The Piper Pacer and Tri-Pacer


The PA-20 Pacer and PA-22 Tri-Pacer are a family of four-seat, strut braced, high-wing light aircraft that were built by Piper Aircraft in the post-World War II period.

Pacer PA-20's

Tri-Pacer PA-22

The Pacer was essentially a four-seat version of the two-seat PA-17 Vagabond light aircraft. It features a steel tube fuselage and an aluminum frame wing, covered with fabric, much like Piper's most famous aircraft, the Cub and Super Cub. An aircraft prized for its ruggedness, spacious cabin, and, for its time, impressive speed, many Pacers continue to fly today.

Vagabond PA-17

Factory installed 125 hp, 135 hp, 150 hp, and 160 hp engine options were available, and 180 hp engine after-market conversions are an option.

The Piper Pacer was originally designed as a tailwheel aircraft and thus had somewhat limited forward visibility on the ground and more demanding ground-handling characteristics.

Pacer PA-20

To help introduce more pilots to easier, safer flying, from February 1951, Piper introduced the Tri-Pacer with a nosewheel instead of the tailwheel landing gear. Both the Pacer and the Tri-Pacer belong to a sub-group of Piper aircraft called "Short Wing Pipers." Additionally, the Tri-Pacer offered higher-powered engine options in the form of 150 hp and 160 HP engines, whereas the largest engine available to the original Pacer had an output of 135 hp . At the time the tricycle undercarriage became a popular preference and 1953 saw the PA-22 Tri-Pacer outsell the Pacer by a ratio of six to one. Due to the geometry of the nosewheel installation it is sometimes called the "Flying Milk Stool".

In 1959 and 1960 Piper offered a cheaper, less well-equipped version of the Tri-Pacer with a 150 HP Lycoming O-320 designated the PA-22-150 Caribbean. Over 8000 Tri-Pacers were produced between 1953 and 1960 when production ended, with over 2000 still registered with the FAA in 2006.

An unusual feature of the Pacer is the incorporation of bungee-linked ailerons and rudder. Beside simplifying the coordination of inflight manoeuvres, this system which can easily be overcome by the pilot as required, allowed the installation of a simplified form of autopilot marketed by Piper under the name Auto-control.

A small number of PA-22s have been converted to taildragger configuration, resulting in an aircraft that is very similar to a PA-20 Pacer, but which retains the model refinements and features of the PA-22. These conversions are often referred to by owners as PA-22/20s and are often listed in classified aircraft ads as such, although officially such converted aircraft continue to be designated by the CAA as PA-22 Tri-Pacers. When this conversion is accomplished, a two puck disc brake conversion is usually installed in place of the original drum brakes, and the Lycoming O-360 180 HP engine is the preferred upgrade. Some PA-22s have a Hartzell constant-speed controllable propeller or Koppers Aeromatic propeller. Each of these installations improves performance/economy at the sacrifice of payload.

A trainer version of the PA-22 Tri-Pacer was designed and designated the PA-22-108 Colt. It was intended to compete directly with other popular trainers of the day, such as the Cessna 150 and was powered by a 108 hp (80 kW) Lycoming O-235. Over 2,000 Colts were manufactured during the two production years.

PA-22-108 Colt

The Colt closely resembles the Tri-Pacer and uses the same landing gear, engine mounts, seats, windshield, door, tail surfaces, struts and the same instrument panel as well. A few Colts have also been converted to tailwheel configuration, although this is not as popular as converting Tri-Pacers.

The last batch of 12 PA-22-150s were built for the French Army in 1963 and the last of the family a PA-22-108 Colt was completed on 26 March 1964. The type was replaced on the Vero Beach production line by the PA-28 Cherokee 140.

Between 1953 and 1955, the Cuban Army Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Ejército de Cuba, or FAEC) received 7 PA-20s, 4 PA-22-150s, and 3 and PA-22-160s. During the Cuban Revolution, PA-22s had their rear-doors removed and a .30 caliber machine gun installed in its place for use against insurgents, along with hand-dropped grenades. A PA-22 providing ground support for the Cuban Army during the Battle of Guisa is believed to be the lone aircraft lost by the FAEC to enemy fire.

During the Congo Crisis, Katangese separatists received five PA-22-150s from the South African Air Force for the Force aérienne katangaise. Deployed against ONUC forces between 1961 and 1963, their status at the end of the conflict remained somewhat uncertain.

Variants

PA-20

Four-seat, conventional landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 125 hp Lycoming O-290-D engine. Certified 21 December 1949.

PA-20S

Three-seat, conventional landing gear, light cabin aircraft, with optional float installation, powered by a 125 hp Lycoming O-290-D engine. Certified 18 May 1950.

PA-20 115

Four-seat, conventional landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 115 hp Lycoming O-235-C1 engine. Certified 22 March 1950.

PA-20S 115

Three-seat, conventional landing gear, light cabin aircraft, with optional float installation, powered by a 115 hp Lycoming O-235-C1 engine. Certified 18 May 1950.

PA-20 135

Four-seat, conventional landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 135 hp Lycoming O-290-D2 engine. Certified 5 May 1952.

PA-20S 135

Three-seat, conventional landing gear, light cabin aircraft, with optional float installation, powered by a 135 hp Lycoming O-290-D2 engine. Certified 15 May 1952.

PA-22

Four-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 125 hp Lycoming O-290-D engine. Certified 20 December 1950.

PA-22-108 Colt

Two-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 108 hp Lycoming O-235-C1 or C1B engine. Certified 21 October 1960.

PA-22-135

Four-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 135 hp Lycoming O-290-D2 engine. Certified 5 May 1952.

PA-22S-135

Three-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, with optional float installation, powered by a 135 hp Lycoming O-290-D2 engine. Certified 14 May 1954.

1959 PA-22 150 landing

PA-22-150

Two or four-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 150 hp Lycoming O-320-A2A or A2B engine. Certified 3 September 1952 as a four seat in the normal category and 24 May 1957 as a two seat in the utility category.

PA-22S-150

Three-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, with optional float installation, powered by a 150 hp Lycoming O-320-A2A or A2B engine. Certified 3 September 1954.

PA-22-160

Two or four-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, powered by a 160 hp Lycoming O-320-B2A or B2B engine. Certified 3 September 1952 as a four place in the normal category and as a two place in the utility category.

PA-22S-160

Three-seat, tricycle landing gear, light cabin aircraft, with optional float installation, powered by a 160 hp Lycoming O-320-B2A or B2B engine. Certified 25 October 1957.

Data from Piper PA-22-160 pilot's operating handbook, issued January 1960

General characteristics

Crew: one

Capacity: three passengers

Length: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)

Wingspan: 29 ft 3 in (8.92 m)

Height: 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)

Wing area: 147.5 sq ft (13.70 m2)

Empty weight: 1,110 lb (503 kg)

Gross weight: 2,000 lb (907 kg)

Fuel capacity: 36 U.S. gallons (140 L; 30 imp gal)

Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming O-320-B four cylinder, four-stroke, air-cooled, horizontally opposed, piston aircraft engine, 160 hp (120 kW)

Propellers: 2-bladed metal, fixed pitch

Performance

Maximum speed: 141 mph (227 km/h; 123 kn)

Cruise speed: 134 mph (216 km/h; 116 kn) 75% power, 7000ft

Stall speed: 49 mph (79 km/h; 43 kn)

Range: 500 mi (434 nmi; 805 km) with reserves, 610 with optional tank

Endurance: 3:30 at 65% power with one hour reserve

Service ceiling: 16,500 ft (5,000 m)

Rate of climb: 800 ft/min (4.1 m/s)

Wing loading: 13.5 lb/sq ft (66 kg/m2)

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