Hull, England, 2013
Piper Aircraft was founded as Taylor Brothers Aircraft Manufacturing Company in 1927 by Clarence and Gordon Taylor, though it filed for bankruptcy in 1930 and was purchased by Pennsylvania oilman William Piper, who saw the renamed Piper Aircraft Co. through the Great Depression (softened by the introduction of the famous J-3 Cub) and WWII, though he was ousted in 1947. The following year, Piper bought Stinson Aircraft, which allowed them to produce the latter’s ‘Twin Stinson’ as the PA-23 Apache, the first all-metal twin-engined general aviation aircraft. In the late 1950s, Piper began work on a simpler, cheaper alternative to its PA-24 Comanche, with the result being the PA-28 Cherokee.
The PA-28 featured fixed landing gear and a fixed prop, while the larger Comanche had retractable gear and a constant-speed prop. The Cherokee initially had a broad, constant-chord wing, referred to as the “Hershey Bar”, though this was changed to a tapered, NACA-652-415 wing in the 1974 Warrior model. Other changes over the years included more powerful engines, retractable gear and constant-speed propeller. The Cherokee proved to be popular with general aviation pilots, with 32,000 produced since 1960. The type also saw use with various military and government organizations, particularly in South America.
In 2001, Polly Vacher, an English-born music teacher and aviatrix, flew solo around the world in her PA-28-236 Dakota, the smallest aircraft flown solo by a woman around the world via Australia, which included a 16-hour flight from Hawaii to California, in support of Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. In May of 2003, she set out for Scholarships, this time flying over both poles and all seven continents, returning in April of 2004. In May of 2007, she flew in what was called the Wings Around Britain Challenge, visiting every airfield in the Jeppsen VFR Manual. Between May 21st and July 31st she visited 221 fields, covering nineteen thousand miles in 158 flying hours. Through various legs of the flight, 96 disabled passengers were carried. In 2015 her Dakota, which had since been sold to another pilot, was damaged and written off after overrunning a grass strip at a private airfield. The pilot was reportedly too high and too fast attempting the landing, and touched down almost a quarter of the way down the 800m strip, which was wet after a rain storm. The pilot, who later admitted that he should have aborted the landing, was uninjured, but the plane suffered irreparable damage to the wing, prop, landing gear and engine mountings when it struck a hedge.