Though outstripped in production numbers by the older Cessna 172, The Piper PA-28 is one of the most produced aircraft in history, and remains in production after 60 years with over 33,000 having been built. Widely adopted across the globe as a training and general aviation type, thousands of pilots over the decades have enjoyed their first experience at the controls of an aircraft in the PA-28.

The PA-28 was developed as a successor to Piper’s Tri-Pacer, with an emphasis on low production costs, using fewer structural components and plastic and glassfibre mouldings. The prototype, N9315R, first flew at Vero Beach, Florida on 14 January 1960, and deliveries commenced in 1961. Models were initially dubbed Cherokee; the 160 Cherokee was the first to be certified, followed by the 150, 180 and 235, the numbers denoting horsepower from Lycoming O-320, O-360 or O-540 engines.

Though many revisions have been made over the years, perhaps the most significant was the adoption in 1973 of a tapered wing, in place of the original, constant chord “Hershey Bar” design. This kit represents these later models, whose basic design remains in production. The range has remained fairly consistent since, with the 161 Warrior, 181 Archer and 236 Dakota models being sold for much of the last 4 decades, although as of 2021 engine options are limited to a 180hp petrol and 155shp diesel. More extensive developments of the design have also been sold, with the retractable gear PA-28R Arrow and the stretched PA-32 Cherokee Six/Saratoga being the most significant.

The basic PA-28 is conceived as a low-cost aircraft with benign flight performance. The aircraft has some shortcomings, notably the awkward single starboard door and a fuel selector lacking a ‘both’ setting as in the Cessna 172. In spite of minor inconveniences for pilots, the PA-28’s operating and maintenance costs and typically low used prices make it highly popular as a flying school rental, and consequently an extremely common sight in skies across the USA, Europe and beyond.

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