Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Training With Seminoles

ATP Flight School employs the world’s largest fleet of Piper Seminoles to train aspiring airline pilots for the multi-engine rating

Piper has always been famous for producing light twins. Today, the Vero Beach company builds perhaps the most popular true twin trainer on the planet, the Piper PA-44-180 Seminole. It's not the only light twin on the market, but it may be the only one to synthesize the ingredients necessary to produce an ideal twin trainer.

In a sense, the Seminole is the end product of 60 years of evolution. Piper began building mini-multis in the mid-1950s with the bulbous, 150-160 hp Apache, a modest twin that in many respects signaled the beginning of the modern era of flight training.

Piper's second twin trainer was the popular Twin Comanche, an airplane that delivered improved esthetics and significantly better performance for the same horsepower. This made the Twin Com a popular choice for both multi-engine flight training and business/family transport.

The company's third light twin was the 1972 Seneca 1, a variation on the company's popular Cherokee Six with a pair of normally aspirated 200 hp engines on the wings, a cargo door at aft left and six seats. While some folks felt the Seneca 1 was too much airplane for the mission, it met with limited success as a trainer. (Forty-two years later, the dramatically improved turbocharged Seneca V is still in Piper's model lineup, though it has become a sophisticated business and family transport rather than a dedicated teaching tool.)

Piper scored perhaps its best, on-target training twin success with the T-tailed Seminole that premiered in 1979. Piper has always been a master at adapting existing designs to new configurations, and the Seminole was perhaps the perfect example of that philosophy.

The Seminole was purpose-built for the training market, basically an Arrow IV fuselage, landing gear and semi-tapered wing with counter-rotating props, a T-tail mounted high above the propwash and a pair of economical, carbureted, 180 hp Lycoming O-360 engines, the latter among the most durable power plants in the industry.

No one is sure which "modern" light twin came first, but the explosion of general aviation sales in the late '70s spawned at least three light/light-training twins, all of which premiered at roughly the same time: the aforementioned Piper Seminole, Beech's Duchess and the Grumman-American Cougar.


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