Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force enhances Air Fleet with new Piper Pa-31-350 Navajo/Chieftain Aircraft

On November 10, 2023, in a significant move to strengthen its aerial capabilities, the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force integrated a new aircraft, the Piper Pa-31-350 Navajo/Chieftain, into its fleet. The aircraft was officially received in a ceremony at the V.C. Bird International Airport, located near the capital, St. John's.

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Antigua and Barbuda enhances Air Fleet with new Piper Pa 31 350 Navajo Chieftain Aircraft 925  Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force integrated  Piper Pa-31-350 Navajo/Chieftain, into its fleet. (Picture source: Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force)

Lieutenant Colonel Alando Michael highlighted that this aircraft registered ABDF-A2, can carry up to nine passengers and will be essential for various operations, including search and rescue missions, troop transport, humanitarian assistance in the event of a disaster, and emergency medical evacuations. This new aircraft joins the Britten-Norman BN-2B Islander, registered ABDF-A1, acquired in February 2022, marking a significant expansion of the Defense Force's Air Wing.

Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean island state, is a constitutional monarchy with Charles III of the United Kingdom as its head of state. The Defense Force, established in 1897, includes land, naval, and air components, as well as a National Cadet Corps. The naval component is represented by the Coast Guard, equipped with small patrol vessels.

The Piper Pa-31, developed at the request of William T. Piper, founder of the company, made its first flight on September 30, 1964. This model was the largest aircraft built by Piper at that time. Production of the first model, the PA-31-310, equipped with two 230 kW (310 hp) Lycoming TIO-540-A1A turbo engines, began in the first half of 1967. A version with IO-540-A1A engines began in the first half of 1967. M of 225 kW (300 hp) was also produced as the PA-31-300.

The PA-31-310 was improved at the end of 1971 to give birth to the Navajo B, then in 1974 to the Navajo C and the PA-31-325 Navajo C/R with TIO-540-F engines of 242 kW (325 hp) opposite rotation. The PA-31P-425 Pressurized Navajo, aimed at the corporate market, was introduced with TIGO-541-E1A engines, higher takeoff weight, reinforced structure and landing gear, extended nose and system cabin pressurization. Its production began in 1970 and continued until 1984.

Production of the PA-31-310 ceased in 1983, but other developments of the Navajo, such as the Chieftain, Mojave, and Cheyenne, continued to evolve.

The acquisition of the Piper Pa-31-350 Navajo/Chieftain by the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force represents not only an enhancement of its operational capabilities but also a continuation of the legacy of an aircraft with a rich history and proven versatility.