The Piper PA-38 Tomahawk was designed as an affordable training aircraft in the late 1970’s. This two seat, single engine aircraft is commonly found in flying clubs and schools, and is also used as a touring aeroplane. The Tomahawk has long been considered a challenge, especially for student pilots, due to difficulties pertaining to spin recovery. In total 2,484 Tomahawks were built.
“Pilots need special training because of the way the airplane was designed to stall and spin. The wing design, the same basic section as on the Beech Skipper, was a cutting-edge airfoil – the NASA-generated GA (W)-1 – in the late 1970s. On the Tomahawk airframe, the wing produces aggressive stall characteristics suitable for teaching primary students about stall recognition and recovery. However, that design led to a higher incidence of stall/spin accidents, perhaps because the airplane cannot simply fly itself out of a spin like other trainers – it wasn’t meant to, so that students would learn proper control inputs. This is one airplane where it pays to know the territory.
The Tomahawk controls have a heavier feel, as they were designed to mimic those of a much larger airplane. In addition, the T-tail delivers reduced elevator control response at low airspeeds – and this is actually reflected in the accident reports to a larger degree than stall/spin issues. During the takeoff roll, the elevator becomes effective at around 35 KIAS. If the pilot has been impatient and is holding greater back-pressure in an attempt to raise the nose before this point, the airplane will over-rotate. The same effect reverses on landing, “especially when a headwind shears off”; according to Adam Harris, director of maintenance at East Coast Aero Club at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., who has owned four Tomahawks over the years. These are simply attributes of an airplane that doesn’t fit the standard mould, Harris points out. ‘We rent them to people with 10 hours and they always come back.'” – Julie K Boatman, PA-38 Pilot Report
- Fixed tricycle landing gear
- Low, rectangular wing
|Horsepower: 112||Gross Weight: 1670 lbs|
|Top Speed: 109 kts||Empty Weight: 1128 lbs|
|Cruise Speed: 108 kts||Fuel Capacity: 30.00 gal|
|Stall Speed (dirty): 49 kts||Range: 384 nm|
|Ground Roll: 820 ft||Ground Roll 707 ft|
|Over 50 ft obstacle: 1460 ft||Over 50 ft obstacle: 1544 ft|
|Rate Of Climb: 718 fpm||Ceiling: 13000 ft|