I guess I’m a Cessna guy. Going through my logbook, all but one of my flights has been in various models of Cessna, from the venerable 150 all the way to a G1000-equipped 182. But as I toy with the idea of aircraft ownership — either through a partnership or a flying club — I’ve been looking at some other manufacturers a little more closely.
One flying club that I’ve been eyeing owns a Piper Archer, so I figured I may as well get some dual time in the FBO’s own Archer III…
At first glance, the Archer is an attractive plane. Better known to some as the PA-28, the Archer is what many people think of when they envision a small plane. As far as the FAA is concerned, an Archer isn’t much different from a Cessna 172; they’re both airplane single engine land, and as far as pilot qualifications are concerned, they’re identical. But flying the thing, there are certainly some differences.
One of the biggest differences is that the Archer is low-wing. That has visibility implications when you’re looking below — but it’s ultimately a wash since you get better skyward visibility. Entering the plane is also change since the Archer only has one over-the-wing door on the right side.
The flight controls on the Archer III are definitely stiffer than on the Cessna Skyhawk, an attribute I actually like. With a slightly higher useful load than a typical 172R, the Archer is more of an SUV anyway.
For a pilot transitioning from one aircraft to another, it’s valuable to do your homework. I wish I’d had a chance to spend a little more time studying the aircraft’s particulars before flying it — I probably would have gotten more out of my flight if I’d had a solid half hour with the PA-28-181 procedures guide before shoving off. That said, it’s a pretty quick transition once you get your speeds down.
I was a little surprised that the Lycoming O-360 engine in the Archer III is carbureted rather than fuel injected, another slight difference from the Skyhawks I’m used to flying. That makes emergency procedures a little more important to review before going off in the Archer, since carb icing isn’t usually a concern for me. The throttle quadrant is different than the push-rod throttle and mixture in the Cessna — and it’s got a little more “cool factor” too. It feels more like a big plane, even if it seems like leaning it a bit less precise than untwisting the Cessna’s mixture provides.
From an equipment standpoint, the panel added some more adjustments — but my FBO’s Archer is very well equipped avionics wise:
The Archer’s MFD was a nice touch for a cross country machine — particularly because it provides taxi diagrams.
My first impression is that this plane is a solid flying, relatively fast cruising workhorse. Even though it’ll take another flight or two before I’d feel comfortable with all of the systems on the Archer, I could certainly see myself making more frequent use of one of Piper’s most popular planes.