Piper Navajo Guide and Specs : Is It Worth It?

 

Introduction

When pilots are looking for a twin-engine aircraft that provides a spacious cabin and easy handling, the Piper Navajo is regarded as a strong contender by many. The Navajo is popular for charter flying as well as private ownership for those who look for an aircraft that provides a sense of luxury. 

In 1962 Piper decided to increase its consumer reach and designed a six to eight-seat aircraft named the Inca. With some adjustments, the name was changed to the Piper Navajo, and it debuted on September 30th in 1966. 

With Piper originally specializing in smaller single-engine aircraft, the Navajo was brought to life in response to Cessnas 401 and 411 to compete in the twin-engine world. Gaining some experience with twin-engine aircraft, the Navajo opened the door to Piper, creating larger, more powerful aircraft. 

While greatly loved by its owners, the Navajo is admittedly expensive to operate. With two engines, there is twice the amount of expenses. However, it is cost-effective, and its spacious cabin and excellent performance make it the first choice for passengers looking to travel in comfort, resulting in the Navajo generating a profit for many charter companies.

1976/ Piper / Navajo Specs

 

The Piper Navajo is a twin-engine aircraft that can be flown with one or two pilots. While one pilot is more than capable of handling the aircraft, two pilots reduce the workload and increase safety, and some passengers enjoy having the reassurance of a second pilot. 

When it comes to passengers, many have praised how comfortable and spacious the Navajo is. Seats are most often arranged to seat four but can seat up to seven.

The set up for four seats typically has two rows facing each other to provide ample legroom. The large windows and airstair door add to the sense of spaciousness and increase easy access to seats and increase passenger comfort. 

The height of the Navajo is a total of 13 feet from the ground, making it almost possible to stand in the cabin. The length is almost 33 feet and provides enough space so that all passengers and crew members feel comfortable. 

The empty weight of the Navajo is 3 390 lbs, with a maximum takeoff weight of 6 500 lbs. Full fuel in the tanks would take up to 1 584 lbs, leaving a weight of 1 526 lbs to be used by the crew weights, passenger weights, and baggage weights. 

The Navajo carries two Lycoming TIO-540 air-cooled engines, producing 310 horsepower each. These powerful engines allow the Navajo to travel great distances at a considerable speed, making it an ideal charter aircraft that is sought after by many investors. 

With a 3 bladed propeller on each engine, the Navajo comes equipped with full feathering props. Being able to change propeller pitch in cruise and during takeoff allows optimum performance and provides many benefits for the Navajo, such as more speed and less fuel burn. 

Piper Navajo/ Model Prices

The last Navajo was produced in 1984, and so new models can no longer be purchased today. However, many of these aircraft were well maintained and in a hangar year-round, keeping them in excellent shape with minimal issues or maintenance requirements. 

A model from the 1980s, in good condition, can cost up to $300,000. Modern avionics and an engine with low time increase that price even further, but the buyer has peace of mind knowing that all parts of the aircraft are in good condition and well accounted for. 

Older models from 1974 and earlier can range from $125,000 to $200,000. Because of their age, they are not as expensive as the later models from the 80s but can be found to be in as just as good condition. 

If an owner is looking for a very specific Navajo with certain avionics, interior, and powerhouse, then it’s sometimes more convenient to invest in a project.

By purchasing an aircraft that may not be in the best condition for a significantly cheaper price, the owner can then put the money into the aircraft and create the design that they are truly looking for. 

Piper Navajo / Performance and Handling

 

The performance and handling of the Piper Navajo are often considered top tier. Pilots praise their easy handling characteristics, and there isn’t too much of a learning curve when getting started in the aircraft.

The Navajo can travel at a maximum speed of 262 mph at an altitude of 15 000 feet. Pilots wouldn’t want to go over this speed as any faster can result in structural damage. However, this is the speed of the aircraft through the air, not over the ground.

With a significant tailwind, the groundspeed can greatly increase for better performance, and with a headwind, the speed can be reduced. 

With such a high maximum speed, the cruising speed of the Navajo is not much slower. The Navajo cruises typically at 238 mph at 20 000 feet allowing both long cross countries and quick business flights. 

The stall speed of the Piper Navajo is 73mph with a full flap configuration. This is a reasonably low speed and allows for stable approaches into smaller airports with shorter landing strips. 

The range of the Navajo adds to what makes it such a strong performer. The Navajo can travel up to 1165 miles at 20000 feet when flown at cruise speed and set for an economy flight.

This distance can be decreased when less fuel is brought on the flight due to more weight being carried, which creates limitations. But, it is still a long distance for a small twin aircraft to go. 

The service ceiling of the Navajo is 26 300 feet, although most often it is flown at 20 000 feet. Sometimes higher altitudes will provide a stronger tailwind and less fuel burn, and having a high service ceiling gives pilots more options when planning out their cross country. 

The rate of climb in the Navajo is an impressive 1 445 feet per minute, allowing for a quick departure out of tight and busy airports.

A high rate of claims is also convenient for airports with obstacles such as trees or buildings at the end of the runway, and the pilots can have peace of mind knowing their aircraft is more than capable of passing obstructions unharmed. 

Piper Navajo/ Model Maintenance Schedule

The Piper Navajo is popularly used as either a general aviation aircraft or a commercial aircraft for private or charter use. Either of these situations set up a different maintenance schedule and different standards that are required. 

General aviation aircraft that are only for personal use require an annual inspection. Annual inspections are done to completely disassemble the aircraft and confirm that all parts are in working order. The engines are also checked for any cracks or possible issues and signed off by a licensed mechanic once it is certain there are no issues.

Commercial aircraft maintenance is done more regularly, depending on the type. The time between maintenance can be decided on either hours or calendar dates, depending on the country.

This regular maintenance can be expensive, but considering the number of hours put onto the aircraft while flying commercially, it’s considered safe practice to do regular checks. In the long run, it saves the owner by catching possible cracks or breaks that can become a more significant problem later. 

Because it is a twin-engine aircraft, maintenance on the Navajo is costly. Everything must be inspected twice, and modifications done to one engine must be mirrored by the other. 

Engine overhauls are completed when the aircraft flies a certain number of hours, and when flying many hours, it will often come sooner than the owner expects. Engine overhauls can cost upwards of $50 000 but ensure the strength of the engine. 

Piper Navajo / Modifications and Upgrades

 

There aren’t many modifications available for the Navajo, however, most pilots are already pleased with the performance and do not consider too many upgrades. 

Engine upgrades are a modification often considered by many aircraft owners. The older Navajo models can be upgraded to a Lycoming TIO-540 engine, which comes with six cylinders and provides 310 horsepower, giving the aircraft its excellent performance capabilities. 

Propellers can result in a huge change of performance, and so a 4 bladed Q-tip prop can be installed on the Navajo to increase engine performance. 

Avionics upgrades are dependent on the owner, but many upgrades from the Garmin S530 and the Sandel EFIS are to something more modern, and possibly lighter. Lighter systems will reduce the overall weight of the aircraft and can increase speed and result in less fuel burn. 

Piper Navajo/ Where to Find Replacement Parts

Because of their popularity and continued wide usage today, it isn’t difficult to come across new Piper Navajo model parts. 

Parts can be purchased online on websites such as Aircraft Spruce or Univair. New parts can also be purchased from a catalog or by your AME. By having your AME make the purchase, you will be sure to have someone who orders the right part as well as install it. 

Used parts are available for the Piper Navajo as well. Used parts can be purchased directly from owners, brokers, or maintenance engineers. Used parts can be found through online communities such as clubs or forums or through word of mouth. 

Parts aren’t uncommon and so with enough search can often be found in a reasonable amount of time. Used parts can also be expensive if they are well taken care of, so it might be best to sometimes just buy them new. 

Piper Navajo/ Model Common Problems

 

While the Navajo has a strong reputation in the twin-engine community, there are still some issues that are found in several models.

The most common is some cylinder problems. While the cylinders have had issues such as cracks, a lot of those instances can be taken back to pilot error and operational causes. 

Airworthiness directives are also common in the Navajo. Due to its age, twin engines, and an array of parts, ADs have been placed to make sure all parts are inspected, replaced, and operating according to their directives. 

It is also important to keep an eye on the landing gear. Because of its retractable gear, the Navajo landing system is more complicated, and therefore more susceptible to breaking parts. 

Piper Navajo/ Insurance Options

Aircraft insurance is dependant on two options: liability, and hull insurance. Liability insurance only covers the cost of the owner, such as bodily injury or property damage. Hull insurance covers the cost of damages to the aircraft.

The cost of insurance is dependant on the experience of the pilot and the type of insurance they choose. Liability coverage is mandatory while hull coverage is an option, but choosing hull insurance can greatly increase the cost.

Another factor that is considered in insurance is the use of the airplane. If used for private flights, insurance is slightly less due to the assumption that the aircraft is flown less and flown within more reasonable limitations. 

If the aircraft is used commercially, which is common for the Piper Navajo, insurance will be more costly to cover any incidents that can happen with passengers during a flight. 

According to bwifly.com, a pilot is considered experienced by having at least a Private license, instrument rating, and multi-engine rating. They need at least 1000 hours total, 500 of which are in multi-engine aircraft, 500 of which are in aircraft with retractable gear, and 50 hours of experience on the Navajo.

The manufacturers requested ground and flight training on the aircraft is also required. The pilots that don’t meet these qualifications should expect a much higher premium.

Qualified pilots can expect liability coverage to cost between $850-$1 050 a year. Pilots that do not meet the standard qualifications or manufacturers’ requirements can expect a liability premium of $1 120 and $1 340 a year. 

The addition of hull coverage increases the premium. Qualified pilots can expect a premium range between $4 200 and $5 320 a year. Unqualified pilots can expect a premium between $5800 and $7 150 a year. 

Piper Navajo/ Model Resale Value

Although the Piper Navajo is no longer being manufactured, its models are still for sale today and can be found in good condition. Some of the aircraft are selling at the same value that they were priced at in the 80s. 

The average price of a secondhand or thirdhand Navajo is $250,000. This is dependant on many factors, such as total time on the airframe and time since overhaul on the engine. 

Other factors that can affect the price are avionics, the quality of the interior, the model number, and any upgrades. Engine upgrades can greatly increase the value of the aircraft and increase their resale value.

Piper Navajo/ Owner Reviews

Many owners and operators agree that the Navajo is a reliable aircraft. Most common issues are predictable, and the pilot will often receive some sort of sign from the aircraft before a key component is close to wearing out. 

Regular maintenance is a must with the Navajo, and it is costly. With two engines, it requires twice the amount of work and twice the number of parts. Many owners have expressed how expensive it can be to maintain the Navajo.

Readily available parts are often an uncommon factor with old airplanes. Luckily spare parts can be easily found for the Navajo. 

One note from pilots is that the true airspeed is greatly correlated to the weight of the aircraft, so packing light will result in greater performance. Oil consumption is considered average, and the aircraft is known for its ability to fly considerably long distances. 

Overall, other than the price of unexpected maintenance, the Navajo is often praised by its owners and passengers alike. 

Piper Navajo/ Similar Aircraft

 

Beechcraft Baron

While many would argue that the Navajo is one of a kind, there are a few options available in the twin-engine market for a six-seater aircraft. 

The Beechcraft Baron is a popular contender. Averaging a price of $175,000 for a secondhand model, the Baron is a twin-engine aircraft that carries 6 passengers very comfortably. Its strong performance and luxurious interior make it a popular contender. 

Cessna is Pipers’ greatest adversary. The Cessna 310 came out in 1954 and has been flying ever since. Being around for so long has resulted in many models receiving excellent modifications for better performance. The 310 can be found secondhand for $75 000 to $175000.

The turbocharged Piper Seneca is another model by Piper with a great following. Many owners love this powerful twin aircraft that provides speed and range to complete a number of personal missions.

Piper Navajo/ Clubs You can Join

Many pilots enjoy the benefits of joining clubs and online forums to discuss any questions or concerns they might have with their aircraft. Luckily Piper has no shortage of clubs or online communities. 

The Piper Flyer Association is a paid membership club with different tiers providing different benefits to club members. A traditional membership includes the online member benefits as well as a monthly Piper magazine, while a digital membership is at a slightly lower price with no magazine.

Memberships are annual and range from $33-$40, but 2 and 3-year memberships can also be purchased at a slightly higher price. 

The Piper Owner Society is another exclusive membership club. Memberships cost $59 for the year and come with a monthly magazine. You can also purchase the digital-only option for just $29.95. The membership provides access to online forums and guides. 

Facebook is a great place to find like-minded individuals for free. Joining Piper Facebook groups gives access to previous questions and information posted by other owners, as well as the ability to ask questions to owners and mechanics alike that have a wealth of knowledge. 

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is the Piper Navajo Pressurized? 

Answer: While the Navajo flies well over 10 000 feet, an altitude at which oxygen becomes required, not all the models are pressurized. There is a pressurized version of the Navajo that comes with 425 horsepower engines, designed for more charter and commercial use. 

Question: Can the Piper Navajo Fly on One Engine? 

Answer: Although it is an undesired situation and considered an emergency, it is possible to safely fly the Navajo on one engine. Although not recommended for intentional use, should an engine fail, the other is still capable of maintaining the straight and level flight of the aircraft. It is best to land as soon as possible.

Question: Is the Piper Navajo Safe?

Answer: The Navajo carries a strong safety record. Due to its powerful engines, it does not suffer a huge loss when it comes to having an engine failure and can still carry those on board to safety. Pilots who fly the Navajo are expected to be well versed in its emergency procedures so that any unexpected event can be handled with ease. 

Question: How much does it Cost?

Answer: While purchasing an aircraft may be expensive, the costs don’t end at the initial purchase. Maintenance, fuel, insurance, and other factors must all be considered in the price. On average many owners say it can cost upwards of $600 per hour to operate the Piper Navajo.

Further Reads:

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Research Citations

https://bwifly.com/piper-navajo-insurance-cost/

https://www.flyingmag.com/best-used-six-seaters/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_PA-31_Navajo

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