|PIPER CHEROKEE WARRIOR II|
|-- Flying the Warrior --|
The Warrior, like most aircraft, isn't hard to preflight.
Like all low-wings, it requires a fair bit of crawling around on all-fours
to carry out certain tasks like checking the fuel sumps and the fuel tank
vents. The pitot head is also under the wing and requires some crawling to
A nice feature of this particular aircraft is the cowling opens fully when you check the oil so you can check out the engine compartement a lot better than the usual small flap that allows access to the oil dipstick. The gascolator sump is a bit awkward though, as it's difficult to get a full sample cup of fuel from it because it is at an angle coming out of the left lower cowling.
Checking the oil gives you a good look at the engine.
The pitot opening is on the front, the static on the back of this structure.
One thing that's quite noticable is that the pitot/static openings are different
to those found on a typical Cessna or Beech aircraft. It consists of a small
'sharks fin' structure on the underside of the left wing, which contains
both the pitot and static holes.
The engine instruments are all easy to see from the normal
instrument scan. The main difference with the engine controls compared to
many singles is that Piper uses a quadrant (visibile in this picture) wheras
most others use push/pull vernier controls. It only takes a little getting
used to (the only thing I found unusual is that you had to pull the throttle
lever a long way back for slow flight - it felt that it was almost in idle
One thing that startled me was the best economy leaning procedure which I have never heard of before (and sounds quite hard on the engine). The book says that you can open the throttle wide open and pull the mixture control back until you reach the desired RPM! Since the EGT is inop on this airplane and I can't tell whether it's getting too hot easily, I'll just stick with the conventional method of leaning (also written out in the POH). The 'best economy' lean I just described does come with a big CAUTION sign in the book not to run the engine at full power below around 5,000 feet for more than 15 seconds (above that altitude, the engine can't develop full power).
The ground checks are conventional - the only differerence from the O-320 powered C172 is that the run-up is done at 2,000 RPM instead of 1,700 (carb heat usage also differs - you don't put carb heat on unless ice is suspected, wheras the Cessna POH and checklists instruct you to apply carb heat on any significant reduction of power). A nice touch is that Piper printed the checklists on the panel, so it's easy to do a written checklist. This is a good thing on this airplane as it requires more steps than the Cessna - fuel on the correct tank AND electric fuel pump for takeoffs and landings. (The fuel pump is turned off once you are out of the pattern - this allows you to notice a engine fuel pump failure in cruise flight).
The flaps are Johnson-bar type, much like the Beech Musketeer. The short-field takeoff technique calls for flaps 25 which seemed like an awful lot of flaps! In my checkout, we did a short field takeoff, and we had no problem with the imaginary 50-foot barrier.
The takeoff roll feels a lot slower than in the 172 - this aircraft is generally heavier (ours has A/C and an autopilot, as well as carrying another 10 gallons of fuel). It also climbed out more slowly than the 172 does. Solo, I can get the C172 to exceed 1100 fpm on a winter's day, but under similar cool conditions I had 850 fpm or so at Vy. I'm sure the extra weight accounted for much of this.
Once airborne, the aircraft is just as stable as a C172. It requires lighter control forces on the elevator control (probably due to the stabilator design rather than stabilizer and elevator combination). Getting it into slow flight and steep turns is very similar to any other aircraft. However, one thing to watch out for is if you are used to a C172 which requires quite a lot of back pressure for steep turns, you can easily balloon up the first time you do a steep turn in the Warrior due to the low force required on the elevator! I was prepared for this having done many steep turns in the Musketeer which has almost as light control forces for the elevator.
The stall characteristics of this aircraft are very good - you'd have to really be asleep to not notice the significant pre-stall control buffet. The whole airframe seems to shake as you approach the stall and start to mush. On the Cessna and the Beech, the pre-stall buffet is almost unnoticeable (you feel it a little in a power on stall only). When I did my primary training, I always wondered what happened to the pre-stall buffet that was supposed to happen...and I found it on this aircraft. When the aircraft does stall, it's pretty docile - just make sure you remain co-ordinated (ball centered) during stalls.
On the way in to landing, you've got to make sure you complete that checklist, the most important items being ensuring you are on a good fuel tank and the fuel pump is ON in case you need to go around. You need to always remember there is no 'both' position on the fuel selector! Unlike the Cessna 172, carb heat is not part of the pre-landing checklist - in the Warrior, the carb heat is used as a de-icer, wheras in the 172 it seems to be used as an anti-icer (possibly due to carburettor differences). The green arc on the tach goes right from idle to red line.
Landing is conventional. You approach at 63 KIAS. One thing I noticed is that there is quite a pitch change with the flaps, and you need to trim forwards quite a bit. Our club's Warrior is equipped with electric trim, but I find it easier to reach down and manually trim when trimming for approach since once the flaps are in it does require a surprising amount of nose-down trim. During the flare you need to be a little patient because the aircraft will float, and pay close attention to directional control as control authority is lost reasonably quickly as the speed bleeds off. If you are doing a touch-and-go, it's probably better to only use flaps 25 because you'll have to do lots of retrimming on the 'go' part! In fact, one person in rec.aviation.piloting said that his flight school's procedure was not to do touch-and-goes when using full flaps on approach.
For the IFR, a useful addition to our Warrior is anti-static wicks that help discharge precipitation static (this interferes with radios and nav equipment). I believe this was at least optional Piper equipment since it is mentioned on the POH checklists.
|-- Conclusion --|
A common question asked on the newsgroups is "What's better?
The Warrior or the Cessna 172?". In my opinion, it's all a matter of personal
taste. Both fly about the same speed, both have the same engine, both have
about the same fuel burn. Some like the light control feel of the Warrior,
some prefer the heavier control feel of the Skyhawk. Of course, there's the
whole high wing/low wing thing.
On the subject of visibility, I find that both just have blind spots in different places. The biggest visibility gripe about the Warrior I have is that the centerpost really seems to get in the way, since I've flown the Skyhawk and Beech Musketeer frequently, neither of which have this.
Other minor considerations are things like the preference for vernier push/pull controls or the quadrant (of course, the quadrant looks cool because airliners have them, but I feel the verniers give a bit more finesse). The other thing to consider is ventilation. The Warrior is poorly ventilated compared to both the Cessna 172 and Beech Musketeer - the Cessna has the 'soda cans' at the wing roots that blow generous amounts of air onto your face, and the Musketeer has vents by the panel you can aim at your face. The Warrior doesn't have any vents you can point at your face! This could be quite sticky in the heat of a Texas summer.
But of course there's those seats. Ahh! Our Warrior has the nicest airplane seats I have EVER sat in. They are more comfortable than what you normally find on a commercial airliner. The lumbar support is just perfect, they aren't hard, and they adjust just right. You can't beat these seats on a long cross country. I have just been on a very pleasant night flight in the Warrior, and the comfort factor of those seats really complemented the beautiful starry night!