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Piper PA-38 Tomahawk


Piper canvassed 10000 flying instructors before it built the “ultimate” training machine for the seventies. A cantilever low-wing monoplane with fixed tricycle landing gear, a T-tail, and side-by-side enclosed accommodation, it was powered by an Avco Lycoming O-235-L2C engine, designated Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk. The Tomahawk was designed around minimalism and low initial cost (around US$18,000 in 1978) and low ongoing costs.




First flown in mid-1973, Piper's Tomahawk received FAA type certification (FAA A18SO) on 20 December 1977. The T-tail trainer was certified in both the normal and utility categories, and the production lines started rolling in January 1978. The FAA temporarily suspended the airworthiness certificate of Piper's Toma-hawk trainer, grounding over 700 Tomahawks because of magneto failures. For simplicity, the ailerons and flaps were attached by piano wire hinges and the doors were held closed and locked by wire.

Fitted with a NASA created GA(W)-1 aerofoil, the Tomahawk’s heavy flight controls were intended to impersonate a bigger aircraft. The three position flaps, 34 deg, 21 deg, and up, is normally not used for takeoff. The wing has a fatigue limit of 11,000 hrs and modifications can increase that by 5000 hrs. One mod is to rivet a reinforcement plate to the wing’s spar plug.




Leading edge stall/airflow strips were installed on the aircraft’s wing to temper the stall/spin characteristics and the high crash/fatality rate dropped off noticeably. A 1983 AD required the installation of both inboard and outboard leading edge airflow strips.



Improvements introduced as standard in 1982 resulted in redesignation as the PA-38-112 Tomahawk II. The Tomahawk II intro duced bigger wheels, and cured a nosse wheel shimmy problem of the original.

Because of economic conditions production was suspended at the end of 1982, at which time 2,519 had been built, and output was nearing 200 units per year.

Piper hoped that it would be possible to resume production during 1984. This was not the case as the Tomahawk was one of the types most affected by the product liability laws and was already struggling to find a market.




Engine: 1 x Lycoming O-235-L2C, 112 hp
TBO: 2000 hr
Prop: Sensenich 2 blade, fixed pitch 72 in
Seats: 2
Length: 22 ft
Height: 9 ft. 6 in
Wingspan: 34 ft
Wing area: 124.7 sq.ft
Wing loading: 13.39 lbs/sq.ft
Power loading: 14.9 lbs/hp
Wing aspect ratio: 9.27
Aerfoil: GAW-1
Max ramp wt: 1670 lb
Max take off wt: 1670 lb
Empty wt: 1,165 lb
Useful load: 505 lb
Payload with full fuel: 325 lb
Max useful load: 562 lb
Max landing wt: 1670 lb
Baggage capacity: 100 lb
Max useable fuel: 30 USG/180 lb
Min fuel grade: 100 LL
Climb rate: 718 fpm @ 70 kt
Climb gradient: 615 ft/nm
Rate of climb @ 8000 ft: 305 fpm
Service ceiling; 12,850 ft
Max speed: 109 kt
Cruise @ 65% power @ 8,000ft: 92 kt
Fuel consumption 75% power: 6.5 USgph
Fuel consumption 65% power: 5.75 USgph
Fuel flow @ 65% power @ 8,000ft: 29 pph
Fuel consumption 55% power: 5 USgph
Endurance @ 65% power @ 8,000ft: 5.8 hr
Max cruise 75% pwr at 7,000 ft: 108 kt
Econ cruise 60 % pwr at 7,000 ft: 87 kt
Duration at max cruise: 4.1 hr
Max range (w/ res) 75% power: 430 nm
Max range (w/ res) 65% power: 460 nm
Max range (w/ res) 55% power: 475 nm
Stalling speed clean: 48 kt
Stall speed flaps down: 47 kt
Vso: 52 kt
Turbulent air penetration speed: 101 kt
Fixed undercarriage.
Takeoff ground roll: 820 ft
Takeoff over 50-ft. obstacle: 1460 ft
Landing ground roll: 707 ft
Landing over 50-ft. obstacle: 1544 ft


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