It is an age-old aeronautical debate, that of the low wing versus the high winged airplane. Both types have their advantages and each performs equally well, with almost the same performance statistics. So, which holds more positives than negatives? That depends on which you like best.
One great advantage the Pipers have over the Cessnas is the ease of servicing. The wing is about tabletop height, which facilitates fueling without difficulty. It does not get any easier than walking up to the airplane, attaching the ground wire, pulling out the hose, unscrewing the cap, and then filling up the tank.
To accomplish the same with the Cessna will require either a semi-tall ladder, or a great balancing act on the “refueling steps.” Then you have to drape the refueling hose over your shoulder to control it as you fill the wing tank.
The Cessna 172 and the Piper Cherokee are similar in many ways, but servicing seems to be the greatest difference between the two. The other significant differences between the low wing and the high wing aircraft is traffic avoidance.
In a Cessna, a pilot has to raise the wing to clear traffic in the direction of the turn. In Pipers, it is very easy to make certain the airspace is clear before turning. Where the Cessna shines in traffic avoidance is the pilot being able to clear the airspace below. Without a wing to block traffic while looking down, it is easy to clear that way. When you have to clear upward is when you run into a problem.
Another problem you may have with a Piper on a very bright and sunny day is glare inside the airplane. On sunny days, when the sunlight bounces off the top surface of the wing, the cockpit can actually become quite bright and oppressive. The Cessna pilot on the other hand, can essentially acquire shade from the wing overhead. This will help eliminate some of the heat within.
When learning to fly, either airplane will do. However, the Cessna allows a student pilot to have a more unrestricted view of the runway as it rises to meet the aircraft. The student gains a better opportunity to adjust the flare altitude easier than the student who is learning to fly in a low wing airplane such as the Piper.
So, if you have been keeping count, which is the best to use in learning how to fly? Which is easier and better to own? It all depends… This is truly one of those situations in which it is half a dozen of one, and six of the other.
And of course, whichever one you like the best.
© 2011 J. Clark