Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Geronimo!


For many light-twin owners, Piper’s Apache is about as good as it gets


Geronimo!Let’s just say that you own a flight school in a huge and major market and you feel a need for a new multi-engine trainer. If you’re completely determined to buy new, you have only one choice, really, for a dedicated twin trainer, the Piper Seminole. (The diesel-powered Austrian Diamond Twin Star isn’t expected to be available until later this month.)" />
Geronimo!Let’s just say that you own a flight school in a huge and major market and you feel a need for a new multi-engine trainer. If you’re completely determined to buy new, you have only one choice, really, for a dedicated twin trainer, the Piper Seminole. (The diesel-powered Austrian Diamond Twin Star isn’t expected to be available until later this month.) The Seminole, basically a T-tailed, twin-engine Piper Arrow, is a fine little airplane, simple and easy to fly, but the plane’s average-equipped, out-the-door price of $450,000 may give some buyers pause. Now, imagine that there was an alternative airplane available for at least $100,000 less, and it offers you a considerably larger cabin, a bit more payload, perhaps the same or better performance, similar operating and handling economics and even more benign flight characteristics.

Well, there is—sort of. It’s called the Geronimo. Although it’s not a totally new kind of airplane, it’s about as nice a remanufactured light twin as you can buy. “Remanufactured” is the key word. It means that the airplane is essentially rebuilt from the ground up with new or reconditioned parts.

Piper’s first prototype of the Apache, officially designated the PA-23, was originally the Twin Stinson, not a Piper design at all. Like many prototypes, it was predictably underpowered with two 125-hp engines and a twin-rudder empennage à la Beech 18. Fortunately, after Piper acquired the Stinson, much saner heads prevailed, and the initial production of the Apache sported a pair of 150-hp Lycomings as well as a conventional tail. This still left the Piper Apache underpowered. Regardless, it nevertheless became an extremely popular airplane, a large, roly-poly bear cub of a multi-engine trainer, gentle, friendly and a willing teaching machine.

Part of the reason for the Piper PA-23-150’s near-universal acceptance was that it had the market cornered. In 1954, it was the only multi-engine flying classroom available on the market. Today, Piper still has a monopoly on that honor with the Seminole. In contrast to the very modern, slick, swept, quarter-century-newer Piper Seminole, the original Piper Apache had manifested itself with the aerodynamics of a pet rock and all the charisma of a speed bump.

With both engines running true, the Apache was a reasonable three and/or four-place transport, although in single-engine mode, the PA-23-150 was barely adequate to the multi-training mission. The later 160-hp Apache was a definite and complete improvement, but still a marginal machine with an engine out.

Price ruled all, however, and the 1954 Apache was, by far, the least expensive twin on the market, not that much more costly than the single-engine Beechcraft E35 Bonanza. At the time, the only other light-medium twins that were available were hardly so-called trainers, the cabin-class Aero Commander 520, at $73,260, and the Beech C50 Twin Bonanza, a two-row six-seater, not surprisingly at the top of the class at $91,355. A year later, Cessna introduced the 310, but with 240 hp on each wing and a gross weight of 4,600 pounds, the 310 was more than 1,000 pounds heavier than the Apache and hardly intended as a trainer. It also cost nearly $60,000.




Labels: Piston Twins

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