Thursday, November 1, 2007
Aerostar 702: Still The Fastest
Forty years after its introduction, the Aerostar remains the world’s fastest, general aviation piston airplane—period
There’s something almost magical about staring out at your own reflection in the left, polished spinner of an Aerostar, watching it whirl along at 2,300 rpm six feet from your left ear. You can see the long nose stretching out in front of you, the ground zipping past below and the sky arcing away above. It’s one of the most satisfying and immediately identifiable experiences in aviation." />
The final production Aerostar appeared in 1984 as the Piper 700, but that plane has lived on for the last 20 years as the Aerostar 700, an STC’d conversion of the 600-series airplanes. The type certificate is now owned by Aerostar Aircraft.
Today, the last generation of Aerostars flies with a pair of 350 hp TIO-540s, and the speed ante has jumped from 235 knots to 261 knots (300 mph). In keeping with its reputation, that makes the piston-powered Aerostar faster than some turboprops.
If speed has always been the Aerostar’s primary claim to fame, it certainly hasn’t been the only one. Fly all the other twins, both on and off the market, and you’ll appreciate that the Aerostar is by far the easiest flying and best handling of the lot. (Okay, the little Wing Derringer was pretty quick, too.)
The Aerostar’s roll rate and pitch response is so good that the late air show pilot Jimmy Franklin used to fly a solid-black Aerostar in an impressive, high-speed acro routine that included most of the same maneuvers he did in his Stearman. Franklin, ever the showman, would dress in an all-black jumpsuit, complete with cape and mask, call himself “Zar” and turn the Aerostar every which way but loose.
Looks are always subjective, but even today, more than 20 years after production ended, most pilots still regard the Aerostar as one of the sexiest, most futuristic twins in the sky. With its nearly tubular fuselage, stubby mid-wings and close-mounted engines, the Aerostar looks like a jet with props. (In fact, way back in the late ’60s, designer Ted Smith drew up plans for a fan-jet version, but it hasn’t come to pass—so far. Stay tuned.)
The latest iteration of the airplane is the Aerostar 702, introduced at the 2006 AOPA Convention in Palm Springs, Calif. Aerostar underwent an extensive engineering analysis with the FAA to certify the airplane to a gross weight that’s more than 500 pounds higher than the previous model 700.
The newest 702 now sports a takeoff weight of 6,850 pounds and a useful load of nearly 2,200 pounds. Pump aboard the standard 166.5 gallons, and payload works out to 1,200 pounds, six people plus 180 pounds of baggage. Even with the optional 44-gallon aux tank installed and topped, the airplane could still lift 940 paying pounds.
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Labels: Piston Twins