What remains irrefutable is that the twin can continue to fly after an
engine failure in most circumstances while the single is forced to
make a landing. Even the low-powered light twins that may not be
able to climb after one engine quits have a heck of a long glide range
if you think of it that way. And those low-powered twins all have stall
speeds no higher than high-performance singles, so the energy carried into a forced landing is no greater. I can tell you I don’t think
about how far it is to the Lake Michigan shore in my Baron like I
used to in my Bonanza.
On top of all of these “facts” about twins, there is an issue that is
overriding for many of us of a certain age, and that’s what I call the
pilot aspiration ladder. I think any pilot who became interested in
airplanes and flying up through the 1950s and ’60s had a hard-wired
desire to move up that ladder that begins with fixed-gear singles,
moves on to retractable gear singles, and then into a multiengine
airplane. Only a lucky minority of pilots actually make that progression, but moving up the ladder remains a goal for most of us on the
wrong side of middle age.
With the price of used twins now often well below those of comparable singles, it’s worth taking a look at making that step to a multi.
Beechcraft B55 Baron
PIPER TWIN COMANCHE
No airplane epitomizes the light twin category better than Piper’s
PA- 30 and the follow-on PA- 39 Twin Comanches. The airplane is
compact and sleek, and now—nearly 50 years since the first one
was built—still looks great. Twin Comanche owners are a fiercely
loyal bunch, and most lavish elaborate paint schemes and redone
interiors on their airplanes. I doubt there is any airplane that has
more supplemental type certificates for modifications aimed at
There is no lie in the name Twin Comanche because that is
exactly what it is. Piper gave Ed Swearingen—of SX-300 homebuilt
and Merlin turboprop fame—a Comanche single and told him to
make it a twin with minimum airframe modifications. Ed did.
Ed is a gifted aerodynamicist who has had his greatest success in
making existing airplanes better. He is also a fan of great design. He
once kept a Rolls-Royce in the living room of his house in San
Antonio because he found the car to be a work of art.
Ed’s eye for style is most evident in the Twin Comanche nacelles.
The engines are actually small four-cylinder Lycoming IO-320s
rated at 160 hp, but he used propeller shaft extensions to create a
sleek nacelle that is much longer than the engine. On the other hand,
Piper simply put an aluminum box around the same size engine on
the Apache, and the nacelle looked like the crate the engine was
Despite the apparent low drag of the Twin Comanche nacelles, a
total of 320 hp can only do so much, and the twin is not much faster
than the single Comanche with 260 hp. The good news is that the
thrifty little Lycomings burn only a little more fuel than the six-cylinder engine in the single. And that—fuel economy—is the
overwhelming virtue of the PA- 30. Several high-performance
singles can outrun it, but they burn as much fuel as the twin in
Because the Twin Comanche stalls below 61 knots, FAA the rules
do not require it to demonstrate positive climb on one engine at