The Saratoga is one aircraft that comes close to being the perfect single, if there is one (" Piper Saratoga II TC: Memory Maker," May Pilot). Lots of room, simple, reliable, reasonably fast, and good useful load, but wait a minute. Four hundred twenty-five pounds with full fuel? Three adults and bags on a three-hour trip?
It seems like the Piper Saratoga has grown fat over the years and would benefit from the Lycoming IO-580 that is currently finding a home as a supplemental type certificate on Rockwell Commanders. If I recall from my drooling over Cirrus SR22s, the useful load is equal to or less than in the four-passenger composite and certainly less than in my flying club's 2001 Cessna 182. Granted, there are two more seats in the Saratoga but I really don't see how you can use them for anything more than a one-hour trip.
I don't know what Piper could do with the airframe to get a 200-pound gross weight increase but maybe it could put the airframe on the Atkins diet. Whether it needs more power or stouter parts, a 200-pound gross weight increase or empty weight decrease would bring the Saratoga much closer to being the perfect single, at least for me.
I, too, have fond memories of a Saratoga — I took four other adults to Pittstown Point, Bahamas, for a weeklong vacation in a rental Saratoga in 1985. We hopped down to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and ascended the Citadel via Land Rovers and donkeys, then returned before dark. My son and I still recall it as one of the best times of our lives. Such was the power of the once-great Saratoga.
But now, as you point out in your story, the old girl has plumped up a bit. Quite a bit. So much, in fact, as to render her almost useless for serious family transportation. We used to call the Piper Cherokee Six, of which the Saratoga is basically a folding-wheels variant, the "Flying Pickup Truck": If you could get it through the doors, you could fly with it, and it had humongous doors. I guess the good old days really were better.
Yes, I read that the one you flew recently had air conditioning, turbos, and hot- and cold-running chambermaids, but if somebody inadvertently leaves a flight bag full of Jepps in a rental Saratoga today, it would almost be illegal to fly with a single pilot weighing 200 pounds. And leave the dog at home. Did all the extras on your test Saratoga weigh 300 pounds? This lady needs a 750-pound useful load with full tanks in order to be at all interesting to me. What is the limiting factor preventing a gross weight increase on the Saratoga? Wing or stabilator strength? Landing gear? Engine horsepower?
It just saddens me greatly to see this old girl all gussied up but with nowhere to go with more than two people, when at one time she could bench-press a dump truck and look good doing it.
Tom Haines writes: Weight gain is not unique to the Saratogas. Beechcraft Bonanzas and Barons, Cessna 182s and 172s, and many other "legacy" models suffer from higher empty weight because of safety enhancements such as seats rated for higher G loads, shoulder harnesses, and air bags. Creature comforts such as extra soundproofing and air conditioning also wick away at useful load. One partial solution is to manage the fuel. With modern fuel sensors and fuel computers, there is no reason to top off after every flight (condensation in partially empty tanks is mostly a myth and is certainly manageable). The sensors allow for accurate fuel measurements and the ability to trade fuel for payload. That's not a complete solution, but a more complete one in the form of stronger structure for increased takeoff weights only further increases the empty weight, which requires more power. A larger engine is heavier and requires more fuel and so begins the aeronautical engineer's toughest challenge. It's a tough and age-old dilemma in aircraft design.
The May issue incorrectly stated that the aft seats of the Piper Saratoga II TC could be configured to be facing forward. In fact, they can be only in a club configuration. — Editors
One of the reasons the FAA is for user fees has just become clear to me (" FAA Funding Debate: A Bill's Blowback," May Pilot). Like it is in the European Union, general aviation would be decimated and it would become too expensive for the average pilot to afford to fly. This reduction in system volume would certainly help the FAA reduce its concerns over capacity and allow the agency to continue to operate the antiquated system now in place. This may be the FAA's "NextGen" solution!
With regard to the May "Test Pilot" question 7, "Estimate...the weight of a...cloud," my wife says that the cloud is weightless, just like a floating balloon is weightless.
As an airplane takes off, the weight on the landing gear goes to zero. The lift balances the mass. The mass, however, is huge as you describe. Since we have a cloud, the vapor content is near saturation. It is not possible to estimate the actual mass to "within 1,000 pounds" without knowing the temperature. Even worse, you have to know the absolute temperature to within 0.00002 percent since even a slight change will affect the pressure-to-volume situation. Also, the cloud is in dynamic equilibrium. This is necessary since air must move in from the bottom, lose density, condense droplets to form the visible cloud, dry, and exit near the top invisibly. It is very difficult to quantify the difference in density between the cloud and surrounding air. They are both very near saturation (100-percent relative humidity). I believe the 0.5-percent number you quote is far too large. Perhaps this is the difference in density between a cloud and dry air.
My brain hurts. I think it would be easier to agree with my wife and simply say the weight is exactly zero and be done with it.
Barry Schiff writes: I think it is largely a matter of semantics, although mass is technically more accurate. I used weight because it is more easily understood, and that is the way the government describes it. You can see the government's description online.
By now I suppose you've had numerous corrections to your " Test Pilot" quiz question number 9 in the May issue. For the record, I quote from U.S. Naval History: "The sixth Ranger (CV4), the first ship of the Navy to be designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier, was laid down 26 September 1931 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia; launched 25 February 1933, sponsored by Mrs. Herbert Hoover; and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard 4 June 1934, Capt. Arthur L. Bristol in command."
During the post-World War I years, a conference of the various major naval powers was convened in Washington, D.C. It resulted in a treaty requiring significant reductions in the number of battleships and battle cruisers in all the world's navies.
Many existing U.S. Navy ships were scrapped, as were many under construction. The treaty, however, did not address the aircraft carrier, which was not yet considered a serious naval weapon. The U.S. Navy had two modern battle cruiser hulls, which had been completed, CC1 (Lexington) and CC2 (Saratoga). These two incomplete ships were converted for aircraft carrier use and reclassified CV2 and CV3.
Also, if you have ever wondered what the CV stands for as a U.S. Navy ship designation, the C stands for cruiser and the V for heavier-than-air. The British were the originators of two major design variations — the aft-angled flight deck and the offset island to replace the conventional bridge.
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