Piper Clipper - What you need to know about this Piper Classic...
The Piper Clipper is a historic single engine aircraft with quite a bit of history. When you buy a Piper Clipper, you are buying a piece of aviation history that may end up in a museum one day.
The Piper Clipper isn’t just a piece of history, it’s also very fun to fly and is a great starter plane for any aviation collector. The Piper Clipper set the tone for all future Piper aircraft, and even some non-Piper models too.
SIDENOTE: So what makes the Clipper such a significant aircraft? In 1947, the general aviation industry was going through a tough economic trial-by-fire. In the post WWII era, many soldiers returned home and wanted to continue their piloting experience as a hobby. As a result, competition within the aviation industry was tough and many smaller general aviation companies failed in the midst of the economy.
The Piper PA-16 “Clipper” was produced in part as an effort to save the Piper Aircraft Company, and by the time the aircraft hit the market, it successfully reinvigorated the Piper Aircraft Company. While most single engine aircraft at this time cost around $5000, the Clipper was only $3000. This was very attractive to new pilots fresh out of the military who had little savings for a fancier plane.
About The Piper PA-16 Design:
The Piper PA-16 was designed at the exact same time as the PA-15 Vagabond, also produced to save the Piper Aircraft Company. The PA-16 was designed with a longer fuselage and had more elegant features than the smaller Vagabond. The PA-16 also featured four seats with higher quality materials and plusher features. Roughly 736 Clippers were produced in one year during its short production.
The engineering design of the Piper PA-16 turned out to be a great success, inspiring future single engine general aviation aircraft such as the Cessna 152 and PA-22 Colt. The Piper Clipper came with a Lycoming O-235 engine that provided an average speed of 125 miles-per-hour.
It also came with an extra door to account for the new seating and an extra fuel tank in the wing. These features made this aircraft one of the safest in its time, pushing the envelope of general aviation safety design. Original Clippers also come with the “Cub” control sticks, a desirable feature for general aviation collectors who want genuine historical pieces.
The Naming Issue Of The Clipper:
In addition to superior design, the Clipper came with a bit of naming drama during its initial run. Pan Am airlines operated a luxury airliner called the “Clippers” and pressured Piper Aircraft to change the naming convention so customers wouldn’t confuse a luxury airliner with a single engine aircraft. In response, Piper didn’t change the name but instead refined their Clipper design to include luxury features.
• Streamlined wing flaps were added that made the outward appearance of the plane look larger and more aerodynamic
• Stretched fuel tanks that reduced bulkiness in the wing
• Characteristic “Cub” control sticks were replaced with newer yokes
The Piper Clipper also had an engine upgrade. Piper Aircraft replaced the engine in the original Clipper with the Lycoming O-290. This series went on to become the Piper PA-20 Pacer.
Flying the Historic Clipper
The PA-16 Clipper is definitely not a sports aircraft, nor is it a high-speed aircraft. The Piper Clipper is a classic piece of general aviation history. It flies low and slow, but the experience of flying such a huge piece of aviation history is half the fun of flying one!
The PA-16 will have very traditional instrumentation and you won’t find upgraded avionics or anything digital in this cockpit. Still, it’s a classic and when you step into a Clipper as a pilot, you’re following almost 60 years of post-WWII piloting history.
IMPORTANT: When you buy a Clipper, you should look at it from a historian and collector viewpoint. This plane will not be an everyday commuter plane, and parts tend to be very hard to find. The long-term operating cost is high when you have to perform maintenance, especially since the parts will need to be shipped or even replicated.
Still, a well-maintained historically accurate model will run only around $26,000 and is sure to provide generations of aviation history in one convenient package.
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