The Archer Goes Glass
New Piper’s amazingly popular PA-28 series now comes with the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra
The new world of PFDs/MFDs has caused a revolution in the industry, bringing a startling level of avionics technology to the lower rungs of general aviation. The current generation of pilots, raised on the best efforts of Apple and IBM, will take to the computerization of aviation without batting an eye, whereas some of us older types, accustomed to looking at analog instruments, will find the transition more of a challenge. Electronic instruments and navigation readouts are unquestionably the wave of the future, however, and those pilots who can’t adjust will simply be left behind, as even the least expensive airplanes in the industry embrace the new electronic marvels.
If the Archer’s avionics suite is as modern as tomorrow, the airplane it serves remains the simple, reliable old friend it has always been. Like thousands of pilots who have been flying for a while, I’ve logged my share of hours in Archers, and if the type isn’t the most exciting machine in the sky, it makes a durable, predictable rental, an easy checkout in distant locations and a comfortable airplane to fly in IFR.
For this report, I flew with New Piper’s Stan Ryker out of Oshkosh, Wis., on the day after the EAA AirVenture 2004, and the PA-28-181 proved, once again, what a forgiving and friendly machine it is. The cabin is 42 inches across up front by 45 inches tall, and Stan and I had reasonable room for elbows and headsets. The airplane’s creature comforts are easily adequate to the class, especially with the optional leather seats.
In flight, the Archer couldn’t be much easier to fly. My first takeoff was in formation on Plane & Pilot’s Skylane photo ship, and the Archer was a comfortable machine to snuggle up with the Cessna. Some instructors have complained that Cherokees are too safe and easy to fly. It’s true the type is almost silly-simple to operate, but it’s hard to consider that a deficit under any conditions.
From its inception in the early ’60s to the new airplane I flew, the 180-hp Cherokee has remained true to the concept that simpler is better. The engine is still carbureted, the flaps remain manual, the prop is fixed and the basic airplane is very much the same machine it has been since Piper switched from the Hershey-bar wing to the semi-tapered Warrior airfoil in 1976.
Change can add capability, but it doesn’t always improve the breed, and with the exception of the avionics suite, the folks at New Piper have left a reliable formula alone. That’s not to suggest the Archer is outdated (although it does look fairly antiquated when parked next to a new Diamond Star or Cirrus SR-20), but merely that it’s a design that has matured gracefully. Piper continues to sell 75 to 100 of the type each year, not really all that impressive by the standards of 25 years ago, but enough to justify continued production on today’s more restrained market.
The Archer’s max gross weight is 2,550 pounds, which positions the model directly opposite Cessna’s Skyhawk 172S. A standard airplane weighs in at 1,682 pounds, leaving a useful load of 876 pounds. Fuel remains 48 gallons usable, so an entry-level Archer sports a full-fuel payload of 588 pounds. While that’s not quite enough for four folks and full fuel, it’s an easy three plus baggage. Many Archer owners fly most of the time with only two up front or with two adults plus kids in the back, and the Archer flies such missions willingly.