9:38 PM

235 Test Flight:
Mission Accomplished

Since October of 2007 when we bought our Cherokee 235, I have been waiting to write this post. I have been waiting to put the 235 to the test, cramming it full of people and stuff and flying it long distances. Well, I am back tonight from that first "test flight", and as promised, "Katy" is truly a capable workhorse disguised as a mild-mannered family airplane:

The "test flight" would need to test not only the 235's load carrying capabilities, but also its long legs. To complete the mission, I needed (a) four humans of average weight, (b) lots of heavy suitcases and additional equipment, (c) all four fuel tanks topped completely off, and (d) enough miles in the flight plan to test the wonderful range reputation the make/model has. The test humans were myself, wife Julie, son Michael and his lovely wife JJ, with an average weight of 177.5 lbs. The baggage, camera and computer equipment weighed in at an estimated 175 lbs. Add 504 lbs. of distilled dead dinosaurs in the fuel tanks, and Katy would be just an ounce or two below her maximum certified takeoff weight of 2,900 lbs.
Our mission profile was demanding. Fly direct into tiny Reedley Municipal Airport just east of Fresno for a quick photo/video shoot for the agency, blast off up to California's Wine Country for a wedding, and return home the next day. Katy would have to haul the four of us and all our stuff from the middle of Oregon to the Middle of California, without complaint on a very tight schedule.

The results? Fabulous.

The primary reason we bought a 235 was this kind of mission. Our 1964 airplane is still fully capable of performing the exact mission it was designed for when Piper built the ship, and I have to say, Katy still does it with a great deal of style. We split the northbound and southbound trips up with a quick pit stop in Red Bluff, and from the minute we were wheels up at EUG to the minute we returned to paradise after leaving the scorched earth of the Golden state behind, this plane was almost flawless:
Yes, there are a few squawks that need attention. I am not at all amused that the main gear's oleo struts developed an attitude when pushed to their max weights. One was up, the other down, then both down, then both up. And in both directions, Oakland Center had trouble "seeing" my Mode C in the vicinity of Mount Shasta. Funny though, while the same center was complaining about my blip up and back, all other of ATC's finest from Oregon and California had no problem with my old vintage transponder. Might be because I was flying in the vicinity of the Oregon Vortex, who knows.
Conclusion: I am very, very pleased that this seasoned girl we call Katy handled this critical mission with the precision I required. It was one part cargo ship, one part luxury liner, one part economiser and one part family cruiser. I could not ask anything more of the 235, it served us well. It burned exactly how much fuel I expected, hit my route times within a few minutes on all legs, hauled an AMAZING amount of weight, and looked damned good doing it too.

While I have nothing but respect for such legendary planes as the Cessna Skyhawk, I have owned a 172, and as a XC hauler, it left something to be desired...you always had to leave that fourth person back on the tarmac. I told myself that I would not get back into airplane ownership until I could afford a plane that can haul four adults and all their stuff to California. And tonight, that ship is sitting in my hangar.

Welcome to Katyland.

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