Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, December 1, 2004


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.)" />

During the workaday world, Captain Young flies big 767s between Houston, Honolulu, Guam and Tokyo, but his off-duty passion is his very well-equipped Geronimo Apache. By any measure, Young’s Geronimo is an outstanding example of the type.

Typical of most airline pilots who love anything aviation outside of the cockpit of their Boeing, McDonnell Douglas or Airbus, the captain flies his airplane all over the U.S., especially during air-show season. Captain Young is a family man who believes that the converted Piper Apache is a true bargain with quite an impressive, near-airliner comfort, true four-passenger capacity, good reliability, reasonable speed numbers as well as one of the market’s most benign single-engine flight characteristics typical of a light twin.

“I travel with my family quite a bit, and the Piper Geronimo is popular with practically everyone,” says Young. “It has a big-airplane feel inside. The cabin is relatively large with plenty of room in all kinds of directions, and you don’t feel constrained when climbing in or out. In addition, it’s a quiet machine that’s well-insulated against wind and engine noise, and the nose and wing-locker baggage compartments allow you to carry all the luggage that you need and help balance the cabin passenger load.

“Standard fuel on the Piper Apache was 72 gallons, but practically all of the original buyers purchased the twin 18-gallon auxiliary tanks for a total of 108 gallons. One of the included options that was offered on the Piper Geronimo conversion was another 48 gallons in the Hoerner wingtips for a total of 156 gallons. My airplane has the tips, but not the tip tanks, so max fuel is the original 108 gallons. N4411P has a useful load of 1,377 pounds, and when I top off the 108-gallon tanks, it leaves me with a still reasonable 729-pound payload. That’s four people plus baggage, and I fly it that way often.”

The airline captain records a fuel burn of 9 gph per engine on his Geronimo, seemingly irrespective of altitude. “I run 75% power virtually all the time except when the weather forces me to climb up high, and my Piper Geronimo burns a total 18 gph consistently,” says Young. “That allows me an easy four hours of endurance plus IFR reserves, but I rarely need even that.”

The primary beneficiary of any power increase is always climb performance, and the Piper Geronimo certainly reflects that improvement. According to Young, climb at the increased 3,800-pound gross with both engines turning full-on power runs about 1,200 to 1,300 fpm, as much as 1,500 fpm with only two up front.

More impressive, however, and far more significant for safety, is its single-engine performance. Young, who also is a CFII, tutored both of his sons through their multi-engine ratings in the Piper Geronimo, and for that reason, he has had occasion to feather engines as high as 9,000 feet. “There’s still some climb left up there if you’re doing everything right,” comments Captain Young, “but the engines are so reliable that it’s hard to imagine a situation that would cause a total engine failure.”

With only one engine feathered, the Geronimo’s aerodynamic and power advantages significantly improve flight control at a VMC of 64 knots (72 mph in Piper Apache-speak). In addition to that, the extra 20 hp and several aerodynamic improvements more than double the original Piper Apache’s 240-fpm sea-level, single-engine climb rate.

Labels: Piston Twins


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