Jay’s Piper Cherokee


Retired Air Force fighter pilot Jay Waitte carried his passion for flying into his civilian life, co-owning a Piper Cherokee 180 for 25 years.

Jay's Piper Chrokee, auto leveled
Jay's Piper Chrokee, auto leveled

I used to own a 1964 Piper Cherokee 180 aircraft.

Or, more precisely, I was a co-owner of a Cherokee. I went in with three other people. We purchased it around 1996, while I was still serving in the Connecticut Air National Guard.

I think it cost $30,000 (around $52,000 in today’s money). We split the cost between us.

Buying the Piper was an idea of a buddy of mine. He was never in the Air Force. But he used to own a small airline out of Groton, CT, and fly to local places like nearby Block Island, RI.

We had two other co-owners; one guy owned a bunch of hair salons, and the second guy was a barber.

The airplane had a range of about 580 miles, so it mostly flew around New England. For example, I’d fly up to an airbase in New Hampshire with passengers, have breakfast, and then fly back. I took Kate down to Virginia once and friends to places like Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. Things like that.

I was still in the Connecticut Air National Guard, so there was really no problem learning how to fly it. A Piper Cherokee is a lot simpler than an A-10 Warthog. A LOT simpler.

The maintenance wasn't bad. You had to get an overhaul done on it each year. They’d take the plane apart, make sure there was no corrosion, then put it back together. That didn't cost much, about fifteen hundred bucks. 

As the years went on, I wasn’t flying it much. The problem was the airplane was getting old; remember, it was a 1964 model. I was going to get it rebuilt. In 2016 I brought in a partner who was going to do it. 

But it never got done. 

They were supposed to take it apart, put new canopies in, and paint it. Well, they took it apart, painted it, and then nothing ever happened for several years. I finally had enough. By that time, I was the only owner, so in 2020 I gave it away to an aviation school in central Connecticut.

My son, Ethan, who flies F-22 Raptors, has recently started looking to buying a used Piper Cherokee. Today, a used Piper might run like $150,000.

My buddy, who originally co-owned the Piper, now lives in Baltimore. He still has his own plane and has flown it up here a few times. He has contacts with different aircraft owners and buyers. So, he sent a bunch of information out to Ethan. I don’t know if he’ll pull the trigger.

As for me, do I ever want to own another plane? Well, you know, I do, and I don't. I don't know if my reactions are as good as they once were. But I know a guy who's 73 who is flying his around. He's fine. I could do it, but I just don't know if I want to invest in something like that now.

It's a lot of cash.

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