Watch CBSN Live

The Piper Saratoga

Fans of the single engine Saratoga call it a "flying suburban." Wider and faster than other models, it is the half-million dollar choice of experienced pilots. CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

"This is not a hot dog airplane," says Roy LoPresti, an aviator of 40 years who remodels small planes. He says the Saratoga is in high demand and describes the average owner as a full-time businessman who uses the plane for work and pleasure. The growing economy and some changes in liability laws have helped to increase travel in private planes by 20% in the last five years.

Piper, the manufacturer of the Saratoga that John Kennedy was piloting, built 76 of the planes last year and sold them all. The company says "it can't build enough of them."

Michael Brauser flies his family from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas on weekends. That's approximately the same distance the Kennedys traveled to Martha's Vineyard. He has flown his Saratoga for 8-years, but never at night over the water. "At night you have pitch darkness, and you don't have visual ability to keep you level," he says.

Brauser calls the Saratoga a luxury plane with limits. It's a machine only as reliable as the pilot at the controls.

More Facts And Figures About The Piper Saratoga:

  • Manufacturer: The New Piper Aircraft, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based company known for its line of personal aircraft and business models.
  • Current models: Saratoga II HP and the Saratoga II TC, heralded in company press releases as "the ultimate off-road vehicles."
  • Seating: Five or six, depending on the configuration.
  • Maximum speed: 192 knots for the TC, 166 knots for the HP.
  • Cruising range: At 15,000 feet, 822 nautical miles for the TC, 859 nautical miles for the HP.
  • Amenities: Models can include woodgrain cabinet with a beverage cooler, cup holders, flight manual storage and a pullout Corian executive writing table, with provisions for an AM-FM CD stereo, flight phone, laptop computer workstation with fax-modem capabilities and multimedia entertainment center with videocassette player and LCD viewing panel.
  • Miscellaneous: 1999 models recently were upgraded with a new cockpit aimed at reducing pilot workload "because there are fewer buttons to push and fewer individual instruments to monitor." Such planes are often used by new pilots who receive special training at places like Flight Safety International where Kennedy studied for his license.
  • Cost: Standard equipped 1998 TC sold for a suggested retail price of $398,200, while the HP cost $378,900.