Piper PA-31 & PA-31T, Embraer EMB820 & Neiva NE821

Pipers entry in the ‘cabin class’ piston twins was the Piper PA‑31 Navajo. Later it evolved into the Chieftain, Mojave and PA‑31T Cheyenne. Like the similar Cessna 400 series and Beech Queen Air it has low mounted straight wings with engines in the leading edge. The horizontal stabilisers are attached to the fuselage and the gears have single wheels. The main gear retracts sideways in the wings. Key recognition point of the PA‑31 are the large rectangular cabin windows with rounded corners. 

Some versions of the aircraft were built under license by Embraer and Neiva in Brazil.

The large rectangular cabin windows with rounded corners are the main distinctive feature of the Piper PA-31 family.

Different versions

The different versions of the Piper PA-31 series can be distinguished by:

  • the length of the fuselage
  • the number and size of the cabin windows
  • the shape of the cockpit windows
  • the presence of tip tanks
  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the turning direction of the props
  • the shape of the nose
  • the wing span

Details will follow later.

Confusion possible with

Cessna 400 series with rectangular cabin windows 

cessna 402c

Cessna's 400 series twins with rectan­gular cabin windows, especially the 402C and 404 with no tip tanks, are the main source for a mix-up with the PA-31. The Piper has larger rectangular cabin win­dows, with rounded corners. Another clearly visible difference is in the main gear doors.

Cessna 441 Conquest II

cessna 441

This could be mistaken for a Piper Cheyenne, in particular due to the cabin windows. These are smaller though on the Cessna. Furthermore the Cessna 441 has horizontal stabilisers with significant dihedral and an exhaust at the back of the nacelles.

Beech Queen Air

beech u 21a

The Beech Queen Air is comparable in size to the PA-31 family, but has square cabin windows and different cockpit windows. Also the main gear retracts forward in the nacelles.

Ted Smith/Piper Aerostar

cessna 402a

Considering the general shape and windows configuration, the Aerostar comes close to a possible mix-up with the PA-31. However, the PA-31 is a low wing aircraft and lacks the curved leading edge of the vertical stabiliser.

Swearingen Merlin IIA

tbm 850

The Swearingen Merlin IIA has similar cabin windows and nacelles as the Cheyenne, also a single wheel gear and the same basic configuration. However, the Merlin IIA has a forward retracting main gear and no tip tanks.

Cessna 400 series with oval cabin windows

cessna 402a

The Cessna 400 series twins with oval cabin windows can be considered as a less likely source for confusion: the oval cabin windows are a clear recognition point. For the rest they have the same configuration.