Piper Lance Guide and Specs: Is The Piper PA-32R Worth It?

Introduction

The Piper PA-32R, or more well known as the Piper Lance, came to life when the Comanche assembly line suffered from a flood. With the Pipers Comanche, the well-known luxury and high-performing aircraft, out of the picture, the company decided to include some improvements to some of their other aircraft. 

The Piper Cherokee Six was given retractable landing gear and other modifications, which in turn created the Piper Cherokee Lance. Continuous modifications and adjustments were made in order to design the best form of the Lance possible. 

Produced between 1975 and 2009, the Piper Lance had some evolutions that became known as the Piper Saratoga. These models included updated avionics and interiors but maintained the same airframe as the Piper Lance. 

Although it may be slightly slower than other aircraft of its class, it is known for being stable in Instrument Flying conditions and is able to carry its fair share of the weight. 

Piper Lance / Model Specs

Because of its evolution from the Piper Cherokee Six, the Lance falls into the six-passenger class. A total of 7 people can sit in the aircraft, rather comfortably, including the pilot. 

Weight limitations must be taken into consideration but the Lance is considered to be a true six-seater, allowing all passenger seats to be occupied for a flight without weight and balance issues. A 7th seat is sometimes included in its manufacture, but its inclusion in the configuration can result in the aircraft becoming easily overweight. 

Because it came from a stretched-out Cherokee, the Lance is on the longer side in order to fit all the extra seats. With a length of 27 feet and 9 inches, the Lance is long enough for seats to be spread out appropriately and provide adequate legroom.

The Piper Lance has an empty weight of 1,980 lbs and a gross weight of 3,600 lbs. This leaves a useful load of 1620lbs for variable weights like fuel, passengers, and baggage. This allows plenty of leeway for those who want to travel to faraway destinations with lots of bags. 

The amount of fuel that can be carried is just as important as the number of passengers or amount of baggage. Since fuel impacts the range of the aircraft, it’s an important asset when planning long cross countries. The Piper Lance can carry up to 94 US gallons of fuel. Fuel burn is dependant on the weight of the aircraft and the weather that day, but the Piper Lance has impressive range even with a strong headwind. 

The Piper Lance is equipped with a Lycoming IO-540 engine. This direct drive, six-cylinder engine is air-cooled and sports 300 horsepower. These engines are common and many mechanics have experience maintaining them, and parts aren’t difficult to come by.

With 300 horsepower the Piper Lance needs a quality propeller. The Lance is equipped with a two-bladed Hartzell constant speed prop.  This propeller measures 6 feet and 8 inches in diameter, covering a significant distance. The constant speed gives more authority to the pilots in choosing their desired performance at altitude. 

Piper Lance/ Model Prices

Because the Piper Lance was produced between 1975 and 2009, there are no new models that can be purchased directly from Piper. There are, however, quite a few options in the used department that vary in pricing. 

Aircraft pricing is determined by the year and make of the model and the condition it is in. The condition is greatly impacted by the total time on the airframe and the time since the major overhaul. Aircraft with high times sell for less money but ultimately need more work. 

A Piper Lance Turbo II model from 1978 can sell for as little as 120,000$ USD depending on the time on the airframe and the engine. Those with less time can sell for as high as 220,000$ USD, and newer models can cost even more. 

Piper Lance/ Performance and Handling

The Piper Lance is popular among its owners and is considered to be an aircraft that handles well. It is stable and trustworthy, can be controlled during turbulence, and has no surprises in its handling. 

The Piper Lance is not the fastest in its category but makes up for it in the amount of weight it can carry, giving it the nickname “the minivan of the sky”. It has a maximum speed of 157 knots, runs at 75% power during cruise at 7500. The average cruise speed of the Piper Lance is 142 knots at 65% power. 

The range of the Piper Lance allows it to fly to many destinations for vacation or business trips. It has a range of 875 nautical miles with 45 minutes of reserve fuel and 975 nautical miles with no reserve. Reserve fuel is required to be 45 minutes when flying IFR and 30 minutes when flying VFR. 

With impressive range, the Piper Lance also boasts impressive endurance. The aircraft can fly for 7 hours at 55% power while taking into account reserve fuel. With no reserve, the aircraft can fly for 7 hours and 45 minutes, much longer than most passengers would like to spend in the aircraft. 

The Piper Lance has a service ceiling of 15,000 feet. This allows for a lot of leeway when it comes to flight planning, letting pilots choose an altitude that best suits their needs for winds and weather. Of course, the aircraft will need to be pressurized or have portable oxygen in order to cruise that high. 

The Piper Lance has an impressive climb of 1000 feet per minute, giving it a significant amount of power for departures. A high rate of climb allows the aircraft to depart more easily from shorter runways and airports that have obstacles on their departure path. 

Since burning fuel is equivalent to burning dollars, many owners like to have an idea of their aircraft’s fuel burn before they purchase. The Piper Lance burns 13.8 US gallons an hour at 142 knots and 65% power at 6000 feet. This is less than many other aircraft in its category and is considered a benefit to the owners. 

Piper Lance/ Model Maintenance Schedule

Same as most smaller aircraft are owned by the general population, the Piper Lance must go through an annual. Once a year, and AME must take the aircraft apart and examine it, noting any pieces that need to be fixed. 

Most often the annual inspection of the Piper Lance can cost between 5000 and 8000 dollars. This is not including a large issue that needs immediate repair, and as a result, some owners have suffered through annuals that cost over 10,000$. 

Owners of the Piper Lance Turbo have mentioned difficulties with overheating. The FAA released an airworthiness directive to address this issue, as well as ADs to address other passing problems such as propeller inspections. A check must be completed every 100 hours on fuel drain lever doors, fuel injector lines, and oil cooler hoses. 

Owners have also noticed issues with the landing gear, including broken nose gear actuators and trunnions. As a result, pilots are asked to carefully inspect the landing gear during the walk-around in order to catch any cracks or suspicious changes to the landing gear before departure.

Pilots who fly the Piper Lance are also requested to keep an eye out for cracks in engine mounts and exhaust systems. This will help prevent any engine failures in flight and avoid possible fires. 

Piper Lance/ Modifications and Upgrades

Part of the joy of owning an airplane is being able to truly make it your own. By completing modifications and upgrades to the aircraft, pilots are able to acquire the best performance that they would like out of their aircraft. 

There are kits available for the Piper Lance that improve aerodynamics, which increase airspeed and decrease drag. These can include gap seals and a redesigned cowling, which also improves cooling. These kits can be purchased from various websites and installed on the plane. 

Other aircraft modifications include speed brakes, which allow increased stopping performance of the aircraft. Upgraded propeller systems are also available to improve the general performance of the aircraft. 

Piper Lance / Where to Find Replacement Parts

While the Piper Lance stopped being produced in 2009, with so many of these aircraft and their variations being flown today, parts are still widely available. 

Parts can be purchased new from aviation websites. Aircraft Spruce and Univair are two popular online merchants that supply a wide variety of parts and equipment for different aircraft. Parts are new and can be expensive, but usually come in a large selection so the owner has a choice in how much they wish to spend. 

Used parts can be less costly and in good condition but are generally more difficult to find. Used parts can be found on websites like eBay and Kijiji, and owners can ask other pilots for parts on websites like Facebook. 

Joining clubs and online groups is an excellent way to find used parts. Because there are many pilots who join a club for their specific aircraft, asking those who are already equipped with those parts will be easier than trying to shoot in the dark. 

Don’t hesitate to ask your mechanic about where they purchase their parts. Most mechanics have an arsenal of spare parts for common or small problems the aircraft they work on might have. Many mechanics can find parts in catalogs or online mechanic resources. 

Piper Lance/ Model Common Problems

While the Piper Lance is an excellent performing aircraft that is appreciated by all its owners, it has its issues that need to be taken into consideration when purchasing the aircraft. 

The Piper Lance Turbo is the model with arguably the most issues. With its AiResearch Turbos and mechanically controlled wastegates, it is not uncommon for pilots to accidentally overboost the engine while applying too much throttle. 

The Piper Lance Turbo II has had its fair share of hot-running engines. The FAA created an airworthiness directive to resolve these issues, and luckily the problem is no longer as prevalent as when the turbo first debuted. 

An airworthiness directive was also released due to a series of engine fires on the Turbo Lance. The exhaust system of the aircraft needed to be inspected and many were eventually replaced. 

Landing gear issues are also common, with cracked or broken nosegear actuators and trunnions. As a result, the aircraft need to be inspected carefully before every flight and during the annual inspection. 

Piper Lance / Insurance Options

Aircraft insurance is a requirement when it comes to owning a plane. There are two options available to the aircraft owner, and that is liability or liability and hull insurance. Liability insurance only takes into consideration the pilot, passengers, and property damage in case of an accident. Hull insurance includes damage to the aircraft itself.

There is also the possibility of the hull not in motion insurance. In this case, the aircraft has hull insurance that covers damages to the aircraft, but only while it is stationary. This can come into play when the aircraft is parked outside. 

When it comes to the Piper Lance, due to its six seats and high performance, it tends to have insurance that is on the higher side. 

According to bwifly.com, there are 7 carriers as of January 2021 that supply insurance for the Piper Lance. Insurance prices will be decided by the experience of the pilot, and qualified pilots will have a lower payment than those who are deemed unqualified.

A qualified pilot is someone who has at least a private pilot’s license and an instrument flight rules rating. At least 1000 hours need to be under their belt with at least 500 turbo hours in retractable gear. 100 hours in the make and model has also been required as well as training on type in the past 24 months. 

For liability insurance, a qualified pilot can expect to pay between 650$-800$ a year. Pilots that do not meet the minimum qualifications can expect between 875$-1,150$ a year.

Liability combined with hull insurance is more expensive. Experienced pilots that meet the minimum qualifications can expect between 13,500$ and 17,100$ a year. Meanwhile, pilots that do not meet the minimum requirements pay significantly more, from 23,000$ to 36,000$ a year. 

While insurance can be expensive it is important to take into consideration what the aircraft will be used for. For many, using the Piper Lance for commercial operations makes it more than worthwhile to spend the extra money for both liability and hull insurance. 

Piper Lance/ Model Resale Value

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Many people purchase their aircraft based on the mission they intend to use it for. This may change over time, and eventually, an owner would like an upgrade. Some owners might not want to cover the expenses of an aircraft anymore and wish to downgrade. As a result, the resale value of the Piper Lance is an important consideration when thinking of investing in this type of aircraft. 

Luckily the Piper Lance will maintain its value as long as the aircraft is also maintained. With a secondhand Piper Lance ranging from 90,000$ to 230,000$, it is possible for an owner to receive back almost all the money they’ve put into the aircraft. 

Of course, engine and airframe times will always result in the resale of the aircraft being decreased. While being flown the aircraft will have an increase in times, and that in turn decreases the resale value of the aircraft. 

It is possible for the owner to make up for this fact with other upgrades, such as new avionics systems and a fresh coat of paint. 

Piper Lance/ Owner Reviews

Many owners are satisfied with the Piper Lance. This six-place aircraft stands out in its class when it comes to comfort, providing ample legroom and easily accessible seating. 

There are some complaints with the Piper Lance, although many agree that it isn’t a reason to throw this plane under the bus. 

Pilots have mentioned the lack of climb performance at altitude. Because it can carry a significant amount of weight, the thinner air up high results in the Piper Lance not being able to put out as much power for a strong climb. 

Another issue would be that fully loaded, the takeoff roll of the Piper Lance is significantly increased. This can result in difficult flight planning for the pilots, but nothing that isn’t impossible. 

Some have mentioned that getting used to the lengthened nose of the Piper Lance can take some time. Some pilots find it frustrating in the beginning since they have difficulty seeing the runway. This can result in an uncomfortable takeoff for both the pilot and the passengers. 

Piper Lance/ Similar Aircraft

Beechcraft Bonanza

Piper isn’t the only company that has a strong candidate for a six-seat single-engine aircraft. Cessna, their number one competitor, and other companies like Beechcraft, have also released some impressive aircraft that are greatly adored by the masses. 

The Beechcraft Bonanza is arguably one of the best handling airplanes out there. Pilots rave of its easy controls and responses, making it an all-time favorite. It is also quick, outpacing the Piper Lance by a few knots. Although, the Bonanza isn’t the best when it comes to short field takeoffs and landings. 

The Cessna 210 Centurion is faster than the Piper Lance and slower than the Bonanza. Its known for its impressive short-field performance for its size as well as its excellent instrument flying set up. 

When put side by side, with light loads, these three aircraft have close competition. However, when it comes to loading more, while it is on the slower side, the Piper Lance is still able to carry more bags and passengers while providing a decent amount of performance. 

Piper Lance/ Clubs You can Join

There are many benefits to joining clubs. Whether online or in-person, clubs allow an owner to ask questions and discuss topics with like-minded individuals who may have more experience with that particular aircraft.

There are a few Piper clubs available for an owner and/or pilot to join. The Piper Flyer Association is one of them, an online club with regular in-person meets and a paid membership. The paid membership is only 44$ a year, or 100$ for 3 years. Memberships include a monthly print magazine as well as access to the online forum and community. 

The Piper Owner Society is another online Piper club available to Piper owners and flyers. A one-year membership is 59$ for the printed magazine or 29.95$ for the digital copy. Member benefits include access to the members-only forum, technical support, exclusive online content, and an e-newsletter.

Of course, Facebook is always an option. There are many Piper owner groups available on Facebook, some even aircraft or engine specific. This free platform provides a huge resource and the ability to ask questions to knowledgeable members and look for parts. 

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How much does an annual cost?

Answer: The cost of the annual is dependant on the condition of the aircraft and the mechanic completing the inspection. If there are more issues found by the mechanic, the more costly it will be to complete the annual. Annuals on the Piper Lance can range from 5000$ to 15,000$, depending on the aircraft.

Question: Time before overhauling the engine?

Answer: The Piper Lance is equipped with the Lycoming IO-540. This engine typically requests to be overhauled at 1800 hours. However, due to modern technology and better additives for fuel and oil, some owners can successfully stretch out overhaul time even longer. Remember that the more time the engine has, the less the aircraft is worth.

Question: Cost of an overhaul?

Answer: An engine overhaul is extremely expensive, as the engine needs to be removed from the aircraft, transported to a shop, and completely dismantled and reassembled. A typical engine overhaul on the Lycoming IO-540 can cost up to 40,000$, and that is if they do not find a problem with it. Cracked cylinders and broken pieces all need to be replaced to prevent an engine failure in flight.

Question: Is the Lance better than the Saratoga?

Answer: The Saratoga evolved from the Piper Lance. It came with several system updates as well as a new look. In terms of performance, it is argued by many owners whether or not the Piper Lance or the Piper Saratoga have any difference in performance.

Further Reads:

Research Citations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_PA-32R
https://bwifly.com/piper-pa-46-insurance-cost/
https://www.avweb.com/ownership/piper-saratoga-and-lance-review/

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