Plane & Pilot
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


piper saratogaThe 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.
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piper saratoga
The Saratoga’s gear can be dropped at speeds of up to 132 knots.

As with any six-seater, the Saratoga II TC is a heavyweight on the controls, featuring smooth but slow ailerons and muted pitch response. That’s as it should be in a 3,600-pound single. The PA32 series was never designed for ultimate speed or maneuverability. The intention was to create a good heavy hauler with comfort in mind.

Oxygen is an option in the PA32R, but the nature of the airplane is such that few pilots will fly it in rarefied air. Still, cruise at 11,500 to 12,500 feet will yield a slight advantage from the turbo. You should expect about 175 to 178 knots at heights of up to 12,000 feet, 180 knots at 14,500 feet. In other words, if you’re willing to fly tall in the southern half of the country, you could expect to cover the country, coast to coast, in a single day.

No one suggested such performance would be cheap, however. Fuel burn at max cruise is on the order of 19 gph, 17 gph pulled back to 65%. In this day, when avgas costs more than reasonably priced Chablis, you can expect to pay about $100 hourly for fuel, so a coast-to-coast hop will run about $1,000 for petrol. But remember that you could theoretically be transporting more than one person.

Payload can be pretty much whatever you wish. If you don’t need to transport a team of huskies, there are a myriad of other items that will fit. With the seats removed, you can load almost anything you want into the big cabin. Piper used to run ads showing three workmen loading a small piano into the back of a PA32. That’s not as much of a stretch as you might imagine.

Base price for a Saratoga II TC is $573,500. A fully blissed-out airplane—fitted with air-conditioning, the optional Garmin G1000 avionics suite (Avidyne’s Flight Max Entegra flat-panel display is standard equipment) and all the other options most pilots order—brings the total to considerably more than that. The fully equipped airplane we flew from High Performance Aircraft had a $621,576 sticker price.

That’s still about $127,000 less than the new Piper Matrix, a true cabin-class machine that carries more pounds and flies faster, but offers less loading flexibility. Like all airplanes, the Saratoga II TC is a compromise between speed and utility, efficiency and capability, comfort and economy, but many pilots feel the trade-offs work to Piper’s advantage.

SPECS: 2007 Piper Saratoga II TC PA32-301T

 





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