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Arrived Santa Rosa, CA October 1999

My dreams of flight started very early in life.  As a child, I built models and dreamed of someday flying my own plane.  As a teenager, I hung around the local airport so much that the folks there finally gave me a job pumping gas.  I spent many days, sunup to sunset, surrounded by planes and trading work hours for flying lessons.  The year was 1973.  Unfortunately, I was unable to complete my training before changes in my life pushed me in another direction.  It would be decades before I could get back to flying.

A score and some odd years later, I found myself living and working in Northern California.  My home was only a few miles from the local airport and again, I found myself hanging out, watching the planes.  In all the years since those early days I had never lost my interest.  I still read the magazines, and had even gotten into building and flying remote controlled models.

All the pieces seem to fall in place and it felt that if I didn't learn to fly now, I may never get it done.  The thought of growing old and looking back with regret that I never gave it a try was too much.  The decision was made and it was off to the races.

I found a local instructor and got busy.  I endured many setbacks including having my flight school go out of business, losing my instructor, having to buy half ownership into a Cessna 150 and finally finishing up my training with another Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).  The process took several years, but I finally passed my check ride and became a private pilot in February of 1999.  

I built my hours up flying my 1966 Cessna 150 but it was obvious that something with a little more payload and utility was needed.  I wanted something that could carry me, my wife, and all the luggage we wanted along with full fuel and not have to worry about over loading the plane or wondering if it would get off the ground on a warm day.  Oh, and by the way, not cost a fortune to own and operate.

I happen to have a very analytic personality and spent much time comparing many factors for lots of aircraft.  At the end of the day, the one aircraft that met my requirements was the Piper PA-22 Tri-Pacer.  What's a Tri-Pacer, you ask?  The Tri-Pacer is a high wing, tube and fabric, four seat, single engine airplane that is as basic and simple to operate as it gets. 

Between 1951 and 1963, Piper built close to ten thousand PA-22 model aircraft in their factory at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.  These aircraft saw many incremental changes and were called many names but the basic aircraft stayed pretty much the same.  Whether they were called Tri-Pacer, Caribbean or Colt, these aircraft made real the dream of flight and taught generations of people to fly. 

Since Tri-Pacers had not been made for close to forty years, I wanted to find an example that had been recently restored so that it would provide me with years of service before any major work would be required.  Sources such as Trade-A-Plane, the Internet and the Short Wing Piper Club were used for the search.  I traveled all around the country looking at aircraft, but everything I saw fell short of my standards.  

Finally, in the fall of 1999, my wife and I combined a vacation touring the New England states with stops to examine three Tri-Pacers located in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.  One of the three aircraft, a 1959 PA-22-160, stood out from all the others that I had seen and my search was over.

I've had 2954Z for over a decade now and I love it.  It's easy to fly, carries lots, cruises at a respectable speed, and does it all at a reasonable cost.  I have spent less on my Tri-Pacer than many folks spend on a new car and cars don't fly! The aircraft looks great and is one of the best looking Tri-Pacers I've ever seen (of course, I am a little biased).

The Tri-Pacer is not the newest design on the field and has the kind of looks people either love or hate.  It has been called the "Flying Milk Stool" and other disparaging names but for capability, usefulness and overall economy, I doubt that anyone could come up with anything better.
 

Copyright 1996 - 2013 Dennis Rowan
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Short Wing Piper Club Member
 

 

     
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