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- The Piper PA-31 is a light twin-engine aircraft manufactured by the Piper Aircraft Corporation from 1967 to 1984 - with most planes being used for commuting, taxiing, and business travel.
- The Piper PA-31, also known as the ‘Navajo’ has had 5 primary model variations: PA-31P (1970), PA-31-350 Chieftain (1973), PA-31-325 (1975), T-1020 (1980), and the PA-31P-350 Mojave (1983).
- The medium cost of buying a Piper PA-31 is roughly $280,000 - with the aircraft’s model, condition, and (potential) modifications affecting the price of the plane. Maintaining the Piper PA-31 costs between $500 to $600 per hour.
The Piper PA-31 is a classic aircraft that is popular among aviators to this day, but you want to carefully assess the specs of this plane before you buy it.
The Piper PA-31 is a light twin-engine aircraft manufactured by the Piper Aircraft Corporation from 1967 to 1984. The PA-31, also known as the ‘Navajo’ is primarily used as commuter and business aircraft - with most planes currently selling at an average cost of $280,000.
After extensively researching the Piper PA-31, I have gathered enough information to create a detailed buyer's guide for this aircraft. My research has indicated that you must carefully consider the specs you desire from your Piper PA-31, as they can vary depending on the model variation you opt for.
Piper PA-31 History
The Piper PA-31 commonly referred to as the ‘Navajo’, is a twin-engine aircraft that is primarily used for commuting, taxiing, and business travel. This Piper aircraft had its first flight in 1964 but it was not widely produced and distributed until 1967.
As one of the leaders in the aviation industry, Piper is widely considered by pilots and critics to be one of the best airplane manufacturers in the world. Up to the release of the Navajo, Piper was known for designing legendary single-engine planes that are embedded in aviation history.
When Piper announced the PA-31, it created quite a buzz within the industry, as the Navajo completely flipped the script on the original designs that the company was known for. The Navajo is a light twin-engine plane that is quite larger than the other models in Piper’s line-up. The increased size and seating capacity broadened the horizons for the PA-31 so that it could be used for various types of flying.
This light twin-engine aircraft, in many ways, symbolized Piper’s transition to a wider market in the industry. This aircraft is versatile and its specs, performance capabilities, and design make it a perfect plane for taxiing, commuting, a business flying. Given how dynamic the Piper PA-31 was, it caught the attention of a lot of aviators. The demand for this plane quickly soared when it hit the market and it continues to be a popular model to this day.
After the initial release of the first Navajo, the PA-31-300, numerous variations of the aircraft were designed in the years that followed. With every new release, Piper strived to upgrade the aircraft to increase its performance and improve on design flaws, which were apparent in some of the Navajo’s characteristics.
One of the most notable areas that received constant improvements was the cockpit. Some of the earliest models had poorly designed windows - making visibility problematic. Piper added more windows to the cockpit and enhanced the aircraft’s visibility significantly with newer models. However, the Navajo received so many upgrades and modifications over the years that keeping up with every variation is challenging, to say the least.
There have been numerous model types of the Piper PA-31 since it was first introduced to the market in 1967 - with the aircraft being in production for roughly 17 years. While this may be short-lived compared to some of the company’s most successful planes, the Navajo is still considered to be a top-notch aircraft, which is why the demand for used models is still there.
Piper PA-31 Models
A key characteristic that you want to consider as you evaluate the Piper PA-31s on the market is the model variation of the aircraft. As I mentioned, Piper regularly released upgraded versions of this aircraft with different features and specs.
Although some improvements were made to newer variations of the Navajo, that does not necessarily mean that you need to prioritize finding the last model of the PA-31. Each PA-31 generation had specific characteristics that make it stand out.
Whether it is improvements to the cockpit or installing a more powerful engine, some pilots are going to value some specs more than others, which is why choosing the right model PA-31 is a subjective decision for a lot of pilots.
- PA-31P (1970) - Best performance
- PA-31-350 Chieftain (1973) - Largest engine
- PA-31-325 (1975) - Mid-sized engine & increased storage
- T-1020 (1980) - Best parts availability & support from Piper
- PA-31P-350 Mojave (1983) - Increased ceiling and least TBO
Depending on what you are looking for in a plane, you may find that one of the above PA-31 models is suitable for your flying needs.
Piper PA-31 Specs
The specs of the Piper PA-31 have been a major selling point for the aircraft and the plane is still desired by many pilots and collectors to this day. With that said, it is important to keep in mind that there have been many model variations of the Navajo while it was in production.
With new model types being released constantly, you can expect the specs of the aircraft to vary slightly depending on the variation that you are evaluating. In addition, some Navajo owners have modified their aircraft and added features to either enhance the plane’s performance or comfort level. In general, you can expect the Piper PA-31 to have the following specs.
One of the PA-31’s distinct characteristics is that the aircraft was considerably larger than other planes from Piper. When Piper launched the Navajo, they aimed to deliver a plane that could be used for taxiing and business - which is why they increased the seating capacity of the aircraft compared to other planes that they had released in the past.
The original Piper PA-31-300 had a maximum seating capacity of 6 passengers and 1 pilot. This seating capacity could be extended by removing certain features from the aircraft - allowing up to 9 passengers to be on board.
However, the stock seating capacity of the original Navajo was short-lived as Piper started to design all of their PA-31s with a 9-person seating capacity (not including the pilot) - totaling 10 people on board.
The Navajo is larger than other planes that Piper had produced - given that one of the main focuses was to increase the seating capacity of the aircraft. With that said, these are the physical specs of the PA-31:
- Height - 13 feet
- Length - 34 feet & 8 inches
- Wingspan - 40 feet and 8 inches
As I mentioned, there have been numerous variations of the Piper PA-31 made over the years, and finding planes with modifications is not uncommon, which is why it is always best to inquire whether the physical dimensions of the plane have been altered in any way.
The maximum take-off weight of the Piper PA-31 is 7,000lbs, which is the same as the landing weight.
When you have a full tank in the aircraft, this amounts to roughly 1,092lbs - whereas the empty weight of the Navajo is 4,383lbs.
Piper PA-31 Performance
The Piper PA-31 delivered on performance, which is one of the main reasons why this aircraft was such a huge success. With consistent in-flight capabilities and a well-constructed design, the Navajo has proved itself as being a very reliable aircraft.
The mere fact that the demand for this plane still exists goes to show that the PA-31 has stood the test of time. However, it is important to keep in mind that performance capabilities can vary slightly depending on the PA-31 model that you are considering.
In general, you can expect a Navajo aircraft to feature 2 Lycoming TIO-540-A Piston engines with 310 horsepower. However, some of the Navajo models such as the Chieftain have increased power feature 350 horsepower engines.
Service Ceiling & Rate of Climb
The Piper PA-31 has an impressive service ceiling of 26,300 feet, which is considerably better than other twin-engine aircraft from Piper such as the Apache. With an increased service ceiling, the Navajo has enhanced performance compared to a lot of the aircraft on the market during this time.
One of the key perks of a high ceiling is that the PA-31 has better speed - enabling faster travel. In addition, the ability to reach higher altitudes also allows the Navajo to fly without burning as much fuel, which improves the fuel efficiency of the aircraft.
The Piper PA-31 has a solid cruise speed and it can outrun a lot of similar aircraft from this era such as the Cessna 172. With a maximum cruise speed of 216 miles per hour, the Navajo ranks as a solid aircraft for taxiing - enabling efficient flights for long-distance travel.
While the maximum cruise speed of the Navajo is solid, pilots usually do not fly at this speed when wanting to increase fuel efficiency, as the PA-31 has a reputation for using up a lot of gas.
Range & Fuel Capacity
Since the Piper PA-31 has such a major focus on convenient taxiing, flight range is a key characteristic that you want to prioritize if you are considering buying this aircraft. Provided that you are flying at an optimal speed, you should be able to consistently get a range of 1,164 miles (1,012nm) in between fuel stops.
However, you need to keep in mind that efficient flying is what will ultimately influence your fuel economy. That is why flying at maximum cruise speeds is not recommended if you want to maximize your range.
The range of the Navajo is superior to other Piper planes such as the Apache, which has been a selling point for a lot of pilots. Piper was able to achieve this range thanks to its large tank which can hold up to 192 gallons of fuel.
With planes seeing some major improvements in tech during this era, avionics is usually a critical factor that determines the performance reliability of an aircraft. The avionics of the Navajo are on point for its release and the aircraft features the following in the dashboard:
- Garmin GNS 530W
- Garmin 696
- S-tek 55X autopilot w/GPS
Given the release of new avionics during the manufacturing dates of the Piper PA-31, make sure to inquire about the kind of system any aircraft has that you are evaluating. With that said, avionics are often one of the first components to get an upgrade with older planes, so there is a good chance that the Piper PA-31s that are still in the air have replaced the original avionics with more modern tech.
How Much Does a Piper PA-31 Cost?
The Piper PA-31 is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive used aircraft on the market. However, the price of one of these planes can vary quite a bit and you can find options that range from $200,000 to $600,000.
The Navajo was in production for 17 years - from 1967 to 1984. With nearly 40 years passing since the last Piper PA-31 was manufactured, you can expect to find a decent amount of used planes on the market - with the total quantity ever made sitting at 2,044.
The vast majority of Navajos on the market will be in used condition, which is why you can expect the average price of a Piper PA-31 to be around $280,000. This figure can fluctuate quite a bit - with well-maintained models costing considerably more than this estimate.
Factors That Influence to Cost of a Piper PA-31
Given that prices for the PA-31 can vary across the board, it’s important to understand exactly what influences the cost of this aircraft. If you are in the market for a PA-31, you should have an estimated figure in mind for your budget, as this will help you narrow down your search options.
In addition, make sure to keep the following factors in mind when you evaluate a Piper PA-31 aircraft.
First and foremost, the condition of the aircraft will influence the price of the plane more than anything. If you come across a Piper PA-31 that has been kept in ideal condition over the years, you can expect that to be reflected in the price tag.
On the other hand, given how long the Navajo has been around, it’s safe to say that not every aircraft you look at will be in a well-preserved state. Piper PA-31s that have been flown a lot and have seen some wear and tear over the years should be on the market for a much more reasonable price.
Throughout Piper’s 17 years of producing the PA-31, there have been a series of model variations that were released. Some model variations will be priced higher than others, as specs and performance capabilities can vary.
Older models of the Navajo are usually a bit cheaper and can be bought at a more affordable price than some of the newer models. The PA-31-325 model is generally priced in the middle and can be found on the market at just below the $300,000 mark.
However, expensive models from the PA-31 such as the Cheyenne II have been known to sell at a higher price - with some planes costing $500,000 (or more). Naturally, the condition of any Navajo plane will affect the cost more than the model.
Modifications were not overly common with the Piper PA-31, but they were not unheard of. One of the most common modifications that I noticed with this aircraft is an increased fuel capacity. Being able to store more fuel on trips increases the range of the plane so that you can travel longer distances without needing to stop.
In addition, given that engine overhauls are quite common with the Navajo, some pilots decided to upgrade their engines so that there is less routine maintenance involved. You can expect just about any modification that you come across the increase the value of a Piper PA-31 - especially if it involves upgrading the engine.
The cost of a modified Piper PA-31 is difficult to pinpoint since there are so many different types of enhancements that owners can choose to upgrade and install.
How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Piper PA-31?
One of the biggest downsides of owning a Piper PA-31 is the amount of maintenance required to keep this aircraft operational. While the total costs that you end up spending on your average maintenance can vary depending on how well you take care of the aircraft, you should expect to pay between $500 and $600 (or more) per hour.
Some TBOs are recommended after just a mere 1,200 to 1,600 miles, which can sometimes be stretched to 1,800 to 2,000 miles - especially on newer model variations of the Piper PA-31. Regardless, this adds up to a considerable amount of maintenance over the years, which will put a solid dent in any pilot’s wallet.