The Pacer was essentially a four-place version of the two-place PA-17 Vagabond light aircraft. It features a steel tube fuselage and an aluminum frame wing, covered with fabric, much like Piper's most famous aircraft, the Cub and Super Cub. An aircraft prized for its ruggedness, spacious cabin, and, for its time, impressive speed, many Pacers continue to fly today. Factory installed 125 hp (93 kW), 135 hp (100 kW) and 150 hp (112 kW) engine options were available and 160 hp (120 kW) as well as 180 hp (135 kW) engine after-market conversions are an option.
Piper PA-22 Tri-Pacer
The Pacer was originally designed as a tailwheel aircraft and thus had somewhat limited forward visibility on the ground and more demanding ground-handling characteristics. To help introduce more pilots to easier, safer flying, in 1953 the PA-20 was redesigned and offered as the PA-22 Tri-Pacer with a nosewheel in place of the tailwheel landing gear. Additionally, the Tri-Pacer offered higher-powered engine options in the form of 150 hp (112 kW) and 160 HP (120 kW) engines, whereas the largest engine available to the original Pacer had an output of 135 hp (100 kW). At the time the tricycle undercarriage became a popular preference and 1953 saw the PA-22 Tri-Pacer outsell the Pacer by a ratio of six to one.
In 1959 and 1960 Piper offered a cheaper, less well-equipped version of the Tri-Pacer with a 150 HP (112 kW) Lycoming O-320 designated the PA-22-150 Caribbean. Over 8000 Tri-Pacers were produced between 1953 and 1960 when production ended, with over 2000 still registered with the FAA in 2006.
An unusual feature of the Tri-Pacer is the incorporation of bungee linked ailerons and rudder. Beside simplifying the coordination of in-flight manoeuvres, this system which can easily be overcome by the pilot as required, allowed the installation of a simplified form of autopilot called by Piper:- Auto-control.
A small number of PA-22s have been converted to taildragger configuration, resulting in an aircraft that is very similar to a PA-20 Pacer, but retains the model refinements and features of the PA-22. These conversions are often referred to by owners as PA-22/20s and are often listed in classified aircraft ads as such, although officially such converted aircraft continue to be designated by the FAA as PA-22 Tri-Pacers.
While the original PA-20 Pacer is generally regarded as an aesthetically attractive aircraft, with classic, "traditional" lines, some pilots and aircraft enthusiasts find the PA-22 Tri-Pacer a less attractive-looking variant. Due to the geometry of the nosewheel installation it is sometimes referred as the "Flying Milk Stool". Both the PA-20 and PA-22s have their supporters and enthusiasts.
Miss Pearl (N3383A) is a PA-22-135 taildragger which was converted and restored by its owner, Frank Sperandeo III. This aircraft is arguably the most well-known of its type and has won more than 50 awards. . The aircraft was also featured in the May 2006 edition of General Aviation News.
Piper PA-22-108 Colt
A trainer version of the PA-22 Tri-Pacer was designed and designated the PA-22-108 Colt. It was intended to compete directly with other popular trainers of the day, such as the Cessna 150 and was powered by a 108 hp (80 kW) Lycoming O-235. The Colt was available 1961-1964.
The Colt is essentially a PA22 Tri-Pacer with the rear seats and windows removed, only one fuel tank in the left wing, no flaps and other detail changes that were implemented to reduce cost and complexity. An auxiliary fuel tank was available, of the same 18 US gallon capacity as the main tank, that could be installed in the right wing. Like the earlier Vagabond, the Colt features side-by-side seating for two, however the Vagabond has stick controls and the Colt has control wheels. A few Colts have also been converted to tailwheel configuration, although this is not as popular as converting Tri-Pacers. Production of the Vagabond, Pacer, Tri-Pacer and Colt was completed by the early 1960s and they were superseded by the PA-28 Cherokee line of aircraft.
Type Club Support
The Pacer, Tri-Pacer, Colt and their variants are supported by a very active aircraft type club, The Shortwing Piper Club.
Specifications (PA-22-160 Tri-Pacer)
Published - July 2009
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