Plane & Pilot
Thursday, September 1, 2005

New Piper’s Saratoga II TC

Still “The One” for the turbo six-seaters

Any list of general-aviation evergreens is bound to include certain airplanes: The Cessna 170 and 172 would be near the top of the list; Piper’s venerable Super Cub would be a strong contender; Beechcraft’s straight-tail Bonanza would definitely qualify; and the Piper Cherokee Six also would likely make the list." />

Ten years ago, I had the pleasure of ferrying a new Saratoga HP 10,000 nm from Piper’s Vero Beach, Fla., factory to Melbourne, Australia, and the trip was one of the most comfortable Pacific crossings I have ever made. Max takeoff weight was 4,500 pounds, 900 pounds over gross, but the Saratoga hardly noticed. Initial climb was probably 650 to 700 fpm rather than the stock 1,100 fpm, but the airplane performed far better than I had expected, never even hinting at that verge-of-destruction feeling that is so common when operating an airplane 25% above normal gross weight.

Flying the new 2005 airplane with Piper chief pilot Bart Jones at this year’s Sun ‘n Fun Air Show in Lakeland, Fla., was like old-home week for me. I was reminded once again of the airplane’s spacious interior and easy access in the front and rear. I operated a 1975 Seneca II for three years and 500 hours back in the late ‘70s, and the Seneca’s fuselage is identical to the Saratoga’s. With 140 more total horsepower, the Seneca is notably more enthusiastic in climb, but other than that, the differences between the twin- and single-engine airplanes are relatively transparent.

This year, the big news at New Piper is the approval of a TKS ice-protection system for the Saratogas and 6X series of airplanes. In case anyone cares, TKS stands for Tecalimet, Kilfrost and Sheepridge Stokes, the three British companies that conceived the system. TKS, sometimes known as Weeping Wing, seeps a special, glycol-based fluid from tiny, laser-drilled holes in the titanium leading edge of wings and tail. Each hole is about the diameter of a human hair, invisible without a magnifying glass.

The extremely dense liquid (9.2 pounds per gallon) flows across wings and tail, and is slung outboard along the prop, making it almost impossible for ice to adhere to those surfaces. There are two operational settings—normal flow (or anti-ice) and max flow (or de-ice). With the Saratoga’s 4.4-gallon tank of TKS fluid topped off, the system will run at normal anti-ice for two hours, max de-ice for an hour. As you might imagine, the higher setting is designed to get rid of ice you have already accumulated, while the lower setting is intended to ward off anticipated icing (duh!). TKS works extremely well, far better than the old-style rubber boots, and if you fly around the northern United States and even some parts of the southern Midwest in the fall, winter and spring, you may need all the icing protection you can get.

A good friend, Reed Pryor of Boston, flew his Mooney 201 around the world with an aftermarket TKS system. Pryor flew hard IFR on a regular basis, both summer and winter, and his standard procedure when there was any possibility of icing about was to merely flip the switch to high flow just before punching into the clouds and to operate with relative impunity in even moderate to heavy icing conditions. Reed told me the system was so effective, the only way he could tell he had even been in icing conditions was the baseball-sized accumulation on the OAT probe at the top-center windshield.

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