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PA28 reliability

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PA28 reliability

Old 3rd May 2007, 04:49
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PA28 reliability

Are PA28's generally regarded as quite reliable airplanes? The reason I ask is beacuse today I had an electrical failure while on my second solo cross country, it turned out to be a dodgy alternator. I'm planning on doing my hour building on this plane but not sure now!

Has anyone ever had an engine failure during flight?

Jon.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 04:55
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they are pretty reliable and alot of flight school use them, ive never experience anything like that on the PA28. But on the Cessna I've had faulty alternators.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 05:00
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Suggest asking Kirstey.. She knows rather a lot about said aircraft.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 05:38
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Final 3 Greens
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Johnnyboy

Firstly, well done for handling an unusual event early in your flying days.
A "dodgy" alternator leading to electrical failure is possible on any light aircraft so equipped. An electrical component has a mean time between failure, in other words on average will fail after XXXX hours.

But there are early failures and late failures and so this can be encountered unexpectedly.

Maintenance standards also impact on the reliability of a fleet and the older an aircraft the more maintenance tends to be required.

On the advice of AOPA, I changed flying schools because I was unhapppy with the maintenance standards of a school (unsecured brake lines and fuel leaks amongst them), but I wouldn't regard Cessna's (the fleet in question) as being unreliable, it was the (poor) quality of the maintenance operation.
So rather than think about aircraft as cars (i.e. look at the J D Power survey for reliability), I suggest you may wish to consider taking a broader view.

You will probably come to the conclusion that you were the victim of a statistically improbable, but predictable event and take comfort in the training that prepared you to recognize and manage an electrical failure.

Good luck with the rest of your course.
 
Old 3rd May 2007, 06:39
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Thanks final 3,

You make a lot of sense. I'm currently in the US doing my PPL and on the airfield there are several schools with lots of planes that get heavily used with only one maintenance hanger.

Problem is that you can't exactly take your plane down the road to a main dealer for a 100 hour service. How tightly are maintenance hangers regulated?

Aircraft maintenance seems to be a good business to get into!
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Old 3rd May 2007, 07:15
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I had an engine failure in a PA28 at night!! Luckily was close to an airfield and managed to put it down with a text book forced landing. This was in Florida.

She blew a piston and p***ed her oil all over the place. The annoying thing is I was maydaying and communicating like a loony to the tower. When I landed some cock was lining up to take off, and he had the cheek to start bleating about me cutting him off!! then he started bleating that I had not vacated the runway!! I was to busy planning in what order I was going to do the top shelf in the bar and panicing if everyone in the bar would be able to smell my pants.

Other than that the only other issue I have had is a sticky starter motor.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 07:31
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The UK training fleet does hang together more precariously at some establishments than at others, one might say...

But, hey, it's all G-reg and maintained by properly licenses JAR145/EASA companies so there is no case to answer, by definition.

I had a few things go wrong, the most inconvenient being a radio failure while in a very busy circuit. Bought an Icom the next day (with a headset adaptor) and have carried it ever since.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 07:53
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My first lesson: Engine failure

My second lesson: Radio failure

I learned a lot in those two lessons! I still wanted to continue my training. The problem; none of the instructors wanted to fly with me!!! Pilots aren't usually a superstitious lot..
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Old 3rd May 2007, 08:08
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The problem lies in the aircraft type as a whole. Look at it from a car point of view. If you buy a ford escort would expect it break down with little niggles like alternators more often than if you had bought a Rolls Royce. In essence they are the same thing, a metal box with an engine and four wheels that gets you from A to B, but we all know that the escort will go through more alternators than the roller over a 10 year period.

Now apply ths to aircraft, and what you are flying is the ford escort of the skies. If you want total reliability then you have to look at the "Rolls Royce" end of the market, things like citations or other multi million dollar machines. The average driving school teaches in a small average car, like an escort of focus. They are as relaible as they come for that price bracket. In much the same way a flying school uses cessna 150, 172, or piper PA28's for much the same reasons, both accessability from the market as well as ease of use and availability of repairs and spares.

One final thing to remember is that although I have just used a car comparison, in reality the automotive world is light years ahead of general aviation in engine types. Only now are we seeing the begining of the use of common rail, turbo charged diesel engines in aircraft, something that has been in cars for 10 to 15 years already. Looking at petrol engines we are even further behind, I have yet to see a management computer in a light aircraft, other than the one sat in the left seat!!!

In short answer, the PA28 is a good solid trainer that is as reliable as one can expect given it's place in the evloutionary chain.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 09:16
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You are right, CG, but IMHO you have picked the wrong comparisons.

The new aviation diesels are among the least reliable engines there are. Maybe Rotax are even worse; I don't know. The old Lycos suffer from a poor thermal design (requiring specific operating procedures which are not taught) and nowadays poor QA, and all this translates into big suprise bills at the next Annual, but catastrophic failures are extremely rare.

The reason why there are so many niggles on the training fleet is that it is generally maintained to the minimum legal standard. A school will have a favourite maintenance firm, often many miles away (and they sometimes get a PPL holder to ferry the plane there, at a discounted rate) which does what one might call the required work and no more, at the right price. I would do the same if I ran a school. You don't want the plane to actually fall apart, but why spend too much? Fixed wing stuff is pretty safe; short of a wing falling off there is almost nothing that should be fatal.

On my first trial lesson, many years ago, I noticed the radio being held by just 1 screw; the other 3 had fallen out. INOP stickers are common today, but for VFR that's OK. Often, you don't even need a radio.

The build quality on turboprops and jets (I see their innards almost daily) is wonderful in comparison to piston GA but also their owners tend to have loads of money and get stuff fixed. A 50hr check on a big old turbine twin might cost £20k. It's a different world.

Basically, most of the schools are running Mk1 Cortinas, the original ones, and they change bits as they pack up.

Cars are reliable today, even the cheap ones, but partly for different reasons. It's true that electrics has improved massively (in the 70s it used to account for most breakdowns) and the plane business has not generally learnt that yet but also the engines run at some 10-20% of rated power most of the time. Even 70 mph is perhaps 40% power, in a family saloon. IMHO, the reliability improvements in cars in recent decades have come mostly from attention to corrosion damage on electrical and mechanical parts.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 09:39
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IO540

“Maybe Rotax are even worse”

Do you have any evidence to back up that Rotax 912’s are less reliable than the dinosaurs? According to PFA engineering the 912 range is the most reliable engine in the PFA fleet (2200 aircraft). I can think of lots of reasons why it would be better, like the solid-state ignition.

Agree that the diesels are not doing well, but Rotax have over 100,000 912’s flying and are the largest GA engine manufacturer – on daily output – by far.

Rod1
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Old 3rd May 2007, 09:58
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F900EX - I fly the PA28 regularly so I know all about it. I make a point of understanding what I'm doing and knowing as much as possible!

That said, I can't add any more the debate. Loads of them flying, very few of them crash! if they do it's more often due to pilot error!!

So F900EX thanks for ackowledging my expertise.. likewise, if I need any advice on potatoes I'll be sure to drop you a line!
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Old 3rd May 2007, 10:15
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instructed in PA 28 for years...very reliable..built like brick sh1tehouse...( not my personal favourite ...as i'm a cessna driver...but good aeroplane ).

and 10540....i felt we were at the cutting edge in putting a diesel engine into an old 172 at the time...but it runs like a sowing machine...less noisey and i would'nt have a word said against it.diesel have more developing to do...petrol engines have gone just about as far as they can...you can't beat 50% power in a 172 giving 80 knots ( if you're not in a hurry )...3.5 gallons per hour. do that in a petrol engine...plus the cost benefit of jet A1 as opposed to petrol...!!!

my only criticism is the fadec system alarm will activate if there is any ( even in a steep turn with fuel load low )...and then the aircraft is grounded until cleared by the engineer who has to download the info and have it analysed to ensure there is no other reason...when we know full well it was only temporary fuel starvation which set off the alarm...but then thats if you like a fadec criticism not a diesel one...

sorry...thread drift...but the pa 28 is a solid aeroplane...depending on your needs.

and i had an alternator failure in a 172 within 5 hours of getting a new engine fitted...so thats something you can get anytime irrespective of make..
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Old 3rd May 2007, 14:26
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'So F900EX thanks for ackowledging my expertise.. likewise, if I need any advice on potatoes I'll be sure to drop you a line!'

Sure thing... Its amazing what us paddies can do with a potato.

P.S If you ever do get a little further along than the exciting world of PA-28's, dont hesitate to contact me for advice on equipment of a slightly more exotic nature !

All the best.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 14:57
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You don't get more exotic than a PA28 do you?
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Old 3rd May 2007, 15:47
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well there is the "180" version !!!!
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Old 3rd May 2007, 16:20
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True enough... The 180 really is the beast.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 18:23
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VFE
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These things happen from time to time in light aircraft - but like Final 3 Greens has said, look at the wider picture with regards the safety history of the FTO you are with and make sure you complete pre-flight inspections thoroughly.

I flew a coupla heaps of shite whilst stateside (at a very reputable organisation too) so just ask around and do some digging if you feel worried about it.

VFE.
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Old 3rd May 2007, 19:04
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Don't sweat it... It's part of the rich pagent of aviation! It keeps you sharp, and makes you a better pilot. The odd unservicability during your early flying will serve as a constant reminder to always leave a little extra room for the unexpected.

Unless you stay on the ground from now on, this won't be your last... Just keep'm non-critical!

Cheers, Pilot DAR
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Old 3rd May 2007, 20:00
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pussies!!! there's even a few 235s on the scene.. more than you lot could ever handle!!
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