Cruising Cross Country in the Piper Tri-Pacer
by Curt "The Mutt" May (17 September 1998)
On the walk around you will notice the attention to detail (so good you can just smell the 100LL) in that all the rigging is in place and is visible from the cockpit. For you beginners this makes a pre-flight check out a snap. After you have looked at all the exterior and kicked the tires you finally jump inside the aircraft and notice the wonderful touring view out the windows (makes it easy to wave at the ladies on the top floor when you leave Meigs) all the way around. This is a wonderful thing when you are leaving out of Meigs headed for where ever as we all know how uncongested the airspace is around Chicago with all the light (spelled heavy) the traffic is.
CROSS COUNTRY BY TRI-PACERFor this trip I filed my flight plan (VFR of course) to take me out away from and down the coastline of Lake Michigan with the first leg to finally end in St. Louis. The first thing you are going to find out is that the Tri-Pacer is no whirling dirvish in the horsepower department. This I found out upon getting the hamsters under the cowl (all 150 of them) running as hard as they could rolling down the active. Dazzling speed the Tri-Pacer hasn't got, but what it does have is super easy handling with trim only needed to fly with great visibility and slow and low enough to enjoy the scenery.
For you new pilots, this is the bird for you, because even on an off day this plane will make you look like a pro with an ultra smooth take off and the all important "greaser" landings. Even for those of you who are have all kinds of trouble either getting into the air or getting back on the ground this is your airplane. The Tri-Pacer is a very forgiving airplane with no bad habits or surprises.
My trip across country was very smooth from Chicago to St. Louis all the way to Oklahoma City, OK, with a little cross wind on the landing at OKC that was easy to compensate for with a little pressure on the peddles. After gassing up and a bite to eat (for real) it was time to go further south, Fort Worth to be exact where I spent the night (virtually). The next day was a little gloomy but the weatherman said it was not going to get ugly so I woke up the hamsters and started west toward Albuquerque, New Mexico hoping to make it before nightfall.
TRI-PACER PERFORMANCEThe average cruising speed of the Tri-Pacer is a blistering 85 kts so seeing all the scenery from a dizzying height of 2800 feet is really nice. As the scenery rolled by below I thought I would put the Tri-Pacer through some stalls and some aerobatics. Well, for the stall end of it you will love the Tri-Pacer. With the stick all the way back the darn thing just goes up till it can't go anymore (which, even with the hamsters goin' for all they're worth ain't far) and the nose begins to drop and it says "okay I'm flying again".
As far as aerobatics are concerned, well let's just say after the stall test I didn't have the nerve to try a loop (didn't want to kill the hamsters). So I continued on west to my nights stay in New Mexico. Now you have to remember that as you go west the ground comes up to meet you without you realizing it unless you have been paying attention. And as you go up the air gets thinner which means you will need more real estate to get you and the hamsters into the air, and it will take you a little longer to get to cruising altitude and you will find that the hamsters are really working to get you there.
Going further west and a lot more up was a real challenge as the Tri-Pacers climb rate isn't in the "holy *#@!" F-15 Eagle category and the climb to altitude started right after I left the ground and continued till I reached a comfortable 9800 feet (which is just about the limit) which will get you over the mountains (or around them) at this end of the Rockies and over the rim into Phoenix. Now you may say to yourself "Phoenix is in a hole so taking off is going to be easy and the climb out brisk. Wrong! When you are in Phoenix it is one thing, hot. (The open air griddle out in the parking lot of the Waffle House is a great tip-off since it is not hooked to anything and you just had breakfast from it.) And with heat the air thins out thus creating high altitudes via air density. The little hamsters don't like the heat either so watch the temp gauge.
After gassing up and getting up and away from both Phoenix and the traffic I continued west towards my ultimate goal of Los Angeles, California. The trip was nice but, in the Tri-Pacer you will not set any speed records nor will you tear holes in the sky, but you will have a very relaxing, very easy, smooth and enjoyable flight. A tribute to the Tri-Pacers builder, Mr. Jerry Arzdorf.
CONCLUSIONYou out did yourself, Jerry, in the Tri-Pacer. For those of you who are looking for the perfect puddle jumper on a Sunday afternoon and want to be able to enjoy it along with your coffee, this is the plane for you.
Remember,there are old pilots and there are bold pilots
But, there are no old bold pilots
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