In 1976 Piper retracted the landing gear on the Six and renamed the airplane the Lance. The Lance was built with only the 300 hp engine. The fuselage and cabin were unchanged from the Six, and the wing was essentially the same except for the structural mods necessary to create the wheel wells for the main gear to retract into. The fuel was also contained in only two tanks in the Lance, one per wing mounted farther outboard than in the Six.
Eliminating the drag of the fixed landing gear added 10 or maybe even 15 knots to typical cruise speed, not as much as many expected. There were rumors around Piper at the time that an aerodynamic cleanup and new streamlined landing gear and wheel pants cut the drag on the Six enough that it matched the cruise of the Lance. In the used market the Lance carries no price premium over the Six of similar vintage and condition, even though the Lance cost around 25 percent more when new. The weight of the retractable gear system in the Lance cut into useful load, which helps explain the market pricing, because most PA-32 buyers are very interested in available payload.
In 1978 Piper made what many believe is the only misstep in the progression of the PA-32 family — it put a T-tail on the Lance. Piper management was in love with T-tails at the time and claimed that the high position of the horizontal got it out of the propeller slipstream where it could operate more efficiently. To take advantage of this hoped-for efficiency gain, the tail was smaller than on previous models. The result was a loss of pitch control authority at low airspeeds that was most noticeable during takeoffs. The T-tail Lance has to accelerate to a higher airspeed before it will rotate nose-up, and even at that point it has a less satisfying response than the Cherokee Six or first Lance did with the conventional tail.
Piper also used the T-tail Lance as the launch platform for the first turbocharged PA-32. The engine uses updraft cooling with a huge oval opening in the lower part of the cowling to scoop in air and force it upward over the cylinders. Updraft cooling has some theoretical advantages in lower drag and higher cooling efficiency, but the theory didn't deliver well in actual practice, and the turbo had significant cooling problems. Also, the gaping hole in the cowling makes the turbo T-tail Lance the most unattractive airplane to roll off Piper's assembly line.
What About Engine Time?
A TBO recommendation is negotiated between the engine manufacturer and the airframe maker and is only an estimate of how many hours on average the engine can operate before major overhaul if flown regularly. Most pilots think only of the flight hour component of the TBO — 2,000 hours in this case — but there is also a calendar time consideration. The TBO hour number is typically based on flying the airplane 40 hours per month, or 480 hours a year. That means a 2,000-hour engine reaches its calendar TBO in less than five years.
None of these numbers has any regulatory significance for pilots who fly under FAR Part 91 rules, which are those that govern personal and business flying not for hire. All that matters under Part 91 is that an FAA-authorized inspector (IA) examines and signs off the engine during an annual inspection. Some IAs become concerned when an engine is operated beyond its hourly TBO, but as long as oil consumption, compression tests and other checks are within limits, the engine remains legal to fly. There are also no insurance implications for flying an engine beyond its hourly TBO, because as long as it is signed off at the annual inspection, the engine is airworthy by definition.
On the other hand, if problems are discovered at inspection, it doesn't matter how little time is in the logbook. So TBO neither damns you nor saves you during the annual inspection. Only the condition of the engine matters. The engine in the PA-32s costs an average of around $30,000 to overhaul, with the turbocharged version costing as much as $20,000 more on average. So admire the Lycoming's 2,000-hour TBO, but bank your engine reserve, not the number of flight hours, in the engine logbook.
The T-tail Lance was not a hit with pilots, and Cherokee Sixes of the same vintage sell for at least a little more in the used market even though the Lance was priced many thousands more when new. After two years of T-tailing — 1978 and 1979 — Piper corrected the situation by introducing the Saratoga, the biggest improvement in appearance in the entire PA-32 history.
The Saratoga has the same basic fuselage and cabin as the Six and Lance, but the fat constant-chord wing is replaced by a slender tapered wing with more than three feet of additional span. The wing taper begins where the flap ends, providing space for a longer-span aileron that improves control effectiveness and, most pilots report, makes control feel and harmony better. I could never decide for certain whether the Saratoga is that much nicer to fly, or if I imagined it is because the tapered wing just looks so much more attractive and aerodynamically pleasing. The Saratoga proved to be a sales success even though the general aviation market was starting a long swoon when it was introduced in 1980.