My Love Affair With Piper Tri Pacers

Submitted by Phil Hoy 10/15/11

In 1957 sitting in a study hall in junior high school in Central Pennsylvania “studying”……Nope, I was drawing and sketching Piper Tri Pacers.

My father and his family grew up near the Lock Haven area right after the turn of the 20th century. I learned in the mid 1950s that I had cousins who worked at the Piper factory. I also learned from our cousin Gerald “Cotton” Holder who worked as a foreman on the Comanche line that Piper employees were allowed to rent the demonstrator aircraft for gas and oil. That was $4.00 per hour for a Tri Pacer (that’s not a misprint).

In June 1958 my father, another cousin and myself went on our first Tri Pacer ride and flew over   Altoona/Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. The pilot was Tom Bauman who let me fly the Tri Pacer…..that was a big WOW for a thirteen year old! The “BUG” bit me. Tom later became a production test pilot for Piper.

So three or four times a year I had some nice airplane rides in Tri Pacers. In 1960 Tom, my father, my
Uncle and I flew a Tri Pacer, N2868Z, to my aunt’s home near Waterbury, Connecticut.  You’ll see this aircraft on the 1960 Piper Tri Pacer brochure; it was painted the Montego Green and Daytona White (Picture).

Back at the Lock Haven Airport after one of our adventures in a Tri Pacer an elder gentlemen walked in the pilot lounge area. I stood along side this man who looked rather familiar….boy, he sure looks like Mr. William T. Piper, Senior. Yep, it was Mr. Piper; it hit years later I stood along side an aviation legend as a young kid! 

I eventually went to college at LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas and received a B.S. degree in Aeronautical Technology with an Airframe and Power-plant license in 1967. I wound up working for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in Connecticut. In 1971 I received my Private Pilots license and rebuilt a 1939 Piper Cub in 1972 (Pictures). After 1974/75, I didn’t renew my medical and sold my half share of the Cub (that was a mistake).

Now it’s 2011, what happened, the “BUG” has reappeared. Surfin’ the Internet somehow Tri Pacers show up. What’s the going price of a Tri Pacer these days? $22,000, 25,000, 29,000 huh! I needed an excuse to buy a Tri Pacer.  Why, let’s just say it’s on my “Bucket List”.

OK, let the truth be told. Today I don’t like where this country is heading economically or financially.
Yea I read too much and think too much. I had money in 401Ks and IRAs getting 1% interest. So, I decided to pull the plug. We don’t have kids. OK, our kids seem to have fur, four paws and a tail, but we do have nieces and nephews and their going to inherit enough.

So, I bought the Tri Pacer. My goal is to donate the Tri Pacer, N9243D, to the Piper Aviation Museum in June 2012 at the Sentimental Journey (Picture). The donation will be in memory of my father, uncle and brother who all loved flying and airplanes. It will also be in memory of our cousin “Cotton” Holder.

I would like to hand over the keys and logbooks to Mrs. William Piper, Jr., probably at the closing dinner/buffet of the Sentimental Journey. I would not only like to keep this Tri Pacer as a static display, but also as living display for free rides for the Young Eagles, volunteers at the Lock Haven fly-ins, etc. I want young people to be able to enjoy the FREEDOM of Flight in a light aircraft and possibly experience that “WOW” factor of flight.

I will try to keep the aircraft annual inspection and insurance taken care of at my expense at least till I can no longer afford it. Right now I’m trying to take care of the little things on the aircraft and get her all “dolled up” and ready for the day of donation without rebuilding the whole airplane.

Maybe there are other members of the Piper Nation that would consider donating their aircraft to an organization that promotes aviation for young people.

If you get a chance to go to the Sentimental Journey in June 2012, maybe we’ll get to see you there or the Piper Museum thereafter, checkout N9243D.

Addendum:

On Sunday October 2, 2011 I attended the Pancake Breakfast at the Lock Haven Airport put on by the Sentimental Journey Organization. When I arrived at the airport, Ed Watson, the Lock Haven Airport manager informed me that Tom Bauman had passed away that Friday, September 30. I was shocked and saddened by that news. I had just seen and talked to Tom on Wednesday afternoon. I had not seen Tom for over 50 years.

Tom was an accomplished pilot and retired from Piper Aircraft Corporation in 1982 as a test pilot. He received the Federal Aviation Administration 50-year Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and was actively involved in the Piper Sentimental Journey Fly-In. Life sure can be very strange at times. My condolences to Tom’s friends and family members.

Phil Hoy, member of the Short Wings Piper Club