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Converting onto fixed-gear Saratoga

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Converting onto fixed-gear Saratoga

Old 19th Jul 2020, 07:16
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: St Albans
Age: 58
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Converting onto fixed-gear Saratoga

I’ve been flying Archers for the last 10 years, with the 4 years before that consisting of 172s and a Grumman Tiger. I have just short of 300 hours in my logbook, no IR or IMC.
Im currently flying from Fowlmere Elstree and am interested in converting to a complex aircraft, partly for the challenge and partly to extend the places I can reach with friends/ family in the back.
Fowlmere is my airfield of choice and they currently rent a fixed-gear 1989 Saratoga.
My question is: am I over-reaching myself transitioning onto a 300hp 6 seat aircraft or should I convert first to the Arrow 4 T tail I can rent from Elstree?
Fowlmere as a training place is so much easier to learn at as it is so less busy than Elstree, the airspace is less congested, rarely anyone else in the circuit and you can actually park your car there without waiting for someone to leave first (unlike Elstree).
I do have a friend I can fly with regularly. He’s very experienced on complex types.

Last edited by zanshin999; 19th Jul 2020 at 11:12.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 11:51
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2017
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The Saratoga and Arrow IV are very different aeroplanes. The Saratoga is a fantastic workhorse with a good field performance. 6 seats and extremely stable. The Saratoga far outperforms the Arrow T tail on grass fields. The high T-tail degrades the T/O run/distance and landing roll/ distance performance and this also affects its handling in crosswinds. The Saratoga available to you has fixed gear so the only complexity is the propellor (turbo charger if fitted). The Arrow requires management of three complexities: propellor/ undercarriage and turbo charger.

As with most aeroplanes the value is primarily with how you intend to use it. Range is always much more valuable than speed by the way.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 12:06
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With 300 hours I don't think you're overreaching yourself, plenty of people fly jets with half that. Like any aircraft - learn the poh and follow the checklists and you should be fine.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 14:04
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I agree with the foregoing advice. I don't know if Derick Gunning is still around there, if he is, he's a good person to talk to. Don't feel intimidated by a constant speed prop, once you understand the concept, and are familiar with a few do not do's, they're easy. Get a bunch of experience on type before planning to carry heavy loads.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 14:32
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I think it's a good intro complex types - fixed gear leaves you plenty of time to learn about the prop (and the 300 horses!)

Get a good breifing on weight and balance as the training flights will be at a forward c of g and carrying passengers will noticably shift that rearwards.....
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 15:11
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Join Date: May 2005
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Rudder trim will be more important than on the Archer. That 300hp will really twist you to the left at high power and low speeds, so consider using the rudder trim to help, if you find it convenient.

On the other hand, if you do use it, remember to retrim when you level off, speed up and throttle back.

The fuel system might have more tanks than you’re used to and might have some limitations on loading and selection.

Weight and Balance will definitely need some study. Run some practice numbers with different passenger numbers and fuel loads to get a feel of what’s possible.

With a larger spread of weights, performance will vary more. Again, run through some practice scenarios for different runway surfaces and weather conditions.

As others have said, I think that this is a sensible step for you. With a good instructor and plenty of time to study the manuals, as well as some relevant flight training, I’m sure you will enjoy the increased options that this plane will offer you.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 15:33
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Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: St Albans
Age: 58
Posts: 4
Derek Gunning will be my instructor on the Saratoga. 👍

Thanks for this - I’d heard about the Arrow’s T tail characteristics, it’s non-turbo by the way. So is the Saratoga - “Range is more valuable than speed” very true.

Thanks for the advice, I’ve made up an excel version of the aircraft’s weight and balance sheet, playing around with fuel and payloads to see how each affects the CofG. I’m going to make another spreadsheet with runway conditions, surfaces, wind etc with 4 people to give me a feel for what to expect. The aircraft is G-BVWZ, by the way, 1989 vintage.

Last edited by Pilot DAR; 19th Jul 2020 at 16:23. Reason: typo
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 19:20
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Join Date: May 2015
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As you have been flying archers for 10 years you won't have trouble
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 21:59
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You need to pay extra attention to fuel management in the Saratoga. The fuel system is a little different to the Archer and there has been a number of fuel starvation incidents over the years.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 22:08
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I had a Club member who had only flown C172, not even a PA28, need to buy a 6-place to replace his 172. We found a PA32. The conversion took about 3 hours, absolutely no problem at all. As above, the biggest things are the Weight and Balance, wisely you've got a spreadsheet going, and the fuel system. I know one PA32 owner with a massive kitchen timer mounted on the panel, to remind him to change tanks. Landing? As easy as an Archer, much easier than an Arrow IV, which in my view is the worst aircraft Piper ever made and is to be avoided like the plague. Oh, actually, I'd include the PA32 Lance, which also has a T-tail, quite nasty.
I'm just amazed there aren't more Saratogas about. Apparently Piper opened the line up again but closed it soon after as it wasn't selling. Shame.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 22:58
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Its an easy conversion. If you think itís a 6 seater check the w&b. Iíve found them to be very large and comfortable 4 seaters.
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Old 20th Jul 2020, 00:27
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If you think it’s a 6 seater check the w&b. I’ve found them to be very large and comfortable 4 seaters.
Very true. The fact that there are six (or four) seats in a plane does not mean that the plane can be expected to carry that many people any distance. Two important things to remember about that: The weight of an occupant for that vintage of plane was set at 170 pounds. It is possible that your passenger(s) weigh more than that - you are responsible for knowing, and accounting for that! Not just piling in five more people, 'cause that's how many seatbelts there are. And, the certification basis for that plane also requires only that it carry all seats occupied, and fuel for one half hour of flying. The plane was never required to demonstrate all seats occupied, and full fuel (let alone bags). So, again, don't be fooled by what's written on the box, do the W&B, and don't fudge the numbers!

And, While I'm giving loading advice, yes, a plane will cruise faster/more efficiently with an aft C of G. But, if you err behind the aft limit, a stall may occur more easily, and spin recovery may become very difficult, if not impossible (I've done some testing on this). So, do the W&B!
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Old 20th Jul 2020, 01:35
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The biggest issue with transitioning to an airplane that is not the typical flight school type is getting a checkout from someone who actually has experience in operating the type and can give you the tips and tricks and the gotcha’s

If the only aircraft your instructor has flown is a warrior than it is a waste of time to get your checkout from him/her

Some of thr things I would expect to see covered in a check out for someone going from an Archer to a Saratoga would be

- Operation of the fuel injected IO 540. Starting, particularly when hot is very different from the simple 4 banger in the Archer. Similarly proper leaning is important

- Operating a constant speed propeller

- practical advice on power settings for high cruise, normal cruise, and economical cruise. Personally I find the most comfortable power settings are over square, 23 in and 2200 RPM is one I use a lot

​​​- WeIght and balance in practice. You have 6 seats and 2 baggage areas. What is the best way to load. Personally I think the ideal C of G is about 1/3 from the aft limit.

- handling practice at both extremes. light and forward C of G and gross weight and aft C of G. The airplane feels quite different at these 2 extremes

- The sight picture on landing. The airplane normally sits a bit tail low and has a wide and long cowl., and so to get a good flare you will not be able to see straight see over the nose

- The airplane has 3 doors. Making sure they are all closed and locked particularly the nose baggage door is important as well as what to do if one opens in flight.
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Old 20th Jul 2020, 02:49
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Join Date: Aug 2006
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The biggest issue with transitioning to an airplane that is not the typical flight school type is getting a checkout from someone who actually has experience in operating the type and can give you the tips and tricks and the gotcha’s
Generally, a very valid concern. Happily for the OP, the instructor he has contacted in this case (Derick Gunning) is very familiar with the type, I've met him, and have great confidence. But yes, there are numerous GA types for which "flying school instructor" training is simply not practically available, the training has to be sourced from type familiar pilots.
Pilot DAR is offline  
Old 20th Jul 2020, 13:16
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: southampton,hampshire,england
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A couple of reports for interest. Just Google.
AAIB Bulletin 10/2008 G-BMDC
AAIB Bulletin 3/2012 G-RHHT
Sorry I can't do the "link" thing [age vs technology]
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Old 20th Jul 2020, 13:49
  #16 (permalink)  
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Found them, thanks. An aircraft attempting to depart from a 300 metre runway and another 186lbs overweight and bad CofG.
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Old 22nd Jul 2020, 06:11
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I think the fuel system comment is referring to Cherry Six, not the Saratoga which has the 'usual' left/right/off system and so is very easy.

Like the entire rest of the aircraft in fact!
Sam Rutherford is offline  
Old 12th Oct 2020, 18:38
  #18 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: St Albans
Age: 58
Posts: 4
Thanks for everyoneís advice, now have 10 hours on the aircraft and very happy flying it. Iíve written up my conversion for flyer magazine who have said they will publish it in the next few issues.
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Old 13th Oct 2020, 03:56
  #19 (permalink)  
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Get a bunch of experience on type before planning to carry heavy loads
Young lass getting checked in a C210 and a bunch of us were asked by the instructor to fill the seats while they did circuits so she could get an experience of full load. Never seen the practice before but was impressed by the instructors thoroughness.
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