This year marks the 50th birthday of the Piper Cherokee. The Cherokee first flew in January 1960, and received its type certificate in October of the same year. Cherokee owners throughout the country have been celebrating the golden anniversary throughout the year, with a variety of events.
For example, Piper Aircraft launched the Cherokee Heritage Journey, in which pilots get a stamp each time they attend any number of fly-ins across the country. The pilot attending the most events will win a new Garmin GPSMAP 696, and the winning passenger will get $5,000 toward flight training in the new PiperSport light sport aircraft.
So far more than 40 Cherokee owners from all over the United States — and even a few international owners — are participating in the program, which ends in mid-December. Winners will be announced at the final event, a fly-in at the Piper factory in Vero Beach, Florida. The calendar of eligible events, as well as rules and regulations for the program, is at Piper.com/docs/HeritageRules.pdf.
“It’s time for our Cherokees to take a bow,” said Piper spokeswoman Jacqueline Carlon. “We’ve been building PA-28s for 50 years now, and the Cherokee Heritage Journey is a great way to celebrate this versatile family of airplanes.”
Since the first Cherokee flew in 1960, the line has expanded to include the Piper Warrior, Archer, Arrow and Dakota, all iterations of the PA-28 airframe. Currently Piper offers three Cherokees in its lineup: the Warrior III, the Arrow, and the newly revamped 180-hp Archer III.
Probably the biggest celebration took place at the Arlington Fly-In in July. Fly-in organizers gave the Cherokee pilots dedicated parking at Airshow Center, as well as provided a grill, hot showers, and a “wonderful cadre of CAP cadets to help with parking,” said Wade Sullivan, a Cherokee driver who helps organize the West Coast Piper Cherokee Fly-In every year.
During the fly-in, there were several events just for Cherokee owners, including a fly-out mystery tour, in which organizer Jeff Soares gave pilots a clue about which airport they should fly to. “If they guessed correctly, their next clue would be waiting for them there. If not, they got lost,” Sullivan reported. “Participants who deciphered the clues correctly flew a beautiful route through the San Juan Islands, landing at Orcas Island and San Juan Island, before stopping at Paine Field in Everett for a tour of the Boeing airplane factory.”
During the rest of the show, Cherokee owners demonstrated hands-on work. “The idea was that anyone thinking about doing any of the work themselves could see what’s involved,” Sullivan said. “Dave Wheeler did SB1006 inspections of his wing spars, Garrett Tolsma installed a Powerflow exhaust system (pictured), Ken Davies installed BAS shoulder harnesses, Larry Frank installed new upswept wingtips with HID landing lights from Knots2U and vortex generators from MicroAero, Jeff Soares and Todt Clark each installed Rosen sunvisors, and Dick Filson replaced his vacuum pump and repaired an engine baffle. I installed a new HID landing light from RMD Aircraft Lighting. It was a busy weekend.”
Because there were so many Cherokees attending the event, organizers were unable to get an accurate count, Sullivan said, noting that didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. “Saturday was our busiest day — we had 41 airplanes stay overnight, and at least twice that number parked at any one time during the day,” he said. “It was like a sea of Cherokees, every one a well-loved example of the type.”
Want to know more about the Cherokee? Check out Wade Sullivan’s history of the model here.