Piper’s Cheyenne 400LS is one of those rare airplanes that has few compromises. It carries a big load in a comfortable cabin at high speeds for long distances on a miserly amount of fuel. Unfortunately, only about 45 were made, making it a rare hot rod indeed.
Viewed from the front, the 400LS has perhaps the most exemplary impression of raw power of any airplane. The massive four-blade propellers look like paddles when parked, resting in the fine-pitch position. The T-tail towers over the package to balance out the huge props. The imposing view is not just eye candy, either—this airplane has the performance to back it up. When it was introduced, the 400LS outperformed Cessna Citations of the day.
A power-to-weight ratio of 6 pounds/horsepower speaks volumes about the performance capabilities of the 400LS. This is better than the Extra 300’s 6.3 pounds/horsepower and the 7.3 pounds/horsepower of the spirited Beechcraft King Air F90. It explains the jet-like climb rate of 3,200 feet per minute at max takeoff weight, a cruise speed of 350 knots, and a service ceiling of FL410.
Back in the 1980s, Piper employed Gen. Chuck Yeager to set various time-to-climb records in the 400LS. It successfully smashed all the records in its class and set overall records to 6,000 and 12,000 meters. Initial rate of climb was about 6,000 feet per minute at the light weight used for the record flight.
As a day-to-day business airplane, the 400LS is a fast and quiet airplane with an impressive cabin pressurization differential of 7.6 psi, providing a 10,000-foot cabin at FL410. Most are outfitted with nine seats, including the pilot. The cabin lacks the headroom of a King Air, but large windows help give it a more airy feeling.
The Honeywell (Garrett) TPE-331-14 is rated to a maximum of 1,650 shaft horsepower. In the 400LS, they are flat rated to 1,000 shaft horsepower per side, and can make that power all the way up to about FL200—depending on temperature. At altitude, you can pull the miserly Garrretts back to about 400 lbs (60 gallons) per hour for long-range cruise. With a fuel capacity of 570 gallons of usable fuel on tap, the 400LS can fly more than 2,000 nm at that setting.
It takes just a few minutes to climb to the flight levels and the speed/economy gains at those altitudes make it worthwhile. Some owners report that the 400LS lacks the build quality compared to a King Air and its rarity can cause head scratches from mechanics who may never have seen one. The massive Dowty-Rotol composite propellers are expensive and have only eight inches of ground clearance, leading to erosion problems. A smaller-diameter, five-blade propeller is available via STC.
Vref pegs the 400LS value at $1 million for a 1984 model to $1.22M for a 1992 model. The 400LS provides its owner with jet-like climb and cruise performance, along with turboprop efficiency and the ability to use numerous smaller airports that the jets can’t. A bonus is the fact that it is a beautifully aggressive and unique airplane.
Pete Bedell is a pilot for a major airline and co-owner of a Cessna 172 and Beechcraft Baron D55.
Powerplant | (2) 1,000-shp Honeywell TPE-331-14
Length | 43 ft 5 in
Height | 17 ft 0 in
Wingspan | 47 ft 8 in
Seats | 8-10
Max takeoff weight | 12,050 lb
Takeoff distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,325 ft
Max cruise speed | 350 kt
Landing distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,317 ft
Range | 1,200-2,000 nm