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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The first thing Pyles did with his new Archer was get his instrument ticket. The next thing he wanted to do was tinker. That’s one thing Pyles does; he starts slow and keeps at it, tinkering, that is. He decided that he needed to get his airframe and powerplant license to work on the airplane. He says matter-of-factly, “That way, I could work on the airplane and not have to pay someone else to do it.” So he did.

A freshly minted A&P, Pyles replaced all the plastic trim. With new trim, he decided the airplane needed to be repainted. But before that, he decided it needed a new interior and glass. Next came a new HSI, Loran and STEC autopilot. Explaining his restoration progress, he says, “It was new to me, and the more I did, the more I wanted to do.” Oh, Pyles did finally repaint the airplane.

Pyles says of the Archer, “The airplane has never let me down. I even had my first date with my wife, Casey, in this airplane. Well, sort of. Actually, I took a double date on a trip to Hilton Head. That’s where I met her, several years before we got together. Our first date was actually to the fly-in at Oshkosh.”

The Piper Archer is a reliable airplane, if AD notes or Service Bulletins are any indicators. Few have been issued over the years. The worst airframe note was for possible corrosion of the wing spar (Pyles’ airplane didn’t have any problems in this regard). These Pipers do have Lycoming engines subject to the oil pump impellor gear AD, and Pyles’ was no different. When Pyles’ engine approached the AD required time limit for replacement, he approached it in the only fashion he could: He decided to overhaul the whole engine himself.

Pyles took the engine apart and sent out the crankshaft and other critical components to be checked. Everything else he did himself, and then he reassembled it and test-flew it, too.

Now it’s time to enjoy the airplane. Not content to fly around the local area, Pyles has flown it from one end of the country to the other, getting 9.5 gph at 120 knots. Now most of his trips are with two or four people on the weekends, sometimes at night to see the lights over Fort Worth, sometimes across town for breakfast. The most important thing for Pyles is he has fun with the airplane in the air or with the cowling off.

SPECS:
1978 Piper PA-28-181 Archer II



Labels: Piston Singles

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