Plane & Pilot
Friday, July 1, 2005

Piper's Archer II

When you’ve been around the coolest airplanes in the world, which one would you choose for yourself?

Piper's Archer IISuppose you know a guy who’s a graduate of the Lockheed Skunk Works. I’m sure you have one of these guys at your local airport. One of those guys who spent most of his life building the world’s fastest, highest-flying, nearly invisible airplanes. The kind of guy who built extreme airplanes— airplanes that nowadays are famous, but during their operational life, he couldn’t even brag to his wife about. One of those “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.
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Pyles grew up with airplanes in the air. “It was all in the valley. Any airplane that ever flew went through Palmdale and Edwards, California,” he recalls. Northrop, North American Rockwell, Boeing and Lockheed all built airplanes in Palmdale. Pyles’ dad worked for Douglas, giving Pyles an instinctive affinity for all things mechanical. Naturally, Pyles reported to Lockheed right out of high school and almost immediately went to work on “black” projects. You know, the secret kind.

His interest in flying peaked when he turned 20 and decided to take flying lessons. Family and work took priority before he could finish, and it was nearly 16 years later that he came back to flying. After building some of those fast, high-flying airplanes and a host of others, like the JSF and the F-16, he was ready to fly on his own.

While working in St. Augustine, Fla., he drove by the airport one day and decided that now was the time. He promptly soloed in eight hours, and after receiving his private license, he had to own his own airplane.

Pyles extensively researched performance and maintenance issues and then decided that a Piper Archer would be a better airplane for him than one of the Cessnas in which he learned to fly. “I didn’t have a preference, high or low wing, but I do like the way the low wing on the Piper looks. The Archer is just a bigger Warrior,” he confesses.

Searching Trade-A-Plane and other places around the country, he found N47773 in the Jacksonville, Fla., paper. The 1978 Archer II was at his local airport, and even better, included a hangar lease. When he got to the T-hangar to look at it, there were two other pilots already there, checking out the airplane. It was apparent they liked it, but they couldn’t come to a decision. After they left, he inspected the airplane and decided it was just what he wanted, with 1,768 hours on the airframe and engine. He came to a fast decision and bought it on the spot. Later, he became friends with the other two pilots.

Labels: Piston Singles


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