Although Piper originated a large array of different models from 1945-1960, most had a developmental link to the J-3 Cub. The ultimate development of this series was the Tri-Pacer, a 4 seat touring aircraft of 125-160hp with the familiar Cub wing and, most distinctively, tricycle undercarriage.
The Piper Aircraft Company entered a post war aircraft market which was initially buoyant but quickly declined. Piper struggled but succeeded in staying afloat by making conservative improvements to the J-3 design. The PA-15 Vagabond, PA-16 Clipper and PA-20 Pacer followed in quick succession, using the legacy Cub wing but with a bay removed, becoming known as short wing Pipers.
Being essentially a Pacer with Tricycle undercarriage, The Tri-Pacer quickly established itself in the market as a familiar and easy-flying training and touring machine. It was launched in 1950 with a 125hp Lycoming O-290D; 150 and 160hp engines progressively became available. Additionally, the Tri Pacer was reconfigured as a simple 2 seat trainer of 108hp called the Colt; this was externally similar except for the lack of rear windows and flaps. It also featured a slightly longer (by 9 inches) wingspan. It was also the last variant to be produced, until 1964.
Although not a ground-breaking design the Tri-Pacer did feature interlinked aileron and rudder controls, as famously pioneered on the Erco Ercoupe; these were linked by bungee cables, allowing the pilot to override them if desired. This also facilitated the inclusion of a simple autopilot.
Today many Tri-Pacers remain airworthy, although some have been converted to taildragger configuration and resemble Pacers. With some 9490 produced, the Tri-Pacer proved to be the end of an era for Piper, who ultimately replaced the fabric-covered Cub descendent with the all-new, all-metal and ubiquitous Piper Cherokee.
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