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Top of the Line Pipers:
Good News on All Fronts

Meridian, Mirage, Matrix, and PiperJet All Going Strong

Piper’s machinery continues strong, as the company rolls out new Piper Meridians and Mirages for the cabin-class crowd. Meanwhile, the new Piper Matrix, introduced at the AOPA convention last October, is sold out through 2008, while the PiperJet has more than 190 contracted orders and is awaiting its proof-of-concept first flight scheduled for this year.

“On every front, Piper is hearing good things, and the public’s acceptance of the new Piper Matrix is beyond our projections,” said Jim Bass, President and CEO of Piper Aircraft, Inc.

From pistons to turboprops to jets, progress at the company’s factory in Vero Beach, Florida continues, spurred on by strong sales. MATRIX The Matrix, introduced just half a year ago, was awarded its Type Certificate in industry-record time. The current offerings in Piper’s “professional” lineup each feature all-glass flight decks and myriad additional design enhancements and features that make aviation exciting and rewarding while being user-friendly, more-comfortable, and ultimately safer.

The Matrix (officially known as PA46R-350T) is a high-performance, high-utility machine that the company says we can think of as “a bigger, faster, better Saratoga.” It is spacious for its class. It’s fast for its class. And it’s better, especially for pilots who want performance without complexity. No wonder: it’s basically an unpressurized Mirage (PA-46R-350P). Under the cowl, the Matrix owner can show off his 350hp, 2000-hour TBO Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A engine; and he can monitor it from the cockpit, where the Avidyne Entegra system makes the information always available.

Piper engineers translated the unpressurized airframe’s reduced complexity into lighter airframe weight, getting in return greater payload with long range and economy; and the Matrix’s large cabin isn’t just for looks: you can fill it up and still travel long distances, without having to make the compromises that pilots have put up with, over the years.

The Piper Matrix has a maximum cruise speed of 213 knots and a full-fuel range (at long range cruise power) of 1,020 nautical miles. With an 800-pound payload at 17,500 feet – close to the maximum altitude where oxygen cannula can be used – the Matrix achieves a maximum cruise speed of 200 knots and a range of more than 800 nautical miles. At a hypothetical non-oxygen altitude of 12,000 feet, again carrying an 800-pound payload, the Matrix delivers a maximum cruise speed of 188 knots and a range of 800 nautical miles. At 17,500 feet or 12,000 feet, the Matrix could increase its range by approximately 190 nautical miles by reducing cabin payload by 120 pounds and filling the tanks with an extra 20 gallons of fuel.

The payload/range envelope of the Matrix, in fact, is “unmatched,” according to Piper, and they’re spot on. Their argument becomes even more-persuasive when one factors speed, insurance, and operating costs into the mix.

The Matrix, as is the case with all of Piper’s top-end aircraft, can be certified for flight into known icing, and the system does not require additional pilot attention, as does a weeping wing system. Speedbrakes help the Matrix owner use additional airports, further increasing the machine’s utility. Luxury and convenience, too, are apparent to passengers in features like the Matrix’s air stair door.

So, unlike the pilot who’s bought a less-efficient airplane that carries less payload, goes slower, has more flight limitations, and uses more fuel, the Matrix owner just says, “All aboard,” and also arrives sooner. Pulling up to the fuel farm, he or she can handle that task, too, with less drama.

Piper, in fact, is quietly emerging as the value leader in the design and delivery of high-class, high-performance air transportation, and the exchange rate trend of major currencies against the US dollar is making the line even more appealing as the Matrix becomes certified outside of North America.

The turboprop Meridian (PA-46-500TP) is popular both among corporate executives and as personal transportation, with its quiet cabin and fast cruise. Its capabilities often get it mentioned alongside true jets. In fact, Professional Pilot magazine (in its 2007 VLJ issue) noted that, “the Piper Meridian represents a perfect bridge for the GA pilot to use while crossing into pure-jet territory. Some may indeed find that the versatility and economy of the Meridian make VLJs just a bit more than necessary.”

Pressurized and superbly comfortable, the 500shp, Pratt & Whitney-powered Meridian (and its turbocharged piston-powered brother, the Mirage) can fly over a lot of the weather and make the intra-continental flights that are the bread and butter of corporate travel at a fraction of the cost of taking the trip in a jet, and at a penalty of very few minutes of flying time.

Not that Piper is letting the VLJ market get away. The PiperJet, with similar cabin size to the Meridian, has the largest engine in the VLJ class – the Williams FJ-44-3AP. It can be capacious and comfortable because that is one powerful engine, and it is a fuel and maintenance miser because Piper needs just one engine.

Start with full tanks, and the PiperJet, with its impressive and aerodynamically-revealing 17:1 glide ratio, can carry 800 additional pounds of people and baggage for 1300 nautical miles. Ultimate passenger load is either six (when configured with a forward lav) or seven, plus two front-seaters. As is normal among VLJs, the PiperJet will be certified for single-pilot operations.

With a unique high-tail mounting for all that power, Piper’s engineers have invented a seamless solution to the perennial thrust-line problem this design has often encountered; they developed an automatic pitch-trim system that reads and anticipates the airplane’s needs, according to the attitude of the aircraft and thrust changes. The pilot need not worry, and the passengers will never know, or notice.

Additional benefits of the high-mounted single engine include the obvious fuel and maintenance savings, as well as accessibility for inspection; and the location is the safest of all, in the unlikely event of rotor burst. Such an explosion would have minimal contact with airframe parts, is fully behind all passenger locations, and everything that could be in contact with debris has extra, exotic-materials shielding. Additionally, the engine’s noise is isolated up and away, and to the rear.

Piper also prepared its PiperJet for a smooth ride on the ground, and has trailing-link main gear – a plus on rough or even unpaved surfaces, practical because of the air intake’s position high above the rear fuselage. Most transcontinental trips require only a single fuel stop, and the 35,000-foot ceiling and RVSM certification mean the 340-knot cruise will be comfortable for PAX and pilot. Comfort is required for passengers, but is also appreciated by the front-seaters, whose comfort level can translate into efficiency, alertness, even the ultimate safety of the flight. Pilot workload will be reduced through such systems as Piper’s automatic pitch control, FADEC, optional auto-throttle, certification for flight into known icing, and all-glass, state of the art flight deck.

John Becker, Piper Aircraft Vice President, Engineering, said the design team focused “on the latest in ergonomic aut
omobile design… a sophisticated color palette with spacious, energetic design. The PiperJet features rich leather seats, deep zebra wood details and rich fabrics and trim. It incorporates perfectly-placed storage, cup holders and docking stations for personal electronics. The PiperJet is equally attentive to pilot and passenger comfort and needs, reduced workload and ease of operation.”

When CEO Jim Bass introduced the PiperJet at the NBAA convention in the fall of 2006, he summed up the philosophy behind the PiperJet: “Every measure has been taken to make sure that the PiperJet answers what our customers have told us they want and need in a jet, and to anticipate what they will need in the future, because … at the end of the day … it’s not about being first to market … it’s about getting it right in the first place.” Piper’s single-engine approach is looking smarter every day; fuel costs are up some 70% since then... and their jet hasn’t had to get any slower or any smaller to meet the market’s needs. It started right in the first place.

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