Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences

First Advisor

Ralph D. Kimberlin

Second Advisor

Mary Ann Gaal

Third Advisor

Brian A. Kish

Fourth Advisor

David C. Fleming


Today, aviation is one of the most technologically advanced and innovative sectors in the world. With fast-depleting natural resources, increasing environmental pollution, and continuous growth in fuel cost, efficiency has become industry’s top priority. Engineers are making gradual improvements that offer overall increase in aircraft’s performance. Drag is critical factor in aviation as it directly impacts aircraft’s fuel efficiency, range, and speed. During the design phase, engineers invest significant effort and expense in attempting to minimize the drag profile by implementing aerodynamic shapes and constantly reducing component weights. One of the real-life examples of such engineering attempts is Piper Archer, what many pilots consider to be the best compromise of power, performance, useful load, and economy in the PA28 line. Debuted in 1974, Archer is horizontally opposed, air cooled, normally aspirated, directly driven, and equipped with a Lycoming engine O-360, gaining 20-hp over its predecessor Piper Warrior. Increase in horsepower was certainly not the only improvement that resulted in Archer’s dominance over the Warrior. In 1995, Piper stepped up the Archer III by incorporating a new cowling utilizing NASA inspired, University of Mississippi-developed, axisymmetric engine inlets. The idea behind the new cowling was to gain an extra knot or two of speed, modernize the airplane’s looks, and increase cooling efficiency. The objective of this thesis is to determine the Mississippi cowling performance on the Archer and examine its drag characteristics in comparison to the Piper Warrior. Steady level flight performance test flights at different altitude configurations were conducted with each of the aircraft. Flying at 2500, 5000, and 7500 feet, the aircraft was accelerated at full throttle and maximum cruise RPM till the maximum level flight speed was reached. Once stabilized, data was collected at different time intervals with the reduction in RPM until the level flight can no longer be maintained. RPM readings were then taken using the electronic tachometer as well as O.A.T. gauge, and airspeed. This procedure was repeated until the aircraft reached the back side of the power required curve where RPM must be increased to maintain altitude and achieve a lower airspeed. Testing revealed the evidence that the Mississippi cowling increased drag efficiency of the Piper Archer. Plotted flight performance graphs of the Archer vs. Warrior show success in Mississippi cowling design and is a valuable information for future modifications to improve aircraft performance.