarity could be found and they will make a great aircraft. Yes, there are some light  twins that are truly good buys. I happen to like the Piper line of light twins and have owned many and flown even more, these Piper twins are solid transportation. I have even flown several Seneca I’s from ocean to ocean loaded with kids, bikes and camping gear. Upgraded versions such as the Seneca II have turbo power plus many new components. This  airplane is still being produced by Piper.

Piper PA-23 Apache and Aztec:

Piper light twins started with the purchase of the Stinson line way back in the early 1950s. When Piper was through revising it to their likes it was 1954 and the way-too-cute Apache hit the market place; 1,231 were built. In 1958 the Apache 160 was produced by upgrading the engines to 160 hp, 816 were built before being superseded in 1962 by the Apache 235, which was the first relative of the Aztec. It had two 235 hp versions of the engines used on the Aztec and swept tail surfaces (119 built). The Aztec makes a superior family aircraft as the Apache is a bit anemic when loaded up.

Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche:

The Twin Comanche was designed to replace the Piper Aztec . The Twin Comanche was developed from the single-engined Comanche by Ed Swearingen who at the time operated a facility that specialized in the modification of production aircraft. The normally aspirated aircraft was equipped with two 4-cylinder160 hp Lycoming IO-320-B1A fuel injected engines, but 200 hp  engines were available as a modification. A version with turbocharged engines for higher altitude flight was also developed, using IO-C1A engines of the same nominal power. All Twin Comanche engines enjoyed long TBO’s (2000 hours for the B1A) and developed a reputation for reliability. The PA-39 was a version with counter-rotating engines (to eliminate the critical engine) that replaced the PA-30 in the early 1970s. An early high-ratio of training accidents on the original Twin Comanche was reduced by raising the minimum airspeed at which engine-out flights were conducted. In the 1960s, engine-out stalls were performed as part of multiengine training at low altitudes. This, combined with the Twin Comanche’s ease of entry into a flat spin if an engine-out stall is taken too far, led to many early accidents. A revision of training procedures combined with revised placarded speed restrictions for single engine operation as well as a service bulletin which added a rudder-aileron interconnect and leading edge stall strips resulted in significant improvement in the accident rate.

The Twin Comanche is a high performance twin with some tricky flying manners. They go fast, but can scare you as well.

The Twin Comanche is a high performance twin with some tricky flying manners. They go fast, but can scare you as well.

PA-34-200 Seneca I:

 Certified on 7 May 1971 and introduced in late 1971 as a 1972 model, the PA-34-200 Seneca I, is powered by pair of Lycoming IO-360-C1E6 engines. The right-hand engine is a Lycoming LIO-360-C1E6 engine variant, the “L” in its designation indicating that the crankshaft turns in the opposite direction, giving the Seneca I counter-rotating engines. The counter-rotating engines eliminate the critical engine limitations of other light twins and make the aircraft more controllable in the event of a shut down or failure of either engine. A total of 934 Seneca Is were built, including one prototype. The early Seneca I’s have a maximum gross weight of 4,000 lb, while later serial numbers allowed a take-off weight of 4,200 lb. Responding to complaints about the Seneca I  handling qualities, Piper introduced the PA-34-200T Seneca II. The aircraft was certified on 18 July 1974 and introduced as a 1975 model. The new model incorporated changes to the aircraft’s control surfaces, including enlarged and balanced ailerons, the addition of a rudder anti-servo tab, and a stabilator counterweight. The “T” in the new model designation reflected a change to turbocharged, six cylinder Continental TSIO-360E or EB engines for improved performance, particularly at higher altitudes. The Seneca II retained the counter-rotating engine arrangement of the earlier Seneca I. Piper is still building the Seneca series of light twins.

Piper is still building the Seneca V which was first introduced in 1972. The Seneca has always been popular as multi engine rating trainers.

Piper is still building the Seneca V which was first introduced in 1972. The Seneca has always been popular as multi engine rating trainers.

Piper PA-44 Seminole:

The first production Seminoles were equipped with two 180 hp Lycoming O-360-E1A6D engines. The right hand engine is a Lycoming LO-360-E1A6D variant, which turns in the opposite direction to the left hand engine. This feature eliminates the critical engine and makes the aircraft more controllable in the event an engine needs to be shut down or fails. The Seminole was first certified on March 10, 1978 and introduced as a 1979 model year in late 1978. Gross weight is 3800 lbs Later production Seminoles were built with Lycoming O-360-A1H6 engines.

The Seminole is one of the most popular small multi engine trainers. It is basically a twin Arrow.

The Seminole is one of the most popular small multi engine trainers. It is basically a twin Arrow.

For certain types of flying and for those that believe that twins are safer than singles light twins offer some good possibilities for a very nice family aircraft. Light twins are great for cross country flights.

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