Walter Nelson Lewis Jr., Savannah, GA

About Piper

Piper J-3 Cub Nelson Lewis

A Piper J-3 Cub, one of the company’s earliest models.

Piper, the aircraft that Nelson Lewis flies so frequently, has a long and colorful history in American aviation.  Between its founding in 1927 and the end of 2009, they had produced 144,000 aircraft in 160 certified models, 90,000 of which continue to fly to this day.  While the aviation business has drastically changed in the modern market, Piper continues to be recognized as an historically innovative and important company in the history of American aviation.

Piper was originally founded in 1927, by the Taylor brothers.  At this time, it was referred to as the “Taylor Brothers Aircraft Manufacturing Company”.  After the company filed for bankruptcy in 1930, it was purchased by investor and Pennsylvania oil engineer William T Piper.  Piper, known as the Henry Ford of aviation, believed that a simple-to-operate, low-cost, private airplane could be a flourishing business, even during the Great Depression.  By 1935, Piper bought out the remaining shares from the last surviving Taylor brother, and by 1937, the company was renamed Piper Aircraft.

Piper Cherokee Nelson Lewis

A Piper Cherokee

Piper’s J-3 Cub, a single-engine, high-wing, two-seat, was the first inexpensive training aircraft to be produced in large numbers.  Numerous former military examples were sold to civilians between 1950 and 1995, and will be seeing many more years of additional recreational use by aviation enthusiasts like Nelson Lewis.  One of Piper’s most successful products is the PA-28 Cherokee, which is used for pilot training around the world.  Another plane, the PA-23 Apache, was one of the first aircraft associated with the term “air taxi”.

After beginning production in 1965, the PA-32 series provided multiple-seat, single-engine designs based on the classic, smaller Cherokee.  This model, known as the Saratoga, has proved popular with private owners, air taxi and freight companies, and is the same model that Nelson Lewis continues to fly.  While production of this model ended in 2009, it remains in wide circulation today.