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Piper Colt returns to factory, decades after first being built

CHASE BOTTORF/THE EXPRESS

LOCK HAVEN — One of Piper’s very own aircraft returned home recently.

An original Piper Colt, produced right here in Lock Haven, will be put on display at the Piper Aviation Museum in the coming months. The short-wing Piper aircraft was donated by owner and pilot, Bob Carlisle, out of Medina, Ohio.

The Piper Colt was first introduced in 1961 and its use was primarily for clubs and flying schools. The production of Piper Cherokees, built in Vero Beach, Fla., were falling behind in production and thus, the Piper plant in Lock Haven needed a temporary fill-in as a trainer, according to a November 2006 article in “AOPA Pilot” by William K. Kershner.

William T. Piper, the founding president of the Piper Aircraft Corporation, decided to make a two-place version of the Piper Tri-Pacer. The aircraft needed to be able to be assembled quickly and cheaply, Kershner wrote. Thus the Piper Colt was created — a flapless, two-seat version of the Tri-Pacer which both plane models shared type certificates and model designations, according to Kershner.

It cost $4,995 to build and almost 2,000 units of the Piper Colt were sold in its short two-year runtime, lasting from 1961 to 1963. It was the last line of short-wing Piper aircrafts ever made.

CHASE BOTTORF/THE EXPRESS The two seated cockpit of the donated Piper Colt with two yokes (steering wheels) for piloting and co-piloting.

The donated Piper Colt, was flown into Piper Memorial Airport by Bob on Thursday. That Colt, once a part of the Concord training fleet in Ohio, was originally owned by his father, Ben Carlisle up until his passing at 90-years-old in 2010. Three months prior to his passing, Ben took the aircraft for one last flight to “relive the good old days of flying” which he said in an article he wrote not long after his flight, titled, “A Sentimental Journey.”

Ben soloed the flight at 90-years-old, taking off from Medina County Airport in Ohio to Concord Airpark near Painesville, Ohio, making it a 65 mile trip, according to Ben’s article.

His son, Bob, “instigated this flight,” he said. Twenty five years prior, Ben sold his beloved Colt with its signature blue and white trim and dawning its special aircraft code, 5545Zulu. According to Bob, it was one of the final Piper Colts ever made in 1963.

“He was flying, he was right with it. You couldn’t put anything over him,” Bob said about his father’s last flight in the aircraft.

Years before selling the Colt, Bob learned how to pilot it at an early age and then trained in Piper Cherokees later on.

“I flew with my dad when I was a kid. I took lessons when I was about 12 and 13… then I went to school and the kids came along. I started flying back in 2002,” he said.

The winter before he took his final flight, Bob surprised his father with the exact plane that he owned over two decades before.

According to Ben’s article, Bob traced his father’s Colt to the Jackson County Airport in West Virginia near the Ohio River. He purchased the aircraft there around 2006 and the rest was history.

“I had put over 600 hours on that Colt, mostly just airport hopping around Ohio. But also to Philadelphia, Chicago and Milwaukee, and many times to Florida and South Carolina,” Ben wrote.

Now, in 2022, that very same Piper Colt has returned to the place where it was originally spawned for everyone to witness at the Piper Aviation Museum.

Bob returned to Ohio in a Piper Cherokee along with his friend and co-owner of the aircraft, Nick Tokach.

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