Piper PA-24 Comanche

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PA-24 Comanche
Role Civil utility aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Piper Aircraft
First flight May 24, 1956; 64 years ago (1956-05-24)
Introduction 1958[1]
Status Production ceased
Primary users Private aviators
Flight schools
Produced 1957-1972
Number built 4,857
Unit cost
Variants Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche
Piper PA-39 Twin Comanche
Ravin 500

The Piper PA-24 Comanche is an American four-seat or six-seat, low-wing, all-metal, light aircraft of semi-monocoque construction with tricycle retractable landing gear. Piper Aircraft designed and developed the Comanche, which first flew on May 24, 1956. Together with the PA-30 and PA-39 Twin Comanche, it made up the core of the Piper Aircraft lineup until 1972, when the production lines for both aircraft were wiped out in a flood.

Design and development[edit]

1959 model PA-24

The Comanche is a four-seat (or, in 260B and 260C models, six-seat), single-engined, low-wing monoplane. It is an all-metal aircraft with a retractable landing gear.[2] Two prototypes were built in 1956 with the first being completed by June 20, 1956.[2] The first production aircraft, powered by a 180 hp (134 kW) Lycoming O-360-A1A engine, first flew on October 21, 1957. In 1958 it was joined by a higher powered PA-24-250 with a 250 hp (186 kW) Lycoming O-540-A1A5 engine; this model was originally to be known as the PA-26 but Piper decided to keep the PA-24 designation.[2][3]

In 1964 the 400 hp (298 kW) PA-24-400 was introduced.[1] The following year the PA-24-250 was superseded by the PA-24-260, featuring the Lycoming IO-540D or E engine of 260 hp (194 kW). The 260 was also available as the Turbo Comanche C with a Rajay turbocharger and was introduced in 1970.[4]

Production of the Comanche ended in 1972 when torrential rains from Hurricane Agnes caused the great Susquehanna River flood of 1972, flooding the manufacturing plant and destroying airframes, parts, and much of the tooling necessary for production. Rather than rebuild the tooling, Piper chose to abandon production of the Comanche and Twin Comanche and continue with two newer designs already in production at Piper's other plant in Vero Beach, Florida: the twin-engined PA-34 Seneca and the PA-28R-200 Arrow.[5]


Comanche 180[edit]

1959 Piper PA-24 180

The original version of the Comanche was the PA-24, which featured a carbureted 180 hp (134 kW) Lycoming O-360-A1A engine, swept tail, laminar flow airfoil, and all-flying stabilator.

The standard fuel capacity of the PA-24-180 was 60 US gallons (230 L). The flaps were manually actuated, controlled by the same Johnson bar actuator as the Piper Cherokee. The aircraft specifications were for cruise speeds of 116 to 139 knots (215 to 257 km/h) and fuel burns between 7.5 and 10.5 gph at 55-percent and 75-percent power settings. Full-fuel payload with standard fuel was 715 pounds, with a gross weight of 2,550 lb (1,160 kg) and range with 45-minute reserve of 700 nautical miles.[citation needed]

When new, standard, average-equipped Comanche 180s sold between $17,850 (1958) and $21,580 (1964). A total of 1,143 were built.[citation needed]

Comanche 250[edit]

In 1958 Piper introduced a 250-horsepower (186 kW) version using a Lycoming O-540 engine, giving the PA-24-250 Comanche a top cruise speed of 160 kn (185 mph; 298 km/h). Most 250s had carbureted Lycoming O-540-AIA5 engines, but a small number were fitted out with fuel-injected versions of the same engine. Early Comanche 250s had manually operated flaps and carried 60 US gallons (230 L) of fuel. Auxiliary fuel tanks (90 US gallons (340 L) total) became available in 1961. Electrically actuated flaps were made standard with the 1962 model year.[citation needed]

Comanche 260[edit]

PA-24-260 with LoPresti Cowling on landing
PA-24-260B with custom paint

In 1965 the first of four 260-horsepower (194 kW) versions of the Comanche was introduced. They were:

  • PA-24-260 (1965)
  • PA-24-260B (1966 to 1968)
  • PA-24-260C (1969 to 1972)
  • PA-24-260TC

A total of 1,029 airplanes were sold from the Comanche 260 line, including the 260TC.

The 260 had an empty weight of approximately 1,700 pounds and a maximum gross weight of 2,900 pounds. It had four seats, and a 90-US-gallon (340 L)-capacity auxiliary fuel system was available as an option. Cruise speed was advertised as 142-161 knots with fuel burn of 10 to 14 US gallons (38 to 53 L) per hour.

The 260B had an overall length six inches (152 mm) more than the previous models. This was due to a longer propeller spinner, not a longer fuselage. The 260B had a third side window and a provision for six seats. The fifth and sixth seats take up the entire baggage area and will seat smaller adults and is placarded to a total weight of 250 pounds. Typical empty weight was 1728 pounds and gross weight was 3,100 pounds. Fuel burn was 11 to 14 US gallons (42 to 53 L) per hour and advertised speed was 140-160 knots.

The 260C introduced a new "Tiger Shark" cowling, max gross weight of 3200 pounds, cowl flaps, and an aileron-rudder interconnect. Cruise speed was advertised as 150-161 knots with fuel flow of 12.5 to 14.1 US gallons (47 to 53 L) per hour. To prevent possible aft center of gravity problems due to the increased gross weight and its fifth and sixth seats, the propeller shaft was extended. This moved the center of gravity slightly forward. With a useful load of 1427 pounds it has the largest payload of all of the Comanches except the 400. Often mistaken on the ramp for the 400 model, the slightly longer cowling includes a distinctively longer nose gear door, as compared to the B models and older versions.

Starting in 1970, Piper offered a turbo-normalized variant of the PA-24-260 known as the 260TC with a Lycoming IO-540-R1A5 engine and dual Rajay turbochargers. Twenty-six were produced between 1970 and 1972. Advertised by Piper as a "second throttle", the turbochargers are controlled using a manual wastegate assembly that places an additional handle labeled "boost" next to the throttle handle in the cockpit, effectively creating a secondary throttle. The TC model is certified for flight to 25,000 feet, with an advertised turbo critical altitude of 20,000 feet, giving a maximum true airspeed of 223 mph (202 kn).[6]


In 1967 one aircraft was modified with a 300 hp (224 kW) Lycoming engine for trials. It did not enter production.[2]


Two prototype aircraft were built in 1961. They were standard Comanche airframes but had 380 hp (283 kW) Lycoming IO-720-A1A engines with a three-bladed propeller. The design was modified with an even larger 400 hp (298 kW) engine and produced as the PA-24-400.[7]

Comanche 400[edit]

The PA-24-400 Comanche 400[8] was produced from 1964 to 1966.[1] Only 148 PA-24-400s were built.

The Comanche 400 is powered by the 400-horsepower horizontally opposed eight-cylinder Lycoming IO-720 engine, an engine developed specifically for the model.[9]. There have been cooling problems with the rear cylinders.

Comanche 400, MSN 26-52, exhibited at the 1966 Hannover Air Show, Germany

The Comanche 400 has a three-bladed propeller and carries 100 US gallons (380 L) of fuel, or 130 US gallons (490 L) with optional extended tanks. Fuel burn was advertised as 16 to 23 US gallons (61 to 87 L) per hour, at 55%-75% power. The high fuel burn means that it is expensive to operate. The 400 had a typical empty weight of 2,110 pounds and a max gross weight of 3,600 pounds.

Book speeds for the PA-24-400 included a cruising speed of 185 knots (343 km/h) and a top speed of 194 knots (360 km/h).[10]

While identical in planform to other PA-24 models, the 400 is structurally strengthened, primarily in the tail, with an extra nose rib in the stabilator and in the vertical fin. The stabilator, vertical fin, and rudder of the 400 share virtually no common parts with the 180, 250, or 260 hp (190 kW) Comanches.

Twin Comanche[edit]


The PA-33 Pressurized Comanche prototype

In 1967 a single Comanche was modified by Swearingen with a pressurized cabin. The prototype, powered by a 260-hp Lycoming O-540 engine and equipped with Twin Comanche landing gear, was designated the PA-33.[11] First flown on March 11, 1967, the prototype later crashed on takeoff in May 1967 and the project was cancelled.[11]

World records[edit]

Max Conrad[edit]

In June 1959 Max Conrad flew a Comanche 250 on a record-breaking distance flight in Fédération Aéronautique Internationale C1-D Class, for aircraft between 3,858 lb (1,750 kg) to less than 6,614 lb (3,000 kg). Having removed the interior seats and replaced them with fuel tanks, Conrad flew nonstop from Casablanca, Morocco to Los Angeles, a distance of 7,668 mi (12,340 km). When the aircraft took off from Casablanca, it was heavily overloaded and just cleared the airport fence.[12] The Comanche 250 Max Conrad flew for this flight is now located in the museum at the Liberal, Kansas airport.

On November 24–26, 1959 Conrad flew a Comanche 180 on a distance record flight in FAI C1-C Class for aircraft taking off at weights between 2,204 lb (1,000 kg) to less than 3,858 lb (1,750 kg)) that still stands: Casablanca to El Paso, Texas 6,966 mi (11,211 km) non-stop, a distance of 6,967 miles (6,054 nmi; 11,212 km), in 56 hours 26 minutes.[12][13] He set a closed-circuit distance record in the same aircraft on July 4–6 November 1960, flying 6,921 miles (6,014 nmi; 11,138 km).[13]


Toku-Hana PA-24-250

In July 1964 Henry Ohye, flying a 1961 PA-24-250, made the first successful trans-Pacific flight from the United States to Japan in a single-engined aircraft. He flew from Los Angeles to Tokyo with stops in Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, and Okinawa.[14][15]

Myth Too[edit]

A 1966 Comanche 260B named Myth Too and registered G-ATOY was owned by the English aviator Sheila Scott. The aircraft, flown by Scott, holds ninety world class light aviation records. It is on public display at the National Museum of Flight, Scotland.[16]

Oldest circumnavigator[edit]

The circumnavigation by the oldest pilot on record in 1994 was made by Fred Lasby in a Comanche 260B.[17]


Specifications (PA-24-260C)[edit]

PA-24-260B cockpit

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1971–72[19]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 3–5 passengers
  • Length: 25 ft 0 in (7.62 m)
  • Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m)
  • Wing area: 178 sq ft (16.5 m2)
  • Aspect ratio: 7.28:1
  • Airfoil: NACA642A215
  • Empty weight: 1,773 lb (804 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,200 lb (1,451 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 60 US gal (50 imp gal; 230 L) normal, additional 30 US gal (25 imp gal; 110 L) in optional auxiliary tanks
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming IO-540 air-cooled six-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine, 260 hp (190 kW)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed Hartzell HC82XK1D metal constant-speed propeller, 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) diameter


  • Maximum speed: 195 mph (314 km/h, 169 kn) at sea level
  • Cruise speed: 185 mph (298 km/h, 161 kn) at 6,300 ft (1,900 m) (max. cruise, 75% power)
  • Never exceed speed: 227 mph (365 km/h, 197 kn)
  • Range: 1,225 mi (1,971 km, 1,064 nmi) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m) (auxiliary fuel tanks, 65% power)
  • Service ceiling: 19,500 ft (5,900 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,320 ft/min (6.7 m/s)
  • Takeoff run to 50 ft (15 m): 1,400 ft (430 m)
  • Landing run from 50 ft (15 m): 1,200 ft (370 m)


  1. ^ a b c Plane and Pilot: 1978 Aircraft Directory, page 64. Werner & Werner Corp, Santa Monica CA, 1977. ISBN 0-918312-00-0
  2. ^ a b c d Peperell & Smith 1987, pp. .105-110
  3. ^ The PA-26 was later used as a designation for the Comanche 400 although it also retained the PA-24 designation for marketing.
  4. ^ Taylor, John WR, editor: Jane's Light Aircraft, page 165. Jane's Publishing Company, 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0195-6
  5. ^ "The Piper Aircraft Corporation, out of its Lock Haven, Pennsylv". Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  6. ^ Killough, Douglas L. (1996). Pilot's Operating Handbook Piper PA-24-260C. Austin, Texas: Aircraft Publications. pp. numerous.
  7. ^ Peperell & Smith 1987, pp. 111–112
  8. ^ Federal Aviation Administration (August 2006). "PA-24-400 Type Certificate". Retrieved 2007-11-30.
  9. ^ Lycoming Engines (n.d.). "Lycoming IO-720". Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  10. ^ Demand Media (2008). "The Piper PA-24 Comanche". Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  11. ^ a b Peperell & Smith 1987, p. 225
  12. ^ a b Meunier, Claude (December 2007). "Max Conrad". Archived from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
  13. ^ a b Taylor 1962, p. 263
  14. ^ "Trans-Pacific Flier Returns on Airliner". Los Angeles Times. 5 October 1964.
  15. ^ AWA Airways: 6. Summer 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "National Museum of Flight Scotland - Our aircraft" (PDF). National Museums of Scotland. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-06. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  17. ^ "Around the World in a Comanche 260B". Comanche Flyer. Vol. 31 no. 3. March 2004. p. 34.
  18. ^ Anderson, Sherry (January 2001). "Patsy Cline". Archived from the original on 2008-09-27. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  19. ^ Taylor 1971, pp. 381–382

External links[edit]