Our Club has just bought one and everyone says it is fantastic compared to the C152 we scrapped. As well as the normal club fliers, we teach PPLs and the instructors are all very happy with it. The running costs seem similar to our old C152.
I taught in both C-152's & PA-38's, and the Tomahawk was a better plane to both learn and teach in. It demonstrated the required moves from student pilots a litte better than the Cessna did, and was a little faster and had better visibility.
Tomahawks are an excellent trainer, 2/3 the cost of operating compared to a C152. And about 1/2 of a C172 or PA28. Mainly due to the price of Cessna parts.
Viz outside is its big plus, and room in the cabin. The T tail is its big minus, with a sometime qurkey stall. waddels like a duck in turbs like any other T tail aircraft other that it is good trainer.
Not true that spins are prohibited. Spin recoveries are standard but need to be done properly. Read the POH.
The Cesspit 152 is an ideal trainer for those who like the game of "sardines", enjoy suffering back problems and don't feel a need to see the runway, or other traffic, in the circuit.. Studes who have flown the Cesspit and then go to the Tommy never go back to the Cessna.
For lots of info on the PA38, including links to articles dispelling some of the rubbish that is spread about them by people who have never flown them, go to
I hate 'em (and yes I've done years instructing in both).
No aerobatic capability of course, they can't maintain a proper max rate turn even at 60 deg bank let alone the 72 - 73 you'll get out of a 152, they're a good few knots slower on x - country, the spring loaded controls are bloody awful, the seating position is far too upright, they always look scruffy because the interior plastic work is even worse quality than Cessna's (and that's saying something!) and the overall impression is just of a poorly put together, poorly balanced creaky tin can that has had costs cut out of it at every opportunity.
The 152 is a better aeroplane, but the Tomahawk will make you a better pilot.
The tomahawk was designed by piper engineers - after surveying experienced instructors to find out what they wanted in a trainer, and redisigned by piper accountants - after surveying flying school management to find out what they wanted. Having said that, I think it's a good basic training aircraft - definately more roomy, less forgiving of inaccurate control - esp stalling, really spins (even if it does look like the tail's about to fall off), 'spin' recovery in a 152 is not unlike falling off a log (you'd think that would be a good thing)
Even with the sore backs, and crap vis - I still prefer the 152, but appreciate the merits of both.
A great little aeroplane to start off training and easy to move onto the PA28s from.
The sloping cowling (which can be opened fully to get a good look at all the gubbins underneath and show students what's under there, how carby heat works etc) means that even in the climb the horizon is clearly visible so you can keep a good lookout and judge airspeed better than when much of the view is obscured by the cowling.
Running costs, well ours cost about $30 an hour to run plus fuel. The o-235-L2C engine has a TBO of 2400 hours with the strengthened pistons and there is a 125 HP mod out there too. The Tomahawks have a lot less down time than the others in the fleet.. Ergonomics are good with levers rather than push-pull knobs that all look and feel very similar.
I prefer the smaller wheels for ground handling though the "Hilux" version is better on dirt strips.
They don't have to be scruffy and creaky if looked after properly, and are easy to refurbish, interior plastics can be bought cheaply ex USA. Now that the wing life mod is available they are not so age limited, and their value is increasing rapidly as a result. They can now be restored to close on good as new. So get one sooner rather than later. There are some good ones around, PM me and I can give you some details.
Cons? getting any Piper parts can be a nightmare at the moment particularly any undercarriage parts. You may have to get them manufactured by someone with PMA. With the small wheels the ground clearance of the prop is only a few inches so need to be taxiied and landed with care. Which all aircraft should be anyway. There are a few ADs so a careful logbook inspection is very important when buying.
And British Ariways used them for cadet training so that's not a bad recommendation.
The Beech Skipper and Tomahawk look identical to the casual observer yet apparently the Tomahawk is involved in twice as many spin accidents?
Not trying to be a smarta$$ - but Piper built 6 times more PA38s than Beech built Skippers.
I found both aircraft similar to operate cost wise but the general student preference was for the PA38 due to heaps more room and vis.
Piper spares now are a shambles. Helitech are no longer into Piper parts and Hawkers are yet to take over. No stock in Oz to speak of.
Then again, last year I had to wait 4 weeks for a C172 tail tie down ring from Cessna as no stock in Oz.
Watch out for the 40K 'bargains' offered here that have 9000 hours as they become static displays at 11,000 hours (unless you do the spar mod).
If you want just one or two PA38s it should be OK but if you want to build a fleet it will be hard as there are only 50 or so in Oz vs '00s of C150/152s.
Why not look at importing a couple from the USA. There are some advertised cheaper than the high-time rubbish usually offered here and with lower times - also, quite a few in the USA have already had the 'Sparrowhawk' 125hp mod.
The AOPA US link I quoted doesn't show exact stats, so I can't tell you if the accident rates is across the fleet, hours flown or whatever. However it does also mention the C150/152
The AOPA article quotes a stall/spin accident rate of 3.28 per 100 aircraft (Tomahawks) in the fleet compared with a figure of 1.31 for the Cessna 150/152.
"Bottom line - the Tomahawk is involved in proportionately more stall/spin accidents than comparable aircraft. Does that make it unsafe? No, it only means that the PA38 must be flown precisely in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook and with instructors who are proficient in stalls and spin recovery in that aircraft ..."
I don't have much faith in the integrity of the AOPA report: I looked at the sample data used by the ASF for this report. I chose to look at the 8KCAB as I recall some of the stall/spin accidents - but not one of those was included. Of the the two that were included by ASF - one was not a stall spin accident in my opinion - a practice forced landing with a severe bounce on landing followed by impact with trees some distance further on. The second followed a failed banner pick-up. I found three more fatal stall/spin accidents in the NTSB database which should have been included. Two from low level beat-ups. One from an instructor demonstration of an inverted spin - the student survived with the use of a parachute.
I've read a lot of information on the Tomahawk stall and spin characteristics including the 7 page letter from the NTSB to the FAA - I do not intend ever flying in one and I certainly will never spin one!