Right after World War II, manufacturers of light aircraft assumed servicemen returning from overseas might want to learn to fly, and they were right. The sweet spot for this growing market was four seats, 150-HP and fixed tricycle landing gear. Cessna answered the call with the phenomenally successful Cessna 172. Piper’s response was the PA-28-140 Cherokee, granddaddy of a full line of Cherokees that added seats, fuel and power as the product line, and the market, matured. The Grumman Tiger/Cheetah line would pose a threat to Piper’s dominance as a trainer, but could never knock Piper’s mundane do-it-all PA-28-161 from its trainer pedestal.
Piper Warrior is Born
Complaints of an anemic climb rate caused Piper engineers to start adding power to the basic Cherokee, transitioning from 150 HP to 160 HP in the Warrior II. But the real innovation occurred when the original Cherokee’s rectangular “Hershey Bar” wing was swapped in 1982 for a tapered wing. Piper would add seats (Cherokee Six) and power (Archer III and Dakota), but the original design intention of four-seats, fixed gear had now been fully realized.
Further annealing the Piper Cherokee Warrior to the training market was an airframe that could be easily flown and maintained—along with an ability to stand up to the rigors of student use and abuse. Plus, it makes for a familiar transition to other Piper singles, including the complex Arrow, as students work through their ratings.
Piper Warrior Maintenance and Safety
One reason training operations prefer the Warrior is maintainability—from the firewall forward to the back of the panel—there’s easy access. Plus, with its simple systems and familiar Lycoming powerplant, most all mechanics can work on it. For students, the airplane’s manual flap system, actuated by a bar between the front seats, contributes to an air of simplicity.
On the other hand, a scan of the NTSB’s 100 most recent Warrior wrecks shows that those flaps aren’t always well managed on go-arounds. Runway loss of control (RLOC) accounted for 17 percent of the wrecks.
Current Market: Piper Warrior for Sale
There are other airplanes that are faster, or carry more. But the Piper Warrior’s reputation as a basic airplane with no glaring deficits equates to more than 30,000 flying today. And the fleet has certainly increased in value. The current Aircraft Bluebook suggests a 1997 PA28-161 Warrior III retails for around $80,000, and we’re hearing of a market demand as small flight schools add them to flight lines. Planes used for private use— especially ones with paint, interior and avionics upgrades—sell for north of $100,000.
For a deeper dive on the Piper Warrior, head to Aviation Consumer and the Used Aircraft Guide, where you’ll get a detailed model history, historical resale values, recent FAA AD’s, competing model speed/payload/price comparisons and a detailed current NTSB accident scan summary.