The Cheyenne family
How can an innovative product that blitzed its competitors in almost every way fall into relative obscurity so quickly? In this issue, we fly some Alaskan routes in the Piper Cheyenne twin-turboprop as we explore its features, innovations and perhaps why so few remain flying today.
Bigger and better
Time and time again in this series we see how a classic or exciting aircraft of its day is actually the culmination of modifications and improvements to a series of earlier models; so it is with the Piper Cheyenne. Its lineage began in 1964 with the PA-31 Navajo – the twin-piston engine, eight-seat aircraft aimed at cargo, charter and small regional airline feeder markets. The usual quick succession of more powerful engines, more efficient systems and improved aerodynamics followed. During its heyday in the 1970s, Piper also offered the PA-31P Pressurised Navajo which was powered by a pair of 425hp piston engines, making it the most powerful piston engine aircraft that Piper ever built. However, it was also complex, heavy and ultimately expensive to operate.