The Plane

Piper Comanche 260B PA-24-260

The Piper PA-24 Comanche is single engine, high performance, complex airplane that was developed by Piper in the late 1950’s. The Comanche was produced from 1958 until 1972 when a flood in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania destroyed the tooling and stopped production. A total of 4,857 PA-24 Comanche’s were produced during this period. There were a series of variations including PA-24-180, 250, 260, 260B, 260C, 260TC turbocharged models as well as the limited production 400 model with a big 8 cylinder Lycoming engine.  The PA-24 400 is in a class by itself and is one of the fasted normally aspirated singles ever made.

The Comanche is a low wing, four-place airplane with later variants allowing for an additional 2 jump seats in the rear baggage area. The Comanche has excellent handling characteristics and is very easy to fly. The roll response is light and quick. The airplane is fairly fast for a normally aspirated engine, 182 mph (158 kts) at 7,500 ft in straight and level flight. These are some of the reasons this airplane is favored by many ex- military pilots.

Our plane is a 260B model with 260 hp, a third rear window and extra seating…..And of course, an updated panel.

Panel - After brighter

On takeoff, you can feel the engine push you backwards in the seat as you accelerate down the runway. The airplane wants to get airborne quickly (and a bit prematurely) before Vr (85 mph) is achieved. Once airborne, the plane is wonderful to fly. Compared to newer model airplanes, the Comanche has a lot to offer. From excellent handling, good speed (158 kts), high useful load (1,250 lbs+), good climb rate (1,370 fpm) and good passenger comfort.

Many airplanes on the market that cost much more money are hard pressed to offer this balance of features. One of the key distinguishing features of the Comanche is its laminar flow wing design that provides excellent lift and low aerodynamic drag. The wings also shift the center of lift backward on the wing and allows the wing spar to pass through the fuselage behind the passengers legs. Combined with a wide cabin, the Comanche provides a high level of passenger comfort compared to other airplanes in its class.

When not being Co-pilot, the Comanche hums Monique fast asleep every flight. During this flight to San Louis Obispo, my brother Morgan sitting Co-pilot (Single, Multi-Engine CFI, A&P Mechanic, PSA pilot and current Aeronautical Engineering student) is PIC of this 5-person Comanche.

5 people in 38p

The Comanche is also able to fly high with a Service Ceiling of 21,000 ft. We’ve personally flown our Comanche at 18,000 ft (with my IFR rated brother) from Denver, Co to F70 in SoCal over the Rockies. It is nice to know the airplane is capable of this kind of performance when it is necessary to get above the weather.

If you are used to flying single engined Pipers with “Hershey Bar” wings or high winged Cessna’s, you will notice that the Comanche handles more like a sports car and feels very responsive in comparison. On approach, things seem to happen quickly in this airplane. Speed reductions in the Comanche take some time and require advance planning prior to landing.

The effects of airspeed in the Comanche are most noticeable during the landing phase. The 260B’s checklist recommends 87 mph (76 kts) on short final. If you do not remain diligent, even 5 knots in the flare will send you floating down the runway. The Comanche’s landing-gear geometry tends to give it a “low rider” look. Due to its short main gear struts and nose-high attitude the Comanche might make a competent pilot doubt if he dropped the landing gear as he lands.

mammoth take off

This is why it’s not surprising that most of the complaints about Comanches has to do with the landings.

When the plane comes close to the runway, ground effect becomes significantly pronounced due to the laminar flow wing design. If you’re too fast, the airplane will stay airborne while it bleeds off airspeed. Strict and precise approach speeds are important to maintain. The pilot must land in a nose-up configuration to avoid landing on the nose wheel first, which often times leads to “weather-vaneing” or “wheelbarrowing”.

In addition, pilots who try to force the airplane onto the runway at too high an airspeed will end up bouncing and floating, or wheelbarrowing on the nose wheel. We’ve encountered nearly all types of landing “conditions” and for these reasons Thomas Horne in AOPA Pilot noted that “Comanches can be cruel to the sloppy”

For the “Detailed Specifications” Click here


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