The Clipper was introduced in 1949, which turned out to be the only year for the airplane. Along with its close relative, the PA-15 Vagabond, the aircraft was a response to the need for Piper to expand the company’s product line after World War II. In order to save costs, Piper used its successful J-3 Cub as the starting point. Essentially creating the side-by-side J3 Cub, the Vagabond was a two seater. The company then stretched the Vagabond to create two more seats and the result was the Clipper.
The Clipper enjoys several other improvements beyond the extra seats. There is an added fuel tank for extended range and a Lycoming O-235, 115 hp engine. Piper also added another door to accommodate the back seat passengers and marketed the Clipper as a step up from the smaller aircraft it had been selling already.
Both the Clipper and the Vagabond retain a stick rather than the yoke that would follow in the Pacer models. Piper claimed in its brochure for the Clipper that it could comfortably carry four passengers with room for baggage. The company also bragged that the rear seat area could be converted into a cargo area in 50 seconds, a nod to the versatility pilots were looking for in aircraft of the time.
This particular Clipper was an east coast airplane. It was bought from Jim Jenkins by Carl Terrana along with Jim’s GeeBee in 1990. Later the museum acquired the Clipper (and the GeeBee) from the Terrana estate and the restoration was finished at the museum.
One of the big questions asked about our Clipper at Arlington when it won Grand Champion Classic was about the incredible finish on the airplane. It’s an all Randolph dope finish with 25-30 coats and plenty of sanding in between. Those who have seen it up close appreciate the workmanship that went into the airplane and why many say the airplane is one of the best fabric Piper’s they have seen.
Piper PA-16 Clipper N5732H s/n 16-346
Engine: Lycoming O-235 115 hp
Empty Weight: 850 lbs
Gross Weight: 1650 lbs
Wing Span: 29′ 3″
Length: 20′ 1″
Fuel Capacity: 30 gallons