by Karl Hipp
In 1954, Bill Piper was looking for a design to compete with the Bonanza. The engineers at Piper were busy with other projects at the time, so Bill Piper asked his friend Al Mooney if Piper could buy the new Mooney MK-20 design that Mooney had not yet started producing. Al wouldn't sell the design, so Bill Piper asked Al Mooney to come up with a totally new design. Al submitted a design to Piper that was an all metal 4 place monocoque construction with retractable gear, a 180 HP Lycoming, and a stabilator in place of an elevator. The stabilator was a new design, an all flying horizontal tail.
The cabin size of Al Mooney's design was a bit small, so the engineers at Piper increased the cabin size and the first Prototype PA-24, N2024P, was created in 1956. As you can see in this photo, the
trailing link landing gear on the prototype is not what we have on our Comanches. I suspect that Bill Piper decided that the trailing link landing gear would be too complex and expensive, and in an effort to undercut the cost of the Bonanza, he decided on the straight tube oleo strut landing gear that all Comanches are equipped with. Although it is much more difficult to make a good landing with the straight oleo strut landing gear than with the trailing link gear, that decision by Bill Piper is why Comanche Pilots have skills much more superior and a highly qualified group of Pilots than the Bonanza and Mooney bunch!!
----The second prototype PA-24-180 flew in 1957.
---The first production 180 was delivered in January of 1958. It cost $14,500.
The 250 HP Lycoming was meanwhile being tested in the original prototype PA-24, and the first production 250 Comanche was delivered in April of 1958.