Approachable Aircraft: Piper Cherokee Six
Flying|October 2021
The versatile, load-carrying single keeps on trucking.
Jason McDowell

When Piper introduced its popular four-place PA-28 Cherokee in 1960, it didn’t take long for the company to realize that a significant number of customers (and potential customers) had a need for more space and load-carrying capability. By 1963, Cessna had responded to that market segment by introducing its six-place 205, and Piper followed suit in 1965 by introducing the PA-32 Cherokee Six.

The Cherokee Six was designed with simplicity and utility in mind. While it later evolved into the Saratoga, Lance, and Six—all with various blends of retractable gear, turbocharged engines, T-tails, and tapered wings—we’re focusing on the original version, built from 1965 to 1979.

With a fixed gear, a normally aspirated engine, and the traditional nontapered “Hershey bar” wing, this generation of Cherokee Six is prized by owners as the most economical means of transporting a large number of people and cargo. Here, we investigate what the Cherokee Six is like to own, maintain and fly.

Design

The design process for the Cherokee Six was straightforward: Using the existing four-place Cherokee as the starting point, Piper added approximately 4 feet in fuselage length and 7 inches to the cabin width. To handle the additional size and weight, the engine was upgraded to a larger, six-cylinder Lycoming. Though a small number were built with fixed-pitch propellers, virtually all have since been upgraded with constant-speed propellers.

The massive rear cabin is what sets the Cherokee Six apart from the rest of the Cherokee family. It accommodates four passengers in a club-seating configuration or, alternatively, two rows of forward-facing seats. With the latter configuration, a small seventh seat can be added between the two second-row seats for a child or small adult. The forward-facing rear seats are easily configurable and can be installed or removed in seconds without tools.

Baggage capacity is outstanding, with a dedicated forward baggage area between the instrument panel and firewall, as well as a larger baggage area aft of the third row of seats. Both areas have a 100-pound carrying capacity. A large two-part door provides access to the rear cabin and aft baggage area, making it easy to load and unload oversize items.

Overall, Piper engineers exercised restraint when designing the Cherokee Six and successfully created an airplane nearly as basic and straightforward as the existing PA-28 Cherokee—but with far more space and power.

Model History

The Cherokee Six family is a simple one. The initial PA-32 that was produced prior to the advent of the Lance and Saratoga came in two variants, and they differed only in horsepower.

The original Cherokee Six was given the designation PA-32-260 and came equipped with the carbureted 260-horsepower Lycoming O-540. Later, enough buyers requested more power that Piper acquiesced and offered the PA-32-300 with the fuel-injected 300-horsepower Lycoming IO-540. Both engines are well-liked by pilots and maintainers, but those who own the 300 hp version invariably appreciate having the additional power.

Flying the Six in 1965

From Flying’s report in the July 1965 issue, managing editor Richard Weeghman waxes eloquently about the Six’s charms—and ability to carry odd-size loads.

“Cleopatra wrapped in a rug, 17 skis and poles, one grandfather clock, three fishing poles, a full-grown tuna fish, and maybe my Great Dane. That’s what Piper Cherokee Sixes are made of.

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