The Piper Archer is one of the PA-28 family of aircraft, the others being the Cherokee, Warrior, and Arrow. All of them are fairly similar in being low-wing, all-metal, single-engined aircraft with the tricycle landing gear. They are primarily designed for training and private flying. They all have a single door on the right-hand side, and access is by climbing onto the wing to reach this door, then climbing into the cockpit. One of the most popular Cherokees early on was designated the ‘Cherokee 180’, and the Archer is actually the renamed Cherokee 180. It tends, a little confusingly, to sometimes be called by its old name.
The Archer was discontinued in 2009, but with investment, it was put back into production in 2010 and continues to be produced today. It now comes in two versions: the LX, designed for personal use, and the TX, which is designed to be a training aircraft. The two are, however, very similar in many ways. There are three versions of each of these, called Archer I, II, and III. The Archer II was introduced in 1976, and the Archer III in 1995. The current new Piper Archer III has had many minor changes, including an upgraded cowl, a new paint scheme, air conditioning, an all-metal instrument panel, improved seating, and a glass cockpit panel.
Specifications (Piper Archer II)
- Exterior Height: 7 ft 3 in
- Wing Span: 35 ft 5 in
- Length: 24 ft 0 in
- Crew: 1
- Passengers: 4
- Max T/O Weight: 2550 Lb
- Max Landing Weight: 2550 Lb
- Empty Weight: 1416 Lb
- Fuel Capacity: 48 gal Lb
- Payload Useful: 1134 Lb
- Payload W/Full Fuel: 637 Lb
- Max Range: 600 nm
- Service Ceiling: 13236 ft
- Takeoff Distance: 870 ft
- Landing Distance: 925 ft
- Rate of Climb: 667 fpm
- Max Speed: 125 kts
- Normal Cruise: 116 kts
- Economy Cruise: 110 kts
- Engines: 1
- Engine Mfg: Lycoming
- Engine Model: 0-360-A4M
The basic list price of a new Archer LX is $422,350. Of course, a second-hand aircraft will be significantly cheaper. One source suggests a price of $25,000 for a 1962 model and $41,000 for a 1974 Archer, but a number of others quote much higher prices than this. Of course, more modern Archers will cost significantly more. If you look around, you will find that there is a wide choice of both specifications and prices, depending on what you can afford to pay and what type of aircraft you would like to own.
Performance and Handling
Arches are not super-fast by any means. The maximum speed of one is around 120 knots. They are sometimes described as being tame or even docile. This could be positive or negative, depending on what the pilot is looking for and the type of flying he or she is capable of.
Handling characteristics are said to be unremarkable. Like the majority of the PA-28 series, Archers are quite difficult to stall unless you seriously mishandle the aircraft. In any event, the stall is said to be a bit of a non-event in one of these planes. They are even more difficult to spin, making them very safe to fly but not exciting by any stretch of the imagination. And many pilots claim that they are easy to land and that they handle crosswinds well too. Overall, they are designed for the average pilot who wants a gentle, safe, easy-to-fly aircraft to take him or her on local jaunts or touring, rather than the aerial speed fiend or aerobatics addict.
The climb rate of the Archer is better than that of the Cessna 172, but it isn’t that good by any other standards. According to the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, the Archer will climb at about 750 feet per minute at low altitudes, but that decreases significantly at higher altitudes, say, above 5000 feet or so. The performance depends to some extent on the year of manufacture, with pre-1973 models, which had shorter wings, not climbing as well as the later models. But some owners report that the later Archer I models climb nearly as well as the IIs and IIIs.
Overall, the Archer has few handling quirks. It is safe, staid, and easy to land, even on short runways. This is one reason why Archers are flown by private pilots and used at flying schools all over the world. Indeed, many people consider them as one of the finest aircraft to train on or to fly. Overall they are extremely well thought of.
Maintenance of the Archer is straightforward, with the schedule being similar to that of the others in the PA-28 series. For the pilot who wishes to do at least some of his own maintenance, where it is permitted, the Piper Flyer Association gives a lot of detail on their website.
Maintenance costs are said to be on the low side of reasonable, ie. It won’t cost you a fortune to maintain your Piper Archer in good condition. According to one owner, almost any mechanic can fix an Archer, no matter what is required. And you can easily find any parts needed, particularly as the type is still in production.
However, while few problems are reported with the maintenance of Piper Archers, recent reports tell of mechanics finding evidence of corrosion in the spars. This corrosion is frequently found when leaking fuel tanks are removed for repair. So the prospective buyer should ensure that a pre-purchase inspection includes inspection of the spars. It would be wise to check the wing attachment fittings, too, as corrosion has been found on these at times. Beyond that, inspections should be the same as for any other aircraft.
Modifications and Upgrades
As already explained, the Piper Archer comes in two versions, the LX for private flying and the TX for training. Within these categories, there are three types: the Archer I was the first one made, upgraded to the Archer II in 1976, with the Archer III coming along in 1995. There have been a number of modifications to the powerplant and the wing all along the way. Indeed, it was changed to the wing, which ushered in the Archer II, and a different powerplant led to the Piper III. But the overall design has remained essentially unchanged throughout. Clearly, Piper knew when they were on to a good thing, and they were not about to make any major changes to it.
Where to Find Replacement Parts
According to Piper Archer owners, finding parts is rarely a problem. Since the aircraft is still in production, obtaining parts from Piper themselves is quite easy. And at the other end of the scale, according to one owner, “there are enough wrecks out there to provide used parts if something major is needed.”
There really do not seem to be any problems with the Archer. Indeed, it could perhaps be said that its major problem is that it is not exciting to fly, and some pilots could possibly become bored with it.
Having said that, owners do mention a few issues. The most common one applies to all PA-28 models; access through the one door by climbing onto the wing is not easy. I have often felt that this might be a serious problem in an emergency such as a fire, though to be honest, I have never heard of any accidents being caused in this way. Nevertheless, I feel a lot safer in an aircraft such as the Cessna 172, which has doors on both sides, where I know that I could escape out of either side in a hurry, should it be necessary.
Owners also occasionally complain about the lack of speed of the Archer, saying that it would be nice to be able to go a bit faster on longer trips. You do go rather slowly in this aircraft, particularly if battling against a headwind.
Premiums in aviation insurance vary widely, of course, depending on the make and model of the aircraft, hull value, use of the aircraft, and also pilot history and qualifications. Piper Archer insurance, like all airplane insurance, is broken down into two specific parts. The first is Liability Coverage, which is standard on every aircraft insurance policy, and the second is optional hull coverage, which covers damage to the aircraft itself. Liability coverage is, of course, essential, but some owners choose to save money by not having hull coverage. This is, of course, a personal decision.
Insurance adds significantly to the cost of aircraft ownership, but not having it can also prove very expensive. However, according to owners, Archer insurance is very reasonable. According to at least one owner, there are no demands from insurance companies for owners to undertake specialized training in order to be insured, unlike for some other aircraft. Insurers tend to see the Archer as a straightforward, simple airplane, and therefore they are prepared to insure it at a reasonable price.
Individual quotes are hard to come by since there are so many variables when it comes to insurance. However, one owner said, “In 2005, my insurance was $1400 for $90,000 hull value and $1 million liability.” Of course, this may or may not be typical.
Archers maintain their value fairly well. Although you can buy an early Archer for around $25,000, as stated above, slightly later ones such as the 1974 to 1975 models sell for around $50,000 upwards, and often significantly more. Archer IIs up into early 1990 model years often sell for about $110,000 to $115,000 as a starting price; again, sometimes quite a lot more. By comparison, a 1986 Cessna 172 sells for around $80,000. Having said this, many owners upgrade their Archers significantly, spending quite a substantial amount on extra equipment for them. Those that have been upgraded in this way don’t often end up on the used market, but they may be worth a lot more than these prices when they do.
To summarise, there is a lot of variation in resale prices, but you are unlikely to lose money when you come to want to sell on your Archer.
Owner feedback is, on the whole, very positive. Here are some comments from owners of Archers:
“I have owned a 1978 Piper Archer II for 14 years. While I have been part owner in much more sophisticated pressurized singles and twins, when it came to purchase of my own plane, I chose the Archer.”
“The Archer II is an airplane that won’t betray you. It is a simple airplane, with low maintenance, low insurance and no demands from insurers for special training in order to be insured. I am a flying salesman and land the Archer II in grass fields, as well as large airports. It is a good instrument airplane and with a Garmin GNS530, weather and traffic displays, there aren’t too many surprises in the instrument flying world. It’s good with short fields and grass fields and can carry three adults and baggage with full fuel.”
“The Archer is an everyman’s airplane that provides excellent value and good reliability. It’s not as exciting as some of the more exotic aircraft available, but in my view, lack of excitement and low costs are a good thing in aviation.”
As has already been explained, the Archer is very similar to the other members of the PA-28 family, such as the Warrior and other Cherokee versions. Other competitors to this aircraft include the Cessna Cardinal, Grumman/AGAC Tiger, and the Beech Sundowner. And, of course, there are the Cessna 172 and 182.
All of the above aircraft are easy to fly and good for training, local private flying, and touring. There is not that much to choose between them in terms of performance; it is simply down to personal preferences. In fact, in this size and price range, you are quite spoiled for choice.
Clubs You Can Join
The best known club is the Piper Flyer Association, which caters to all types of Piper aircraft owners. Details can be found here. For those who own their own Archer, there is also a Piper Owner Society.
There is a Piper Archer flying group on Facebook and also a number of local and regional clubs and groups. This is a popular aircraft that has been around a long time, so finding groups to join will not be difficult.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Should I buy a Cessna 172 or an Archer?
Answer: This is really a personal choice. The two types are quite similar, but there are several differences. The Archer is a low-wing aircraft, which means your visibility out of the cockpit is not that good in the cruise but excellent in turns. The Cessna 172, on the other hand, is a high wing, so you can see all around you in the cruise, but you will struggle to see below you in turns. However, most people quickly get used to either of these, so it is perhaps not as significant a difference as it at first appears. The Cessna 172 is a little cheaper, although you may find a bargain secondhand Archer, if that is what you want.
Your best bet might be to fly both and see which you prefer. Both of these aircraft are easy to fly, docile airplanes eminently suitable for the majority of private pilots.
Question: Is the Archer a good choice for the first aircraft for a low-hours pilot?
Answer: Yes, it is an excellent choice. It is easy to fly and difficult to stall or spin, so it is unlikely to get you into trouble. It is not particularly exciting to fly, but that does not worry the majority of pilots. In any case, if you want something more exciting, it is better to wait until you have more hours under your belt. The Archer is a good first choice for the pilot who does not have a great deal of experience.
Question: I learned to fly on a Cessna 150. I am thinking of buying a Piper Archer. Will I find it difficult to fly?
Answer: You should not find it very difficult. You will, of course, find that it is larger, which may make taxiing harder initially. The main difference is that the wings will be underneath you in flight, as the Archer is a low-wing aircraft. This means that you will have less visibility in the cruise, which may take some getting used to. You will, however, have better visibility in turns. But this should not be a problem in any case, once you become accustomed to it. However, do make sure you get some differences training with an instructor before flying this or any other new type.
Question: Is buying a secondhand Piper Archer a good idea for a private pilot?
Answer: Yes, it is. These aircraft are safe and easy to fly, they hold their value, and there is a wide choice of types and prices, suitable for everyone. Maintenance is straightforward, and they are not known to have many problems. They are popular with private pilots and are an excellent choice.
Piper Flyer ~Association https://www.piperflyer.org
Aviation Consumer https://www.aviationconsumer.com/aircraftreviews/piper-archer/