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Piper Pillán: A Saratoga With Top Gun Dreams

Learn the story about how Piper adapted a civilian aircraft into a military trainer and created an Incredible Plane.

Piper Pillán. Photo By Carmochepe, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Piper T-35 Pillán. Photo By Carmochepe, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, who out there has not at least once wished their humble single-engine people hauler was really a high-performance military warbird? Well, for Piper Saratoga owners, that dream is a reality! Nearly 40 years ago, the Saratoga came to the rescue of the Chilean Air Force. However, it was not as the six-seat aerial SUV that we all have come to know and love but as a two-seat primary trainer. And, surprisingly, most of these incredibly capable fighter pilot trainers are still in service today!

The idea that civilian aircraft might be adapted for the military training market is not a new one. The most successful is the T-34, developed from the Beechcraft Bonanza and its many variants. Additionally, the French Socata Epsilon, based on the TB family of aircraft, and the Globe Swift-based Temco T35 Buckaroo both have deep general aviation roots. And so, like others before, Piper stepped in to fill a need for a military trainer. 

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