Pilot 602, Apache Questions


Well-Known Member
A few friends and I are considering purchasing a twin engine plane for time building and some light traveling. I was wondering if you could give a good description of costs you incur with the Apache, planned or otherwise, how many hours you fly it, how it handles, is it a good IFR platform, etc. Basically anything you want to tell us about the plane.

I was going to PM you but I thought that others might want to read the info. Also if you take the time to write back, I thought that'd be an awful lot of work for only one person to read.

Muhahahah ... I get to talk about the Apache!

First off, anyone who tells you an Apache is dangerous is full of sh*t.

Facts about an Apache:
1) It's not fast. (We generally indicate 130mph (trues at 150mph) at 65% power)
2) It's ugly as hell. (It grows on you though)
3) It's built like a tank. (I'll get into this a little further down the post)
4) It's incredibly docile. (It has the J3 Cub airfoil!)
5) Probably the lowest fuel burn of any production twin out there. (we generally get 17gph at 65%)
6) It has plenty of redundancy. (Especially if you can find a "Super Custom" model)
7) It's a very stable aircraft and a great IFR platform.
8) It's roomy as hell. (The cabin is close to five feet wide)
9) Aside from an Aztec, you'll be hard pressed to find another twin with a useful load as high as an Apache.
10) It's landing roll is 750ft. and takeoff roll over a 50ft obstacle is 1200 ft - you can really get into some short feilds with it.

General impressions/experience:

The Apache is a very stable, docile twin. But it is a twin - and if you're not on top of it you can Vmc. In otherwords while it is a twin and has some of the unfavorable charateristics of asymmetrical thurst you have to do something really dumb to get yourself killed.

It's not fast but if you're building time that doesn't matter. With the aux tanks we can carry 108 gallons of fuel or at 65% of power we can get just about 6 hours of flight time and the VFR reserve. Empty weight (on our 160, its lower on the 150s) is 2460lbs. Gross weight is 3800lbs. After full fuel we still have about 700lbs. of useful load left! If you fly it "light" (dont fill the Aux) you still have about 3.5 hours w/VFR reserve out of the mains.

It's probably one of the only light, piston, production twins that has a landing roll of under 1,000 feet so you can get into and out of a lot of very short strips. (My dad flew his first Apache (150) off his 1/2 mile grass strip with 50 ft. trees at one end.)

Now, the matter of safety. Many people have only seen run-down Apaches. And thus some folks believe them to be unsafe. The only thing that makes an Apache unsafe (and this applies to all aircraft) is poor maintenance. Ours had only 2,600 hours TT on the airframe and half time engines when we bought it. We've put a lot into maintenance but that's because we like things to be "right," not just safe - and it sat for a long period of time.

As far as built in safety mesaures the Apache is built like a tank. The main spar carries through the aircraft (the pilot seats actually rest on it), the gear are designed to remain partially exposed when retracted and can support the weight of the aircraft in that position and roll (in otherwords a gear up landing results in litte structural damage). There is a hand pump to manually pump the gear (and flaps) down as well as a C02 system to blow the gear down incase of a total hydraulic failure. The "Super Custom" versions came with dual vac (wet) pumps and dual generators (ours was a Super Custom). The only single pump on the aircraft is the hydraulic pump. Both the Vac and Electrical system are automatic. Meaning if one item, within the respective system, fails the other carries the load with no need for manual switching from the pilot.

The fuel system is simple but effective. You can move fuel from any tank to any engine (via a pressure crossfedd).

In terms of operating costs we purchased the aircraft for around $42k adding in maintenance we've performed, insurance, tie down fees, fuel, oil, etc. our hourly costs comes to about $140/hr. Our direct hourly costs (fuel/oil) is about $45/hr. We've put nearly 400 hours on it in the almost two years we've owned it.

The single engine ceiling on the 160 is 5,500ft. (a new seminole ranges from 3,300 - 4,000 ft.) - the SEC on the 150 is 7,500 ft - but so long as you're not heavy or it's not too hot out we can easily get a 400-500fpm climb on one engine. And, yes the 150 has a higher SEC than the 160 - it's beacue HP only increased by 20hp but gross weight went up 300lbs.

The aircraft trims well and can esaily be flown hands off in smooth air which translates well to IFR operations. I can slow flight the thing at 65mph - show me anyother twin that can do that!
The book recomends flying final at 90mph. But, with a Vso of 56mph you can easily fly final at 80mph and really put it on short.

Overall I love it. You can do alot with the airframe and as long as you realise it's shortcomings you can't get into much trouble. But that holds true with any aircraft.

I'm not saying it's the best twin out there but I'll argue it's probably one of the best training/general use twins out there.

If you want more technical data just ask and I'll spew it out!
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

I posted these a while ago over on studentpilot.com :

Captain -

If the aircraft truly has 150hps per side (I'm thinking that was a typo) it's an Apache and an not an Aztec.

The two are, essentially, the same aircraft but the Aztec replaced the Apache in the early sixties and came stock with 250hp engines.

The Apache debuted in '54 (55 model year) with 150hp engines, then in the late 50s it went to 160hp (like ours) and then, just before the move to the Aztec, they refitted the tail (to what is now the Aztec tail - the swept, square "modern" tail similar to a large 172 tail) and put 235hp engines on it. Piper only produced 100 or so of the 235 Apaches. The Apache was Piper's first all metal aircraft as well as their first twin. The original design was bought from Stinson I believe but it was an all wood design with a twin tail, fixed gear and horiffically underpowerd - something like 75hp per side. Piper went back to the drawing board and came up with the PA-23.

The very early model Aztecs look identical (including the stub nose) to the Apache with the exception of the tail (Stock Apaches have the old fashioned round tail - like my picture over there - the Aztec took the 235's tail) and a bump in HP to the original 250. The long nose associated with the Aztec came with the E or F model and can be retrofitted to the older Aztecs.

Both the Apache and the Aztec share the same model number (PA-23) and can only be identified as Aztec or Apache on paper by the HP number attached to the model. For example ours is a PA-23 160(G), an Aztec would be something like PA-23 250(E, F, etc.).

In either event, both "models" are quite capable aircraft. The Aztec is more so due to the increased HP but a well maintained Apache is a big, old fat pig of an airplane that is extremely safe and gentle. The Aztec is essentially the same only with the addition of more HP and speed. Both can haul a moose but when an engine quits the Aztec can more easily handle the loss in performance.

The biggest factor to the safety of the design is the wing. It's essentially a metal, Cub wing (airfoil-wise). It's a fat, high lift wing which helps to preclude the chance of rolling over in a single-engine go around - at least on the Apache version. The addition of more HP on the Aztec and it could still be something to watch (as it is on the Apache) but that wing just doesn't want to stop flying.

On a side note you could even have a Geronimo. The Geronimo was a series of aftermarket mods to an Apache that extended the nose (quite pointy), added a dorsal fin, squared the tail, added a few aerodynamic enhacements around the wheel wells and cowling and bumped the 150/60s to 180hp. These aircraft perfrom extremely well and are essentially a "poor man's Aztec." The thing is, however, these modifications were done before the Aztec rolled off the production line so you can think of the Aztec as a essentially a "stock" Geronimo.

As far as Vr/Vmc speed goes, as you rotate by the time you're airborne you're already over Vmc so it shouldn't be an issue. Vmc in the 160 Apache is 72mph and if you're flying a 150 it's the same so 80 is fine. If it's a 250 Aztec that you've got then I wouldn't know but what I first said still holds true.

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Actually, the original Apaches were four place. A little later in production if you bought the Super Custom variation (third window, dual vac pumps and generators, aux fuel tanks etc. or commonly referred to as "the top of the line") you got a fifth seat. You could also buy the fifth seat as a stand alone option and in the early models without the third window the seat got the nickname "hellhole of Lockhaven" because sitting back there was akin to being in solitary confinement.

Or, in otherwords the Apache is, at maximum, a five seat aircraft and the Aztecs were all six. In reality the Apaches is a good four-place twin but you'll know when you've got four people on board.

Ours was a Super Custom so we've got it all plus the 160hp engines. We took the fifth seat out for operational and insurance concerns (less money for insurance without the fifthe seat).

To illustrate:

Stock Apache (no visual difference between the 150/60/80 versions and notice there is no third window). (edit:note)Coincidentally this aircraft has nearly an identical paint scheme to ours - we whave white paint on the nose, and on top of the engines - the rest is identical.

Stock Aztec (notice the difference in the tail)

A geronimo (notice the pointed nose and the forward swept, square tail)

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Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Well we seem to have found pilot602's hot button

Apache's are bulletproof, especially if you find one that's well maintained.

But I have to tell ya, The twin commanche is not as roomy but 14gph and 150kts is a nice sports airplane. Not a trainer though!
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Hey spend 300 hours in one airplane (not type, but one airplane) and you get to know what it can and can't do. When someone comes along and starts blowing off about it ... well ....

I love flying it ... it's a great aircraft to build time and use for general purposes.
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Hey, thanks for the info - I have about 30 hours in an Aztec and love the plane but they're much more expensive to purchase and take care of.

The only other twins I've flown are the C340, C414, and C441 - all way to expensive to consider (especially the 441!)
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

The Aztec has the same cockpit (especially the older models) and fuselage as the Apache. An Apche is, essentially, just an underpowered version of the Aztec.

If you are serious about looking for an Apache here are a couple tips.

Buy as late a model as you can.
An easy way to tell if it's an early model or late model is the radio stack. The early versions had the stack on the left side, later models have a center stack.

Look for a "Super Custom."
Apaches were manufactured as Standard, Custom and Super Custom. The latter has the dual vaccumn pumps and dual generators.

If you can find a full blown "Geronimo" grab it and don't look back. The Geronimo mods (including the 180hp conversion) really make the Apache perform. It's, essentially, a poor man's Aztec.

If you can find a 235 grab it.
I actually came across one for sale the other day and I think they were wanting like $50k for it. The 235 has the "modern" tail, more HP than the original Apaches and really performs well, or so I've heard.

As far as ADs go - make sure the props have been replaced. Easy way to tell is the original props have "snubbed" spinners. New props have longer, more pointed spinners.

Make sure there are no cracks in the vertical stabilizer, rear spar (the spar the rudder hangs off of ... there is a 1,000hr recuring AD on that).

There are more ... those are the big two ... but most are just inspection ADs othing major.

Anything else just ask.

Oh ... you should be looking to spend between $40 - 55k for a decent Apache/Geronimo with mid-time engines.
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Pilot602 - is this pretty much your aircraft:


Go to This Site to check out some Apache/Geronimo/Aztec(s) for sale on the web.
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

It's close.

I'll post a few pictures of the bird later tonight/tomorrow.

I've just been too lazy to scan any in ...
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Here's a late model pannel:

Early model pannel (this one has had some modifications, but the radios are still on the left)

No third window. Notice the "snubbed" spinners (they're usually painted, too).

Third window. Notice the "pointy" spinners - they're usually polished.

The third window was a mod that could be added after maket (it was also a factor option a little later in the priduction run). You can tell if it's an aftermarket mod if you can see a tubular brace running trhough the window from the top aft corner to the lower forward corner.
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Oooooh, the radios on the far left would drive me nuts. I wouldn't have anything to play with but the transponder and the Loran...
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Well ... you could open the door.

Or, play with the generators (center console, bottom right - under the gear handle - directly above the air controls), play with the gear, check the suction ... oh and nap! (All of the seats recline!)
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

oh and nap! (All of the seats recline!)

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Now we're talking!!!
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Theres actually enough leg room (front and back) that a nearly 6' fella (I'm 5-10/11 depending on the day
) to recilne and lay almost completely out.

That's flying in style!
Re: Pilot602, Apache Questions .. more info

Very cool Pilot602!

Now I won't have to ask you as many stupid and redundant questions on Sat!