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Wednesday, July 21, 1999 Published at 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK

World: Americas

JFK Jnr's plane: A good record

Piper Saratoga similar to the one flown by Kennedy

The aircraft that John F Kennedy Junior flew was a 1995 single-engine Piper Saratoga II HP, known in the aviation industry as a high-performance plane with a good safety record.

Kennedy Tragedy
His aircraft, number N9253N, was built in June 1995, by Florida-based manufacturers The New Piper Aircraft, Inc.

Company president Chuck Suma said Mr Kennedy had bought the plane in April this year as a second-hand purchase.

'Reliable and safe'

The Piper Saratoga is widely regarded as reliable and safe, according to David Learmount, safety editor at Flight International magazine.

[ image:  ]
"But anything which has only one engine has the problem that if the engine does fail, then you have a glider on your hands," he added.

The last fatal crash of a Piper Saratoga occurred in California, on 3 April. Four people died when the plane hit the ground on a personal flight under instrument flight rules.

"This is a very safe airplane that is equipped very well," said Mr Suma, adding that there were over 7,500 Piper Saratogas in service around the world, with over a half-a-million hours flown every year.

It has been in production since the 1960s, with 1999 models of the Saratoga II HP - as well as the Saratoga II TC - fitted with a new cockpit aimed at reducing pilot workload "because there are fewer buttons to push and fewer individual instruments to monitor".

Both models have had the S-TEC System 55 autopilot fitted as standard equipment. But like most general aviation aircraft, it does not carry a flight data recorder.

[ image: Piper Saratoga TC]
Piper Saratoga TC
The Piper Saratoga - which seats five or six passengers - has a maximum speed of between 160 and 190 knots (sea miles per hour), with a range of around 800 nautical miles.

The plane tends towards the more expensive end of the light aircraft market, with a suggested retail price of around $380,000.

It can feature stereo facilities, an in-flight telephone, lap-top computer workstation with fax-modem capabilities and a "multimedia entertainment centre" with videocassette player and LCD viewing panel.

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