Up until the end of my PPL training I had flown in and controlled 3 General Aviation aircraft – a Robin HR200 on an experience flight in 2010, a Cessna 152 in 2014 and 4 different Cessna 172 aircraft over my entire PPL training in 2017/2018. I don’t have many memories of the flight in 2010 – I just remember knowing that getting my pilot’s licence was something that was definitely going to happen. The Cessna 152 I would affectionately refer to as “sardines in a tin can”, so naturally fell in love with the Cessna 172 with its 4 seats and more space.
Until I got my hands on the controls of a PA28.
Many people had said to me that if I like the 172 then I’ll like the PA28 more, and the instructor who did my first PA28 checkout admitted he had some beef with the 172. It’s easy to see why – my first ever landings in the low-wing aircraft were like butter despite being on an unfamiliar grass airstrip. So they were certainly not wrong – I could happily fly either aircraft around all day long but the Piper definitely wins it for me. Even with the extra things to remember such as fuel management and making sure to change tanks periodically, or using the carburettor heat correctly (something I had never experienced in my training).
I’ve done more “actual” crosswind landings in the PA28 compared to the 172 and find them much easier to deal with – not sure if it’s because I have more experience or whether there’s really something about the low wing affecting ground effect and making it easier to land. I’ve certainly not had a bad landing in one yet – nothing like the definite positive contact with the runway in the Cessna.
Those who know the Piper family will know there are several variants of the PA28. I’ve got access to the Archer III, Warrior and Cherokee – though I haven’t flown the Warrior yet. It feels like the Warrior will be the best of both worlds – I don’t like the Cherokee’s trim handle being in the ceiling, but the Archer seems to have a narrower windscreen which makes me feel a bit… cramped. Looking forward to getting in the Warrior to see what that’s like!
The only issue with both the PA28 and Cessna 172 is the size. 4 seats does not carry 6 people, and I have a wife and 4 children. There is a PA32 Saratoga I could have access to with 6 seats… but all in good time!
For now I’m quite happy to buzz around in the PA28 aircraft and improve my experience and enjoy new sights.