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In my ongoing quest for a 4-seater that will at least keep up with my RV-9, I keep coming back to the Piper Comanche...

 

I've looked at the Cardinal and it has several, well, issues that concern me, being the funky Cessna gear, SIDS and the major one, the spar carry-through structure, which if it fails the NDI, basically writes off the aircraft as replacements are essentially, unavailable. If you have an old Cardinal in your barn and the carry through spar tests good, it is almost worth its' weight in gold...

 

I've thought long and hard about the Bonanza series, but again, they aren't perfect. There's a nice-ish N35 Bonanza for sale down Victoria way but I'm wary of the V-tails, not because of tail itself, but because of the balancing issue I've heard about. I got the W&B data sent up to see if it would work, but with 4 x 80Kg people & only a few KG of bags, you're outside the aft CG limit at ZFW - and as your CG moves aft as fuel is consumed, that's not ideal in any way. So that rules that out. I've emailed another broker - Ian Baillie Aircraft - about a long-advertised S35 and been ignored twice (great service if you're into selling things, ignoring a potential customer, but meh 😖)

 

I had heard many a good thing about the -250 and -260 Comanches, but they don't seem to pop up for sale very often. I did see a -260B advertised briefly a couple months ago, spoke to the broker at the time and the seller pulled it from sale. It's now re-advertised (and from memory $10K higher than originally) and after a few emails back and forth with the broker who didn't seem to twig I needed the weight and balance data, not just BEW & MTOW we got there in the end and it checks out good, with a claimed 1250Lb payload & 90 gallons of fuel, or 710lbs in the cabin with full tanks. The seller brought it for $92.5 a year ago and has it listed at $105K and all he has done in that time, from what I can see, is install a GTX-327 and GNC300XL, both of which would need to come out anyway as they aren't suitable for ADS-B, so I'm yet to be convinced the asking price is reasonable. It also desperately needs a new panel - though this is based on my flying behind an EFIS for the last several years and not wanting to downgrade to a horrendously-installed 6-pack...

 

After many an hour on Google, the following seem to be the cautionary issues about the Comanche singles:

  • The landing gear Bungees especially, but also the bungee rollers. A very quick & cheap item to replace at each 100 hourly (bungees, not rollers) , but not always done
  • The landing gear has an obscure 1000-hr AD requirement that is often overlooked.
  • The landing gear 'conduits' have often never been replaced and are expensive when they need to be.
  • The stabilator horn has a recurring AD unless replaced by an Australian-designed version
  • The Laminar-flow wing needs very precise speed control on landing if you are to achieve anything resembling book figures.
  • And it is a 60-year-old design with little parts support from Piper, though aftermarket suppliers have stepped up to bridge the gap.
  • Visibility isn't as good as say a Bonanza, or particularly a 2 seat RV

 

From what I can find, both the -250's and -260's will haul 1100-1300lbs at 150-165KTAS burning around 15GPH to do so, dependant on altitude. Tip tanks are available as are a few other speed mods and they are reported to be quite a comfortable touring aircraft, though the aforementioned visibility is off-putting to some.

 

So, my questions to the knowledge bank here is: "What else is there to know about the Comanche?"  and "What don't you like about the Comanche singles?"

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Well constructed and corrosion proofed. Service the flying stab carefully. Some fit a smaller tyre to the nosewheel to help them land flatter You don't hang the  laminar wing up in the air  You try to fly it on at the right speed. Bladder tanks check condition AND fuel selector stuff under floor They used to have a loyal following in the US and there were some high hours but still good examples about.. The"Usual" Piper trim action that I get wrong first time. Flaps aren't spectacularly effective. I feel a little cramped in the thing but not annoyingly. It's all relative. Looking over the cowl didn't appear an issue. They are a quality build compared with Later models that were built in a different factory after the first one got flooded out. Don't think I'd bother with the tip tanks. If the electrics fail you can't get the fuel out of them anyhow. I owned a twin that flew here from the states and it needed them then. Maybe the 165 knots is a little hopeful but it won't take long to check that out. Cost a fortune to buy a plane built like they are built, today. Have you got onto the Comanche club? or whatever it's called. All this stuff is not new anymore, but they age better than the later stuff. Nev

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13 minutes ago, facthunter said:

I feel a little cramped in the thing but not annoyingly. It's all relative. Looking over the cowl didn't appear an issue. 

Is that due to your height? I'm 6'5 but fairly slim.

 

I have had a good look through the ICS and ComancheFlyer sites, yep. They're a wonderful trove of info, but will always be biased by the very fact they're made up of Comanche owners!   In some ways people with no affiliation can provide better insight than the type clubs.

11 minutes ago, red750 said:

There is a Piper Comanche AUS NZ Facebook group.

Is that for sale in a closed group? Can't find it in my FB search, is there a chance you could post a link please?

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It is not an advert, it is a closed enthusiast group, with 80 members, which you may be interested in joining, like I am a member of the Vintage Bonanza group. There are two other Comanche groups as well. Put "Pipert Comanche" in the Facebook search. Here is the URL for the group:  

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1036668103397532

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No I'm not tall but sitting height about average..There's worse instrument panels to look over. Have you looked at any A-36's.Nev

Edited by facthunter
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34 minutes ago, red750 said:

It is not an advert, it is a closed enthusiast group, with 80 members, which you may be interested in joining, like I am a member of the Vintage Bonanza group. There are two other Comanche groups as well. Put "Pipert Comanche" in the Facebook search. Here is the URL for the group:  

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1036668103397532

Thanks for that! I've put in to join.

29 minutes ago, facthunter said:

No I'm not tall but sitting height about average..There's worse instrument panels to look over. Have you looked at any A-36's.Nev

I have indeed considered the A36. Gympie had one for sale recently fairly cheap ($125K IIRC) and there's a couple others listed recently but much higher $$, but I don't really need 6 seats, though the old adage "if you need 4 buy a 6 seater" typically applies. If I can get by with 4 in the Comanche it seems prudent to do so. That being said, the sheer volume of A36's produced means parts availability will never be the issue it may become for the Comanche.

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I am aware of a rare Comanche 400.  It is well cared for but is currently undergoing a major refit and service. Please PM me if this might take your fancy.  I can speak with the owner if you are interested to gauge his interest to potentially sell.

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Would a C182 do the job?

There must be lots around with SIDS done at a reasonable price.

A good genuine 4 seater and load carrier!

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Indeed there are, but I don't want to go backwards in performance. The RV gets along at 143-145KTAS at 2400RPM at 55%, a 182Q will just do the same at 75%...maybe...and the climb rate isn't anything to write home about. I had given the 182 much thought when it looked like I'd be staying at Somersby, with the short strip there, but we're in the process of buying a new house that backs onto Scone airport, so the STOL requirement isn't as important as it was previously.

 

If I could get CAsA to give me a CASR 42ZC authorisation to maintain it myself, on the basis of building and maintaining my RV-9, then that would almost tip the scales in its' favour, but the chance of that is remote. A major benefit to the 182 though, is Dynon is expecting their EFIS to include autopilot approvals next year. The Comanche won't even rate a mention for that for years to come, if it ever does. This was another thing that swung me away from the Cardinal too. Garmin is planning Comanche approval for their G3X-based autopilots "in the next 12 months" and while I have the idea of supporting Big G, an EFIS + AP is going in whatever I get, sooner rather than later...

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Retract gear is a maintenance issue and may well get you stuck somewhere (expensively ) one day. A 182 will land pretty short if you want it to..  Watch seat runners on Cessna's. Although the 182 might be a bit Ho Hum, it's a pretty capable and comfortable (quiet) thingy really and not as affected by hot sun, on the occupants, as some are. They also go through farm gates and along tracks with low shrubbery and grass, that tangles in aileron bellcranks ( aerodrome markers dare I mention) on low wing things. TWO doors(safety) and easier to get you and your stuff in and out of generally. Nev

Edited by facthunter
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Get a few good famil flights. They are sweet to fly very predictable but they are not just a big Cherokee. Landings are ok but no bounces or they porpoise well oh and the stall can really really bite you they like to drop a wing! 

Edited by Jase T
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On 06/10/2020 at 10:06 AM, KRviator said:

In my ongoing quest for a 4-seater that will at least keep up with my RV-9, I keep coming back to the Piper Comanche...

 

I've looked at the Cardinal and it has several, well, issues that concern me, being the funky Cessna gear, SIDS and the major one, the spar carry-through structure, which if it fails the NDI, basically writes off the aircraft as replacements are essentially, unavailable. If you have an old Cardinal in your barn and the carry through spar tests good, it is almost worth its' weight in gold...

 

I've thought long and hard about the Bonanza series, but again, they aren't perfect. There's a nice-ish N35 Bonanza for sale down Victoria way but I'm wary of the V-tails, not because of tail itself, but because of the balancing issue I've heard about. I got the W&B data sent up to see if it would work, but with 4 x 80Kg people & only a few KG of bags, you're outside the aft CG limit at ZFW - and as your CG moves aft as fuel is consumed, that's not ideal in any way. So that rules that out. I've emailed another broker - Ian Baillie Aircraft - about a long-advertised S35 and been ignored twice (great service if you're into selling things, ignoring a potential customer, but meh 😖)

 

I had heard many a good thing about the -250 and -260 Comanches, but they don't seem to pop up for sale very often. I did see a -260B advertised briefly a couple months ago, spoke to the broker at the time and the seller pulled it from sale. It's now re-advertised (and from memory $10K higher than originally) and after a few emails back and forth with the broker who didn't seem to twig I needed the weight and balance data, not just BEW & MTOW we got there in the end and it checks out good, with a claimed 1250Lb payload & 90 gallons of fuel, or 710lbs in the cabin with full tanks. The seller brought it for $92.5 a year ago and has it listed at $105K and all he has done in that time, from what I can see, is install a GTX-327 and GNC300XL, both of which would need to come out anyway as they aren't suitable for ADS-B, so I'm yet to be convinced the asking price is reasonable. It also desperately needs a new panel - though this is based on my flying behind an EFIS for the last several years and not wanting to downgrade to a horrendously-installed 6-pack...

 

After many an hour on Google, the following seem to be the cautionary issues about the Comanche singles:

  • The landing gear Bungees especially, but also the bungee rollers. A very quick & cheap item to replace at each 100 hourly (bungees, not rollers) , but not always done
  • The landing gear has an obscure 1000-hr AD requirement that is often overlooked.
  • The landing gear 'conduits' have often never been replaced and are expensive when they need to be.
  • The stabilator horn has a recurring AD unless replaced by an Australian-designed version
  • The Laminar-flow wing needs very precise speed control on landing if you are to achieve anything resembling book figures.
  • And it is a 60-year-old design with little parts support from Piper, though aftermarket suppliers have stepped up to bridge the gap.
  • Visibility isn't as good as say a Bonanza, or particularly a 2 seat RV

 

From what I can find, both the -250's and -260's will haul 1100-1300lbs at 150-165KTAS burning around 15GPH to do so, dependant on altitude. Tip tanks are available as are a few other speed mods and they are reported to be quite a comfortable touring aircraft, though the aforementioned visibility is off-putting to some.

 

So, my questions to the knowledge bank here is: "What else is there to know about the Comanche?"  and "What don't you like about the Comanche singles?"

As you have mentioned, I would have concerns around parts availability. We are talking about a 50yr old aircraft and I would also worry about corrosion. Rare to find an ALWAYS HANGARED aircraft of this age and a really thorough pre purchase inspection by an independant Lame goes without saying, but i see from your comments that you are very experienced as a builder and know all this anyway.

I keep coming back to the 182 and while its not as fast as you want, you wouldnt be too much behind the Comanche over a 2 hour flight.

I havent seen a Comanche at Bankstown Airport in a long time, but they must be around somewhere. 

My concerns would be age, corrosion, parts, condition of Instruments and Avionics which may be original, and payload.

Keep us informed with your search, hope it all goes well.

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Would you consider a 4 seat experimental rather than certificated?  I know of an aircraft with a 210ktas cruise on an IO360 engine.  <$100k.  Apparently a little more work to have it flying (not sure how much...).  If a benign Comanche 400 is a bit too much, this slick aircraft may be also.  It’s a White Lightning.

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Cirrus SR20, Gen1 ?

most of them I have seen for sale  of the age need their chute repacked etc but that's not that pricey.

 

Edited by RFguy
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Interesting that the White Lightning  has rearward facing rear seats to improve CoG and seating placement. 

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I'm breaking out in a rash just thinking about fiberglass! 😛 

 

A 4 seat experimental wouldn't worry me at all, for I fly in my RV-9, but realistically, there is the Sling 4 TSi and the RV-10 and not much else that would compare to an RV. The problem with the White Lightning would be I likely wouldn't qualify to maintain it, it being 1: Fiberglass and 2: Retractable, which leads to 3: they are comparatively rare and finding a suitable LAME might be a problem. Were it a FG and metal bird I would qualify under the "substantially similar" provisions relating to experimental maintenance.

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Have you considered at TB21-TC which has something like a 170kt 75% cruise... the TB-20s are about 150kt.. They provide great visibility, then Gen Twos are roomy and you can often (in the northern hemisphere)get them kitted out with a Farmin EFIS.

 

There aren't too many for sale, and you will prob have to look overseas for them...

 

I have flown TB-20s, Bonanzas, PA32s (Cherokee 6s and Lances), Commanche (250s), and of these, the TB20s are the most comfy. The TB21TC is a turbo-charged TB20. Also, Socata still manufacture spares for them, but they can be pricey.

 

I wouldn't worry about whether it is a 4 or 6 seater... if you have at least 4 seats (and it can take 4 adults and luggage with a decent amount of fuel), you have your mission a/c...

 

If you would consider 6 seaters, the PA32 range is very good also... The 235 versions are OK.. but I would go for the 300. And still has a spares network.

 

Best of luck...

 

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I had - briefly - considered a Tobago or derivative but didn't konw about the TB21 turbo, J_A but I don't really want to have to have the hassle of importing one. I can't even get to Victoria to inspect a Comanche at the moment, yet alone buying one from overseas at the moment! 😛 The one I did see for sale was advertised for $240K on Controller, with another two on TAP for $165 & $179. That's too expensive for my liking, and add GST & a bunch of fees on top of that, and it isn't good value I feel.

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I wold think there might be some wriggle room in the prices; TB-20s and 21s often come to the market at higher prices as owners like to keep them.. The one on Controller.com has a TT of 890hrs and 150 on a new engne.. That leaves a lot of time left... and assuming all checks out OK on the airframe, bits aren't going to start to require replacement for some time. As it's N reg, you can get a pigy back FAA licence - would you need to modify it for Aus conditions? In the UK we can import them with VAT only.. no need to convert to European spec (even on a EASA licence, though if we want to fly internationally, we have to have the FAA piggy back licence as a minimum). Although, the radios wold have to be upgraded to 8.33khz spacing.

 

Another option, although a little slower, is the Piper Dakota.. 143kt cruise (book), fixed gear 235hp. Also not too common as owners love them... they are sturdy (er.. except for that spar inspection AD), not often used by schools and generally well maintained.. Comfy touring 4 seater with some speed.. And there is the AA5B Tiger is 140kts.. although these sound a little too slow for your mission.

 

Another a/c to think about is the Rockwell Commander 114- book cruise at 160kts, and one for sale in VIc for 125K.. Seems cheap - they advertise here for about as many £. No idea of maintenance costs, etc.

 

BTW, Ian Baillee a/c sales, amongst others, are looking for a new home and that may be the reason they have been unresponsive.. https://www.australianflying.com.au/latest/eviction-notices-sent-to-moorabbin-operators

 

 

Edited by Jerry_Atrick
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Have flown all models of the PA-24, (180/250/260 or A,B,C)) and PA-30, (A,B,C) - mostly back when we were all much younger!  The Comanche is a very 'solid' aircraft, roomy and a good 4 seater. The 260C was by far the superior model, but you could only get 160 out of them, though flight planning at 150 was doable. They were never ever a 6 seater!  Never found visibility an issue, nor the flap capacity, despite doing quite a bit of paddock work in them. Because of the big nosewheel hanging out extended, it's difficult to squeek them onto the mains only - as they do stop flying quite sharply. The smaller dia nosewheel I hadn't heard of.  I hear that all PA-24s are becoming expensive to maintain. If you want to stay with Piper, then look at the PA-32 RG series, though they are no faster than the old Comanches but much better spec'd and more capacious. The nose locker helps no end with W&B.  The PA-28-236 Dakota is a very good load hauler, has good short field ability but does not do 143 KTAS at any acceptable fuel flow!  They're dreamin'.  130-135 is about it, but loads are vg. Once again though, you are faced with clambering over the RH front seat to get in/out of the Piper low wings and that can be a turnoff for the older pax.  The B36 does offer the big rear doors and pax can scramble into the 2nd row via that door, rather than the overwing RH front door. 

 

For my money, I'd never buy a retractable to fly 4 seats around Australia. Costs are so much higher for so little extra performance.  A Dakota or a good C182 should get you there not much later than a 15 kt faster R/G, but the fixed u/c allows a whole heap more accessibility to landing areas, rougher surfaces, and loading.  Notwithstanding the aircrafts' speed, so much in flying cross-country depends on whether the pilot has the smarts in respect of weather, planning, efficient flying skills, and  in minimising circuit 'time wastage'.

 

Happy Days,

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To clarify the nosewheel dimension it's only the tyre size that's altered... Your ccmments I would endorse. except the adequacy of flaps. Simple flaps are mostly DRAG and on low wing easy to damage. away from good sealed strips The Cessna Hi wing range have outstanding flaps. Perhaps some have full flap restricted which if so is a pity. The extra exits from the front seat are a worthwhile safety consideration and you get a better ride at 130 knots than  160.+. Strong headwinds affect all planes, the slower ones the most. Be responsive to the weather unless you have a deadline which can be a TRAP. with VFR. Fly where and when it suits YOU. That makes it fun and not an arduous chore. Nev

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