Piper Cheyenne III

Some friends and I briefly entertained the idea of purchasing one of these back in the days of the dot com bubble. We had found a gentleman who had a gorgeous example that he was selling, having traded up to a Cessna Citation. My buddies own the Piper Navajo you've seen pictured in various places on the site, and the Cheyenne is sort of like a pressurized and turbopropped Navajo in many respects. There is a pretty long lineage of Cheyennes, but we like the III's and 400LS's the best. They're the largest, fastest, and most refined of the breed. In fact, the Cheyenne IIIa we looked at is appreciably larger than the Piper Navajo, which is already a pretty large aircraft.

A plane like this will fly at over 300 knots in pressurized comfort at altitudes high enough to avoid most enroute weather. My friend took a test flight in the plane we were looking at and they flew at an average of 335 knots down to Palm Springs. The cabin is spacious, and will accomodate seven guests, along with the pilot and copilot up front. Realistically, this is an airplane that I may never develop enough hours to fly competently on my own, so I'll need to hire a pilot with lots of hours to ride alongside. I don't see this as much of an obstacle--good pilots are surprisingly plentiful, and I like the idea of having someone more experienced than myself along to make sure things go well.

A good low-time Cheyenne like this has a price tag in the $1.5 to $1.9 million dollar range. If you're willing to look at high time airplanes, you might find a nice example for $800K. It will be expensive to maintain, but very reliable. As such, it only makes sense to enlist some partners in the ownership program to bring things back to manageable levels. The owner of the plane we looked at regularly took it to the East coast with a single refuel stop to eat lunch and rest. It would fly non-stop to Chicago, and he had taken it to Europe via Greenland too. This is a plane that would pretty well eliminate your dependence on the airlines for everything but a trip to Hawaii. Frankly, I don't understand why so many people prefer the Beech King Airs. That plane evidently put the Cheyenne out of business (it's no longer in production), but what a shame! To my eye the Cheyenne is much the prettier plane, and it is also faster. In fact, the 400LS models could get very close to 400 knots, which is jet territory.

The 400LS is the fastest of the Cheyenne family line. It's capable of almost 350 knots, and the "400" in the name comes from the fact that it will do about 400 MPH. As is typical for marketing hype, I'm told this happens only when you fly the plane at exactly the right altitude--FL240 (24,000 feet)--and you have meticulously cleaned and polished the skin of all bugs or other drag inducing impurities. This is still very fast. I recently flew from the California West Coast to Atlanta, Georgia on United. We took 4 1/2 hours to do it. One of these Cheyennes could probably get there in an additional two hours, though would need a refueling stop. Let's say we stop for lunch somewhere interesting, like Santa Fe or Aspen to refuel, and that we spend 2 hours doing it. That extra 2 hours about accounts for the extra time needed at the departure end of a commercial flight to clear security and be there a little early. From my house, I'm two hours away from our departure airport, SFO, and that accounts for the extra time in the air since the Cheyenne flies more slowly than the United Airbus. Basically, our door to door time is going to be the same, or perhaps better for the Cheyenne, and I'll be a whole lot happier flying the right seat of one of these birds than crammed into coach in the back of the United Airbus! If I lived more centrally, say back in Texas, I could fly anywhere in the Continental United States or Caribbean and get there as fast or faster than commercial with one of these planes.

Very impressive bird!

Panel is not far removed from Navajo's...

Cabin is roomy and comfortable...

Triple one papa charlie you are cleared to flight level two niner...

 
All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.