The Aircraft, in brief
The Piper Aircraft Corporation began production of its innovative Comanche model at Lock Haven, PA in 1958. The aircraft, a sleek single-engine, retractable-gear low-wing design, was introduced to compete primarily with the Beechcraft Bonanza and the Mooney M20. Its laminar-flow airfoil and all-flying stabilator were viewed as technical marvels. The model generated much press and built a solid customer base, in part because it was priced substantially below its competitors.
Fifty years and counting
The Comanche was first introduced with a 180-horsepower Lycoming engine. A 250 hp version – the Comanche 250 – was quickly added to the lineup. In the following few years, 260 hp and 400 hp versions were introduced. Between 1958 and 1972, after which time Comanche production ceased, some 4,800 single engine PA-24 Comanches were sold, 1,150 of which were of the 180 variety. Beginning in 1963, twin-engine versions were produced, designated as the PA-30 and PA-39 models. A total of 2,150 twins were sold, bringing the total fleet up to just over 7,000 aircraft. Now, over fifty years later, well over 4,000 Comanches are still flying. This is a testament to their great performance, their sleek good looks – and to the thousands of dedicated owners who fly and maintain them worldwide.
The RTW80 Aircraft, in full
The Comanche is no stranger to long-distance flying. Max Conrad, a contemporary of Charles Lindbergh, was a legendary early Piper pilot who set and broke many speed and distance records in his Comanche 180, and about whom a number of books have been written. One writer in AOPA Pilot Magazine wrote: “Max Conrad is considered one of the greatest pilots who ever lived. He specialized in general aviation airplanes and setting long distance records. His non-stop flight from Casablanca to Los Angeles in a grossly overloaded Comanche 180 was just one of his amazing world records.”
Pushing beyond standard specs
The normal factory specs for the Comanche 180 deliver cruising speeds of between 116 and 139 knots (215-257 km/h), depending on power settings, with a range of about 700 nautical miles (1,296 km). Chris has added a number of speed modifications to YHU as part of its refurbishment, resulting in a 5-knot increase in its cruise speed and slightly improved fuel economy. Normal all-up gross weight for the aircraft is 2,550 lb (1,156 kg), however this will be increased and certified to over 3,000 lb (1,360 kg) in order to accommodate the extra fuel requirements for the long flights required on this trip
Modified for distance and economy
The longest legs will be over the Pacific Ocean, with at least one hop at more than 2,000 nm (3,700 km). This will require flying for well over 15 hours. Adding in a minimum 3-hour reserve, the aircraft must be fit to fly for 18-20 hours non-stop. To accommodate these extended range requirements, the rear seat will be removed and an expandable fuel bladder installed. A number of other equipment adjustments will be made to meet global navigation requirements.
Not out to smash any records
Chris and Dave decided that since Max Conrad and others had already set most of the speed records in the Comanche, they’d use the “80 Days” theme – plus, of course, their magnetic and charming personalities – to attract funds to benefit SickKids Foundation and Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.