Sunday, June 1, 2008
Piper Saratoga II TC: It’s All About Comfort
Forty years after the model’s introduction, the retractable Saratoga II TC is still a great way to haul a team of huskies in comfort at 180 knots
|The runway we had just landed on wasn’t bad by Alaskan standards: A combination of dirt and grass, probably 1,800 feet long, but mostly unimproved and pretty rough for anything but bush planes—or so I thought.|
|Passengers will enjoy the spacious and comfortable cabin, with leather seats and plenty of leg room.|
The 2007 Saratoga II TC provided to us by Mike Gordon of High Performance Aircraft (www.socalpiper.com
) on Gillespie Field in San Diego, Calif., was certainly the most comfortable and accessible of the lot, fitted with air-conditioning, the big, double, left aft doors and two large baggage compartments.
In fact, comfort and convenience have always been the Saratoga’s bywords. If turbocharging helps define the mission of a Saratoga II TC, comfort is its true raison d’etre. Prior to the recent introduction of the Piper Matrix (which was covered in the April 2008 issue; read the article here
), the Saratoga was generally regarded as the most comfortable, unpressurized, six-seat piston single in the sky, and it’s still an impressive place to visit for a few hours or a few days. It’s slightly wider than any non-Piper, and with the air-conditioning option, it offers perhaps the ultimate in creature comfort.
The Saratoga’s front pit measures more than four feet across, broad enough to accommodate even the largest pilots. Passengers relegated to the rear won’t feel second class in any sense, as dimensions remain friendly, and there’s enough cabin length in the rear to prevent foot or leg overlapping in opposing seats.
Baggage goes aboard in either of two compartments, one aft of the rear seats rated for 100 pounds and another, separate container between the forward cabin and engine firewall, worth another 100 pounds. In addition to helping balance any aft load, that forward space serves other purposes. It insulates the cockpit from some of the sound and vibration out front, plus its proximity to the engine compartment automatically keeps things warm up front.
Fuel capacity on the big Piper is 102 gallons, providing pilots with the flexibility to fly with lots of fuel or lots of people, but not both. Standard useful load runs around 1,140 pounds, so it’s apparent that full tanks would leave only about 400 paying pounds. If the required endurance is only an hour or so, you could leave 60 gallons in the truck and fly with nearly five folks (or perhaps four plus two).
In fact, short stage lengths are more the rule than the exception. Several years ago, the National Business Aircraft Association surveyed its members and discovered that the average business flight was only 352 nm. And remember, this is in a class that consists of mostly turboprops and jets. Many pilots simply fill the tanks out of knee-jerk habit, but it costs fuel to haul fuel. Accordingly, many pilots are learning to carry only what they need.
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