- 11 May 2021
- Aviation Podcasts
The Airplane Intel team takes an in-depth look into Piper and its wide range of turboprops. Starting with the first-generation Malibu all the way to the latest M350, covering the features, specs, and performance of each model.Back to Articles
Today we’re diving deep into the entire Piper PA46 lineup, from the first-generation Malibu to the second-generation Mirage, the unpressurized Matrix, and the latest M350. We’ll also unravel the turbine PA46s, including the JetProp, Meridian, M500, and M600. The Piper PA46 is one of my favorite aircraft, but it is often overlooked by many prospective buyers.
In my interview with Joe Casey of Casey Aviation, we’re not only going to discuss the features, benefits, specs, and performance of each model, we’ll also shed some light on the common problems and shortcomings so you can decide whether the PA46 is the right choice for your mission. We’ll also demystify transition training, cost of ownership, and a lot more. I’m really excited for this interview; without further ado, let’s catch up with Joe Casey.
About Joe Casey
My aviation story began in 1990 with my first flight near Nacogdoches, TX in a Cessna 172. From lift-off, I knew I’d have a lifetime passion flying just about anything that will leave the ground…I was completely hooked. Along with being an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE),
I’m also an ATP/CFI-AHMG and Commercial Rotorcraft/Glider Pilot, seaplane pilot, and a recently-retired UH-60/AH-64 Pilot-in-Command/Instructor/Examiner Pilot in the US Army Reserves, but my passion for the last 20 years has been the PA-46, Daher TBM, Beechcraft King Air series of airplanes and those that fly these wonderful machines.
I’ve amassed over 11,500 hours in these various airframes and believe them to be one of the finest flying machines available for the serious cross-country pilot with an eye for efficiency.
Now, I’ve flown more than 15,500 hours of flight time in just about every imaginable environment. Whether providing initial/recurrent training in the PA-46’s, TBM’s or King Air realm, giving a check ride to someone moving up in credentialing, flying an airplane to the other side of the world, giving tailwheel endorsements, or taking kids flying for the first time, I simply love flying machines and the people who fly them.
My wife (Becky) and I have been married for more than 30 years, we have 3 grown sons, and we’ve lived in Jacksonville, TX for more than 20 years.
Today, we're speaking with Joe Casey. If that's the name that sounds familiar, it probably should. Joe's a former military pilot, an ATP/CFI, DPE, and of course, the founder of Casey Aviation. Hey, Joe, welcome to the podcast. It's really awesome talking to you.
Joe: Man, I appreciate you letting me be here. This looks like a fun conversation we're going to have.
Adam: Yes, I think so. Anything with airplanes is always a fun conversation, right?
Joe: Absolutely. It seems like I live, eat, and breathe airplanes, and lately, I've been doing a few more helicopter things. So, that's been fun. But airplanes tend to be my niche and my place in life. So, it's good.
Adam: Well, we definitely share that in common. On that note, tell us a little bit more about yourself and your career in aviation, because it's pretty extensive.
Joe: Yeah, I started flying 30-- let's see 31 years ago down in Nacogdoches, Texas. I tell people I had a college degree in my hand, I just graduated, and I had no clue what I wanted to do. But I put on a suit, basically went halfway to the next town, and looked for a job. I knocked on every door and just said, “Hi, my name is Joe, and I'm looking for a job.”
Of course, the first place I’ve stopped was the airport which was right between the two towns. There was a somebody there going up in a Cessna 172 and they say, “Well, there's no jobs but you can jump in the back of this Cessna 172 and see what it's like.” I remember taking off in the back of a 172 and thinking, “All right, how do you get paid to do this?”
I've been working on that ever since. So, it all started back in 1990, and real quickly, I became a CFI, CFII, MEI. Then real soon, after that I'd always wanted to join the military. I wanted to go originally to the Air Force which I think a lot of people think if you think airplanes, you're thinking Airforce. But the Air Force back in the early 90s was a hard place to get into if you were right out of college.
The army had a warrant officer program which I knew nothing about. But I learned real quickly and gosh, what a deal that was. So, I signed up and went to basic training Warrant Officer Candidate School right off into and got.
Back then you there's what they called multitrack, and you basically figured out what you were going to fly and I got selected to fly Blackhawk helicopters. That started a 25-year career flying Blackhawks in both the regular army and the Guard and Reserve. So, went to a whole bunch of different assignments and became an instructor pilot, or an IP as we call it, and then an SIP, and was a flight examiner in the army as well.
Then, went to the Guard and Reserve and did the same thing. For me, the army was a great place to start and being-- I was a Warrant Officer for about 12 years and then, went to the dark side and became a Commissioned Officer.
I retired as a major, and I just I loved being in the army, and just really needed it. So, it was a good career move for me.
Adam: Wow, that's really interesting. Well, first of all, thank you for your service as well. That's a great career path, and I'm a Marine and I was enlisted Marine. There's a Warrant Officer program in the Marine Corps, but not for pilots. So, that's really neat that the army does that, and that's something that maybe some of our younger listeners could consider as a career path.
Joe: Let me tell you, there's nothing better-- To me, the Warrant Officer program in the army is the hidden gem of the-- and especially the National Guard and Reserve, that's the really hidden gem. But if you can figure out how to get into the Warrant Officer program in either Army National Guard or Reserve, you can do no better in my opinion.
You'll end up with great training, really a good feeling of flying helicopters, and to me, to be able to serve your country even in a part-time fashion is an honor, but it's also good for everybody. Nation benefits and you benefit, so you'll hear nothing but encouragement for me from somebody that wants to join the military and go fly. To me, the Warrant Officer program in the army is the hidden gem.
Adam: I would definitely agree with you on that based on what you're saying, and something maybe I wish I had known about when I was coming out of high school, but definitely something to consider for all the young guys out there and gals looking to make a career in military flying because that's a different ballgame altogether. I guess on that note, how did you transition from military aviation back to civilian aviation?
Joe: When I was in the military, all I wanted to do-- I love flying. But you know when you sign up for the military, you're going to sign up for eight years. So, there's no question what I'm doing and I enjoyed that part of it.
But all I wanted to do is leave the army and go be an airline pilot. That was my thing. I did. I left the army in 99 and went to the airline world, which in that time, airlines were hiring big time, but I had a lot booked for the helicopter time which they weren't excited about. So, I wouldn't go into a regional airline, and absolutely hated it. I could not believe that I ever wanted to be an airline pilot.
I flew for two years with a regional and then September 11th, 2001 occurred, and that was like, man, I just can't do it anymore. It's a great job for some, but for me, it was not. There's a lot of aspects of it that I didn't either agree with or didn't see coming. So, when September 11th occurred, I knew it was time for me to leave the airline world. I did and I went to fly-- It was weird, but I became a paint salesman, this sounds crazy.
I never left the cockpit, but I went to a company and really became I guess you'd say a flying salesman, where I use my credentials in aviation to help me get around the country to be a salesman. It was really hard to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, I'm a salesman,” but that's what I did. But I flew, we ended up buying a PA46 Malibu Mirage, and I flew that thing more than 500 hours a year, flying myself all around the country to business meetings at manufacturing facilities around the country.
My real job was in the business world, but my aviation is what helped me do it. It was such a good experience for me, because I still flew just-- me flying over 500 hours a year, you're a pro-pilot, and in that respect, but it was just a good experience.
I did that for about seven years, and then while-- of course, I'm doing the military as well during this time, because I was Guard and Reserve. So, that was a fun time. But then in the PA46 world, my phone just kept on ringing and kept on ringing because I was always a flight instructor the entire time with people saying, “Will you help us with recurrent training?” So, I did not very many recurrent trainings in the early years.
But as the years progressed, my phone rang more and more and more. Then of course, in 2009, so it was right after the recession, and it was a terrible time to open up a company but I finally figured my phone was ringing enough that I left the paint world and became a professional flight instructor in the PA46 world. That was the best decision I ever made, to go be a professional flight instructor.
That began a place where I got into the PA46 world very, very heavily, flew all the variants of the PA46, trained in every one of them, still do to this day.
Love the people. There's a niche of people that migrate to a PA46. They're usually business people and they're usually efficiency minded, and I jive with those kinds of people. So, I just really got along with him. We also ended up in time in a small, niche aviation.
You also get to do other things, and so, we ended up managing some King Airs, which we still do. We have four King Air that we manage with pilots that fly with us. We do a lot of international ferry flying of just moving airplanes around the world, which I do probably 10 to 12 of those trips a year and really enjoy that.
Then, somebody asked me why wasn't a DPE? Because I was an examiner in the army. So, I applied for a DPE status and got it about five years ago. So, I've been doing DPE work.
I'm today sort of a jack of all trades in aviation, but if there's a place I’m the master-- or not the master, but a master and there is an area that I'm really good, I'm really good in all the PA46 is and I'm really good in the King Air 300 series.
I'm a DPE for the-- I can do a type rating for somebody that wants to get a King Air type rating in the 300 or 350, or 360 now. So, those are the areas that I'm the strongest, is the PA46 and the King Air 300 series world. It's evolved into a nice place where my phone rings a lot and I get to do aviation every day and enjoy it.
Adam: Wow, that sounds really neat, and what a cool way to transition from the military into civilian in a way that you're so involved in the flying and instructing, because I think for a lot of people, there's a lot of guys out there that don't like instructing. They do it just to build time but there's a handful of guys that really, really love instructing and it sounds like that's definitely something that you really enjoy.
That's the aspect you enjoy about flying. Like me, it's something that is definitely inspiring and motivating as an instructor when you get guys that want to fly. The PA46 is a perfect airplane too, because it normally is owner flown. So, like you mentioned it, these are folks that are efficiency minded, and they want to be a good competent pilot, and they want to be comfortable and confident in the particular airplane that they're flying.
Joe: Absolutely. You just hit the nail on the head. If you go down an aircraft, you're going down into an airplane where it's less business and less "I've got to go flying." If you move up, you're moving into dual-pilot, pro-flown, owners never fly it. The PA46 world is just a wonderful little place where the people that are there need really good instruction because they're not pro-pilots.
They're people that are very successful in their business lives, and they have a need to fly either them and some other either business or personal around the country. Sometimes, they're not great pilots, but they want to be. So, it's a place where I feel needed, and that's important for me, and they appreciate having somebody that's really focused on providing great instruction. So, it's a symbiotic relationship that just works really, really well.
Can I say another thing? Because maybe there's some people that are-- If there's a secret to my place in life and aviation, is I stepped off the train, wanting bigger, better, faster, stronger, and what I mean by that is, if you're a young person in aviation, you're thinking that the pinnacle of aviation would be if you're thinking big, you're thinking flying some 777 across the ocean as a captain and making six digits doing it. That is good.
Those guys and girls that do that are absolutely phenomenal and I love it. I won’t say the best pilots in the world, but you can be in the pinnacle of aviation and not be in a 777 going across the ocean. You can be the pinnacle of an area, and it doesn't have to be the biggest, baddest, strongest airplane.
For me, when I got into the PA46 world, I decided that I didn't need to pursue the biggest, baddest airplane, that these are really cool airplanes.
When you shift your mentality from a place that I've got to have the biggest jet or the fastest jet or whatever, then you're going to find that you can have a place because there's a lot of people that are using aviation as stepping stones to get from this airplane to the next airplane to the next, and people can sense that from a mile away that you're just there, clock in time till you can get that next job.
When people sense that, “Hey, I'm here to stay, I'm going to be the best at this,” the world will flock to you. When you're the best at something, the world's going to find you. So, it's a neat place in that respect, once you hit that place of, I'm happy in this arena. So, to me, if I were to give any counsel to a younger pilot, it would be find a place where you have a home and where you'd like it, and you like the people that are there and stay there. So, be the best at that.
Adam: Yeah, and I think that is outstanding advice and so true. I can't tell you how many folks that we work with that are airline guys and they come back to GA, because of the challenge they get from GA flying and that satisfaction they get from it.
I think you are so right that if you can find a niche within general aviation and be the best at that, that is an outstanding way to spend your career. I know a lot of folks here down in Florida that did that. They specialize in the Mustang or they specialize in training on the TBM or something like that, and it's an extremely rewarding career. That's what we've done here is that, we have a niche that we work in.
Like you said, when you become the best at it, you can really not only have a great impact on aviation, but you can also have an enormous amount of satisfaction in what you're doing.
So, I think that's really great advice and people get distracted or lost in the clouds so to speak, and Like you said, trying to chase the next biggest, fastest airplane out there but what they need, and what would give them the most maybe satisfaction in life is right in front of them with this maybe a smaller plane.
Joe: That is true. Now, let's back up for a second. So, if you're a pilot that wants to not have a lifestyle where you're just leaving for two weeks and gone, if you want to be home more nights, you can hardly do better than to find an airplane that's a little on the smaller side and enjoy it.
I tell people all the time, the King Air 300, 200 as well, King Air 200, 300, Citation Jet, those are neat places to be because they're big enough airplanes where you can go somewhere and do some things as a pro-pilot and be needed and be an integral part of the owner that airplane, their life and their business and trusted and all, get all this job satisfaction you want.
But if you're flying King Air 300, you're not going away for two weeks. I've got four King Air 300s that we manage and fly, and my pilots are rarely spending nights away. So, it's such a neat place to be--
Yeah, you can move up an airplane until you get a bigger airplane that really doesn't fit your lifestyle or the lifestyle you want. There's an advantage to stepping off the career married around at a place where you're happy and where do you think you can be happy, be the very best at that and you'll find a niche, you'll find that'll be a good spot for you.
Adam: Absolutely. Very well said. I'm sure we can probably spend the next eight hours talking about that.
The PA46 line specifically, there's a wide range of airplanes within that lineup and some are older, some are brand new. Can you give us a little idea of the background history, of the different models, and what those different models are?
Joe: The PA46 was designed by Piper and make no mistake, the PA46 saved Piper. Before that, they were a small airplane company, and when the PA46 came around, it was a clean sheet design. John Mariani, if you want to look up a neat name, go look up John Mariani. He was on the design team, and he gives a little class on what happened in the early years.
The bottom line is it's a clean sheet design, pressurized, turbocharged, light level, capable, cabin class seating, and it wasn't an adaptation of another airplane. It was a clean sheet, so they really came up with-- They just hit a homerun.
Even today, the first airplane of PA46 was a Malibu, flew in 1984. Those airplanes are still flying and there's really not a close second to it. There's really not. There is Cessna 210P which is an adaptation of a Cessna 210, but it's not great. It's good but it's just not great.
There's an extra 400 but there's hardly any of those out there. When you really look at pressurized turbocharged, single-engine, cabin class, IFR-capable, long legs, just an airplane that'll go somewhere, you're going to end up at the end of the day zoning in on a PA46 if that's what you're looking for and they're just great airplanes.
So, in 1984, you had the Malibu that came out. It wasn't long before they wanted more horsepower, and Lycoming was willing to go to 350 horsepower and they ended up putting a Lycoming on in 1989 adapting the interior upping the max gross weight, you ended up with an airplane in 1989 called the Malibu Mirage.
Not to be ugly to Piper but the Malibu Mirage, when it first came out was a disaster because the Lycoming engine had all kinds of troubles. They had crankshaft problems that grounded the fleet and all the cranks had to be completely changed out. Early 90s were just a really dark days for the PA46 because arguably from 1984 to 1988 was the Continental, and those are still just extremely highly sought-after airplanes, incredibly efficient. And 1989 through about 1993, 1994 was dark days for Piper.
There were bankruptcies, and there were accidents, and the training was terrible, and they just had all kinds of troubles back then. Now, all that's been fixed by now. You still have the same Lycoming engine from 1989 that's in the M350 that's being sold today. But they've solved all the problems and the early years, there was a gobs of them. But the ones we've got today are just great airplanes.
But it went from the Malibu Mirage through and it really the 350 the M350 that's available today is just a better version of what was in 1989. You've still got the same wings, same fuselage, same engine, but just a lot of better refinements, better avionics, better interiors, everything's better. The M350 that rolls off the line today at Piper is a spectacular airplane.
If you're into single-engine piston, it is the top of the line of that and is just a phenomenal airplane. If you look in the mid-90s, pretty much everybody knew that the PA46 was a fabulous airplane, firewall backwards. The airframe was just bulletproof. I mean just great pressurization, the wing is a perfect design. But the engine up front, they were having all the troubles with the Lycoming engine.
The Continental engine had some questions as well because really, you were taking an engine that was really designed for about 250 horsepower, and we're going to ask it to do 300 or 350. So, when you ask an engine that's designed to do less to do more, you're going to ask a lot of it.
So, it wasn't long before basically a company called Rocket Engineering came up with what they call a JetPROP conversion where they put a JetPROP engine or PT6 engine on the front of a Malibu or Malibu Mirage, and it completely changed the airplane. So, you ended up with an STC that today is probably the best STC conversion that there is out there.
Took an engine that's rugged and bulletproof and bolted it onto the airplane. Now, you end up with an airplane with incredible climb rates. 2000 feet a minute easily, sustained up through 12,000 and then it tapers off a little bit. But when you're leveling off at flight level 270 in a JetPROP, you're doing over thousand feet a minute. Energy efficient, it'll go a long way. The JetPROP conversion is fabulous. I just am a huge fan of the JetPROP.
But Piper took notice of that real quick and said, we got to have our own turbine conversion. Now, we're getting beat up in the marketplace by these JetPROP folks, and so they came up with their version of it, which is a Meridian. That came out in 2001. It has a bigger engine, but less powerful engine. As happened with the Mirage, when the first Meridian rolled off the line, it was not a great airplane.
It was under gross weight, the gross weight wasn't high enough. The fuel burn was excessive, the fuel capacity was less. The avionics were terrible. Everybody was excited to have a from the factory airplane that was a turbine, but it really wasn't a better turbine than a JetPROP. So, Piper then went back to the drawing board and started making refinements to the airplane.
I'll tell you today, the Meridian turned it into the M500, and it's a fabulous-- Again, the M500 that rolls off the line, Piper fixed all the little issues, they increased the gross weight, they put spectacular avionics on it. Today, the M500 that rolls off the factory floor is a phenomenal turbine airplane. Absolutely love it.
They really hit a homerun with the M500 today. And the ones that are the older, the ones that are 2001, all have gross weight increase kit availabilities. They all have their own-- not all, but most of them have their avionics that have been swapped out to something newer and nicer. So, they've all gotten better. If you see a Meridian in the fleet today that it's probably been adapted to what would be considered a modern frame today. So, you have the Meridian.
Then, Piper did the best thing they ever did in my opinion, which is come up with the M600, which is nothing more than a Meridian with a much, much better wing. We're talking about a really, really beefy strong, lots of fuel capability wing airplane with a bumped-up horsepower to 600 horsepower. So, they called it the M600.
From day one, Piper did it right. That is a real airplane. I'm talking about it, without a hole in the game. The M600 is an airplane today that with long legs-- If you take off of anywhere in the central United States, you can hit anywhere in the United States without stopping. With five people on board and bags, you're going 280 plus knots.
Today, the M600 is the launch customer for the SLS, for the auto land system from Garmin. We've got one flying one this morning with the client and they are spectacular. That's an airplane without a hole in the game.
It's interesting because if you look at an M600, the M600 is the same fuselage harkening all the way back to 1984. They hit a home run with that 1984 version of PA46 because it's the same fuselage and they've just done so stinking well with that fuselage. So, today, you can fly a Continental Malibu all the way to Lycoming Mirage to the newest M500, M600, and really have just a great airplane all the way around.
Any of those today-- I'll tell you this. Garmin who's doing great in the marketplace as far as products they're creating, they gave the best compliment that they could have given to the JetPROP conversion by making that the launch customer for the GFC 600 in the PA46 fleet. Today, you can put the GFC 600 autopilot in the JetPROP, you can put it in the Malibu Mirage. If you buy a 1984 Malibu from day one, you can add things to that airframe today that make that a spectacular airplane.
So, there's new life that has been infused and all these old airframes that-- So, there's really not a bad PA46 today and all the issues that were in the earliest from training have generally been solved, all the bad avionics have generally been solved, and today you end up with-- If you want to get into a very efficient, capable, cross-country, IFR, flight level capable airplane, the PA46 is the place to be.
Adam: Now, it definitely sounds like it's such a wide spectrum of airframes or aircraft performance wise. Can you tell us a little bit some of the performance differences between the 310-horsepower airplane, the Malibu and the 350-horsepower Mirage, and also maybe some of the differences and performance between the 500-horsepower Meridian and the JetPROP.
You’ve mentioned some already about the M600 which is an airplane I look forward to checking out some time, but can you give us some of those ideas of what the differences are?
Joe: Yeah, so the Malibu Mirage with the Continental engine, here's the way I tell people. It'll do 210 knots at 25,000 feet and it'll do 2.5 knots slower every 100 feet you come down. You got a high true airspeed at high altitude. The Lycoming-powered Mirage is going to do exactly the same. Even though the Lycoming is 350 horsepower versus 310 in the Malibu, the Mirage is heavier.
So, the performance between the two is virtually identical. If you're a true aficionado of efficiency, you can find nothing better than a Continental-powered Malibu. You're going to burn less than 16 gallons an hour doing 210 knots at 25,000 feet.
You just can't do any better. Even if you accepted a lower altitude, which is normal to go into the high teens, you're 18,000 to 19,000, 20,000 feet, you're still going to do 200 knots and burn 15 and a half gallons an hour. Those are just phenomenal airplanes.
The Lycoming Mirage, the other problem they have is to keep that those some of the temperatures within the engine. At the right temperature, you got to fly rich of peak, which means that you're going to put more fuel to it.
So, Lycoming Mirage in your-- or in 350, or Matrix we forgot to talk about the Matrix which is nothing more than an unpressurized Mirage but they are out there and it's a good airplane, but they're all going to burn about 21 to 22 gallons an hour. So, they're not as efficient as the Continental powered but there's a lot more of the Lycoming is out there today and the Lycoming that's out there today is a phenomenal airplane.
We really come down to, if you think then older airframe is still a good airframe, and you're not scared of buying something that's older, and I am not scared of buying something older, especially if it's maintained well, I have no qualms buying a mid-80s Continental airplane that's been kept up. If you're that person, then a Continental Malibu can be a great thing.
If you're a person that says no, I really value a newer airframe and have a somewhat lower time and you're just not as old and you want to piston, you're going to end up with an M350 or a Mirage, and it's going to be Lycoming powered and it's a great airplane. If you're efficiency minded, you're going to go to that Malibu, baby, because it's going to perform identically to the Lycoming. But if you want newer, you're going to end up with a Lycoming-powered Mirage or M350.
Adam: Now, it makes a lot of sense and that's good advice too. That's a good way for folks that are in the market for an airplane like this to figure out what their priorities are and select the appropriate version of the aircraft to meet their needs most effectively.
Joe: Yeah. Let's talk about the JetPROP for a second because you asked about that too. I remember when I was taking my private pilot license, the examiner asked me, “What determines rate of climb?” The answer is excess thrust. That's the answer. The most excess thrust you got, that's what's going to be your rate climb.
When you bolt on a 560-horsepower engine on to a what used to have 350, you're talking about all that excess thrust goes into rate of climb and performance. The JetPROP is a spectacular performer. Just spectacular. The issue with the JetPROP is that-- I won't say it wrong, I don't want this to be misconstrued. It's a higher workload in some of the other turbines because it is a conversion. So, what used to be a mixture knob is now a condition lever.
So, in the JetPROP, you have levers that used to be other things like the condition level used to be a mixture and the prop is now a fully feathering prop. You have to manage the fuel a little bit differently in the JetPROP than you would in a piston powered. So, there's some changes that occur there that are maybe not confusing, but you definitely need to know your systems in a JetPROP. A great airplane, but a little more pilot workload if you want to think of it that way.
The Meridian, Piper did a fabulous job of making it very user friendly. There's no prop lever in a Meridian. If you want to adjust the temperature, you just adjust a rheostat, a knob that you turn. The ice door or the ice deflector is nonexistent. You can't move it on a Meridian. So, there's things that Piper just made it easy to be able to fly and Meridian is a very, very easy airplane to fly and a very easy one to manage. It's also newer.
If you were a person that was looking for a turbine and you don't mind an older airframe, well, a mid-90s JetPROP conversion might be exact-- because you can buy them for cheaper, might be your thing. If you're into flying a-- I want the newer airframe, I want the bigger size engine, or the Meridian, or the M500 might be your airplane for you. They're going to perform almost identically, and they're both going to get about 260 knots in cruise at high altitude.
The JetPROP actually climbs a little bit better, but still the Meridian climbs exceptionally well, especially at high altitude. So, where the JetPROP will beat the Meridian to 12,000 feet, the Meridian will beat it from 12,000 to fly low at [unintelligible [00:36:02] out. On the total climb, they're going to be very similar airplanes. If there's an argument against the Meridian is that, you're going to burn more fuel.
The JetPROP is going to burn about 32 gallons an hour and the Meridian is going to burn about 40. The JetPROP is going to burn less. So, it's truly the efficient turbine. But the Meridian is the low workload, easy-to-fly turbine.
I tell people, what are you most excited about? Would you be most excited about owning a 1964 Corvette, three-window Corvette, or would you be most excited about owning a 2021 Corvette? They're both going to cost you about the same. They're going to be six figures.
Which one would you be more excited about? If you're the '64 Corvette, you'd probably want a JetPROP because it's harkened to not as good pilot amenities, higher workload, a manual transmission in that '64 Corvette, but they still go fast, and drive great, and are wonderful machines. If you want the latest, greatest, the newest, the nicest, all the ergonomics that are just spectacular and all the avionics and gizmos that make these really, really safe aircraft then you probably want the latest and greatest.
That really brings it down to that, and I've clients that want the JetPROP because they want efficiency and good climb rates. I have people that want the Meridian M500 because they want the latest, greatest, nicest, and all that. So, there's not that one is bad and the other one's good. They're sort of airframes that have migrated to where they're different people migrate to those specific airframes for specific reasons. But they're both great airplanes.
Adam: Yeah, it sounds like and that's a great analogy that you mentioned with the Corvettes now. Is there a difference in the fuel capacity and useful load between, say, just the normal 500 horsepower Meridian and the JetPROP?
Joe: The JetPROP has less fuel, but it burns less fuel. The Meridian has more fuel, but it burns more. It's interesting, if you look at the most of the engines that are on the JetPROP, most of them are the Dash 35. There is the Dash 21 and Dash 34, but most of the Dash 35. That is the biggest of the small block PT-6, if you don't think of it that way.
Meridian is the smallest of the big blocks. So, you can liken that to-- a Chevy 350 is the biggest of the small block and it doesn't weigh very much produces high horsepower. That's like the JetPROP. The JetPROP has sgot 560 horsepower compared to the Meridians 500.
The engines probably weighed 200 pounds difference just sitting there. The Dash 42 is just a bigger, bulkier, beefier engine and be like a Chevy 400 engine. It's just a big gigantic engine that produces raw horsepower easily even at high altitudes. So, the Meridian is certainly going to burn more fuel and needs that higher capacity, but it really doesn't have the high capacity.
One of the complaints against Meridian is that it doesn't have very long legs. You go about 800 miles and you better have a piece of pavement underneath you in a Meridian, which is one of the reasons that the M600 is really a complete airplane because we've got the much bigger wing in M600, but effectively nearly the same fuel flow.
An M600 will go a long way. You're talking about a long stinking M600. So, they solved the range issues, I guess, you'd say with a Meridian. Most Meridian pilots, if I'm a Meridian owner, I'm lamenting two areas. I'm lamenting range because at 800 miles, you better find a piece of pavement, and I'm also lamenting the payload.
The payload in Meridian is-- even though there's six seats, you're never going to put six seats and full fuel. It's just not going to happen. You're going to go with six people and half fuel or you're going to go with three people in full fuel, you're going to do weight and balance if you own a Meridian. With an M600, you have high gross weight, high fuel capabilities, and you can just simply go.
So, the M600 is certainly a better, more complete airplane than an M500 or Meridian. If you're wanting to take you and one or two of your business associates on a 500-mile trip, well, gosh, you can hardly do better than a Meridian. So, it's just a cheaper purchase price and great performance.
Adam: Yeah, definitely sounds like it. The tradeoff with the Meridian with fuel and passengers with the payload, that probably translates the same way to the piston version of the airplane as well as that, right?
Joe: Yes, but if you look at the earlier Malibu, the early Malibu, you had 120 gallons, and then there's most of them had an adaptation to put 10 more gallons each side. So, 140 gallons. If you have an early Malibu that has 140 gallons, you can fly almost 10 hours. It's ridiculous. You would never in a Malibu just go to the fuel guy and say, “Hey, top her off,” because it's just so much fuel and you just don't need it.
The Malibu is one of the airplanes that is in a niche of itself of where you just never go with full fuel. Because if you have half fuel, you still have five hours of fuel on board. But you're never going to do that with a JetPROP or Meridian.
You're going to be near topping the mains, that's going to be a very normal statement you would tell the line guy, top the mains and one of those, and then you're not going to put six people on board. So, there's definitely a limitation with the-- It's the same thing if you have a Cessna 172. It's got four seats, but it's not really a four-seat airplane.
Joe: Very few airplanes-- Matter of fact, the old running joke in aviation which is true is, how many seats are in an airplane subtract two and that's a good number for flying inb that airplane. Meridian’s a good-- six seats, so it's a good four-person airplane which makes sense.
Adam: Yeah, no, it makes perfect sense, and yeah, that's pretty much the case with most GA airplanes is, there's always a tradeoff between the payload, and fuel, and everything. Sidestepping now to another question. The PA46, at least in my experience, now, a lot of our folks that we deal with are owner pilots, but they maybe younger in their ownership career.
Then of course, we have a lot of folks that are owner-passenger types. So, they're flying around in some of the lighter jets. It seems though in my experience that the PA46 is an overlooked airplane often. Do you find that to be the case and if so, why do you think that might be?
Joe: I think it could be for a couple of reasons. The problems in the early 90s were so dastardly for Piper, they literally had crankshaft failures in flight and props fly off airplanes. The training was so poor back then that pilots were getting just minimal training. They were truthfully people that had more money than aviation sense for buying the airplane and the results were terrible.
The reputation in the marketplace for the PA46 in the early 90s was just atrocious. One of the success stories of that was the foundation of the development of what's now MMOPA which was the Malibu Mirage Owners & Pilots Association, today is The Malibu M-class Owners & Pilots Association. So, fabulous organization. Probably, one of the-- It's certainly in the top tier of owner-pilots' associations out there.
The genesis of MMOPA was to help save the airframe. They literally needed to save the airframe, because the whole airframe had to go through recertification in the early 90s, because the accident rate was so high. Basically, FAA came back and said after this recertification process, this is a great airplane, there's nothing wrong with it. But y'all need to look closely at training, and this engine problem has to be solved. So, they developed an AV on the engine and the training has improved dramatically.
Today, the training you get mostly if you go with a big-name trainer, then you're probably going to get some really good training, I hope. If you come to us, I hope you will. But the problems were severe and you'd be surprised even today there are people that will harken back to an earlier time and say well, “I don't want PA46 because it's not a safe airplane.”
I know it's a very, very safe airplane but it's also an airplane that is flown by owner-flown populations which are nonprofessional pilots. We talked about this earlier, but what it means is that there are some people that fly this airframe that have more money than aviation since, there's people that have or experience, there's people that fly this airplane that have a real strong urge to get to where they're going, and the get-there-itis can bite them where they're flying some bad places, in bad weather and bad situations, and these are constantly things that we're fighting for in the training world is to encourage the pilots to fly the airplane professionally and fly the airplane with wisdom.
We fight this every day as all the others do too, all the other airframes. But in this airplane, there are some accidents, they're quite horrific in the sense of, “Hey, what happened?” and it usually ends up being somebody that flew an airplane erroneously in bad weather in a bad way and ended up with a bad accident. Those have played into this market as a lot of other frames have the same situation.
But we fought against that and there's people that would overlook the airframe because they found an article from 1993 that talks about the bad stuff, but it's really not.
I will tell you the all of the PA46 fleet today, all the variants that are available, again, you've got a bulletproof airplane, you got engines that are now tuned correctly, and then they have all the Lycoming that's bolted onto that airplane is phenomenal today, and all the PT-6 engines are all phenomenal, the systems are all great. It really comes down to the piloting.
It's always about that person in the left front seat. If you're ever going to spend money on the best safety device in an aircraft, you better spend money on that person in that left front seat.
That's the number one safety device in an airplane, is somebody that's making good decisions. We talk about that a lot. So, sometimes, this airframe gets overlooked because of that, but it shouldn't be. It should be, if you're in the owner-flown world, this is a place to look, that's for sure.
Adam: No, very well said, and I think that hits the nail on the head with the training that's this case for almost any airframe that's had any issues in the past. I think Cirrus comes to mind. A lot of it is just training.
On that note of training, I'm sure a lot of folks that step up into the PA46 line are coming from that maybe that 182, a Bonanza or a Cirrus, what training do you think a pilot should undergo to be not only legal to fly the airplane, insurable, and things like that, but also proficient?
Joe: The typical pilot that is going into a piston version of PA46 is coming out of a Bonanza, or a Saratoga, or something with retractable gear. Every now and then, we'll have some coming out of 182 or something. But the training you're going to get is going to be a four-to-five-day initial training event.
It's going to cost you about $7,000 to $8,000 plus, whatever you're going to fly. So, it's a substantial investment that you're going to make into that training and it's going to be one that's going to include, you're going to fly the full envelope of the airplane, you've got to learn pressurization and turbocharging, and all the instrument capabilities, plus emergency procedures.
So, a good instructor with a good program that's insurance approved is going to take four to five days to do that.
Then beyond that, the insurance company may mandate some what we call mentor hours where you're flying missions, but you've got somebody in the right front seat that knows what they're doing, helping you along. Usually, the lower the hours, the more training will be required and the more you've got, the less will be required. But everybody's going to go through insurance-approved training.
We're one of the many good ones, there's lots of them in this marketplace that are good, and we're always looking for more to enter the marketplace as well.
If you're flying a 182 or Saratoga, the training you're going to get in PA46 would probably is going to shock you into how big, and how in depth, and how much you're going to fly to get good at this airplane. It's not because it is a hard airplane, it's just an airplane with immense capabilities, and it takes somebody with a real focus on safety to be able to fly it well.
Adam: Yeah, I remember my first time in a PA46. I just remember feeling that the airplane just seems so much bigger than it is. It seems like a real airplane so to speak. It seems like an airplane that you have to fly the profiles and by the numbers.
That's something that a lot of guys coming from the more simple airplanes, less complex airplanes probably aren't as proficient in. So, I guess that's one of the biggest differences, I suppose, in the training environment and the operational environment of this airplane.
Joe: Yeah, your approach to flying this airplane is exactly like it would be in a bigger airliner, or a King Air, or a Citation. The same mentality, you need to apply to this type of flying. If you want to do it well, you want to go ball your airplane up at the end of the runway, there's other ways to fly, but it ends up poorly. So, this is an airplane that requires a professional approach to the flying.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. Now, do you think for someone that's coming from Bonanza, let's say, is it realistic for them to skip over the piston version of the 46 and go straight into the Meridian, is that a realistic transition.
Joe: Yeah, it can happen. It depends for each individual. If I can say this correctly, I find people that are quick thinkers, digitally minded people that want to learn something new and are presently flying serious in the IFR environment. Now what I mean by that, if you've got a Bonanza, and you're flying it, but if you're scared of going into a 500 overcast-- if there's a 500 overcast and you're like, “Well that's not, there's--" No, you need to be able to fly down to minimums on a habitual basis in that Bonanza.
If that doesn't scare you a bit, then you're repeatedly flying IFR, and you've got your instrument skills down. You're going to need that because you're going to fly every turbine version of the PA46 in the IFR environment on every flight. You need to really be fluent in that environment.
But if you're that person that can fly in that environment, then the move up to a turbine is a logical move and one that you can make. You can bypass the pressurized piston version and move right into the turbine without any trouble. There's going to be some mentor hours and there's going to be some training involved, but we do it all the time.
In fact, I encourage people to do it from a sense, if they're willing to apply that professionalism, and really go to the training, and really learn, I encourage them to do it, because you're bypassing some expense. In other words, every time you buy and sell an airplane, you're probably going to lose a little money in the deal. So, if you can bypass a certain element and get to that next one--
As a matter of fact, there's a guy named Patrick that comes to mind, a good customer of mine. He came out of a Cirrus. We helped him buy Meridian with 450 hours in his blog book, went through-- I mean 450 hours, he was phenomenal. Really, really good and really studious.
This particular pilot just sold his Meridian, bought an M600 SLS, is going to training and I'm telling you right now, he probably has, I don't know, 700 hours now. But this particular pilot, I put him up there with some of the best of the best. Just a really good pilot. What I mean by that is hours in the logbook don't always correlate to proficiency in the airplane.
You can have lower hours, if those are good quality hours that you had a good approach to the flying. If you're just boring holes in the sky, you're probably not ready for it. But if you're somebody that is planning IFR, where you're trying hard to be precise, then moving into a turbine is, it's another airframe for which to be precise. I find the best pilots in the world to be the ones that are always seeking precision. So, if you're that person, you're not a cowboy, you're not out there flapping. you're seeking precision in what you're doing. Then, I think you can move up to a turbine pretty quickly.
Adam: Very interesting and good points there, for sure. Something I'm curious about you alluded to it a little bit earlier is being at the airplane is still in production today, all three variants of it now, what do you think is a better value between the new production airplanes and some of the older ones?
Joe: There are people that have that mindset on both sides of it-- You're exactly right. The term you're looking for is airframe reserves. What that means is, if you've got a 1984 Malibu, then the airframe reserve, the cost of flying that hour is a couple dollars per hour, meaning that, if 1984 Malibu has 3,000 hours or 4,000 hours, they're going to be about the same value in terms of their frame.
If you go buy a 2020 M600 SLS, that thing is plummeting in value because it's just like if you bought a new car off the car lot. You drive those first miles of car lot, that car just dropped $5,000 in value. So, a newer airframe is plummeting in value the first hours that it flew from us. And that number is going down, down, down, down, down.
So, a savvy buyer that's looking for value is going to realize that 1984 or 1989, or whatever earlier model, airframe is going do the exact same thing as one that rolls off the factory floor today. So, you're really just paying for new and nice. If you're a person that has the coin and the desire to buy new and nice will go buy new and nice. It is new and it's nice.
But you can take a 1984, or 1986, or 1987 of Malibu, and you can pour some money into that and end up with a brand-new paint, brand-new interior, a panel that is spectacularly comparative to a brand new airplane, but a heated windshield, a brand-new engine, and a three-blade prop, and you have got yourself a stellar aircraft that you didn't pay that much for in the grand scheme of things of what you actually got.
So, value purchases are available out there and value airplanes are available. I'll tell you today, the hottest airplane in the PA46 market is what I call a legacy G1000 Meridian 2009 through about 2015, those are just flying off the market right now. You can hardly find one.
Joe: Just so in demand. That's an airplane that you're not going to find value, that seller is going to get retail for that airplane. An airplane that would be where you can get a good value on is, say a 2001, where somebody puts some nice avionics in their 2001 Meridian, they put some nice avionics, it's got a gross weight increase kit and a hot section not long ago.
Well, that airplane could be a phenomenal airplane that could really be bought at a purchase of good value. You need to know the market place in-- You don't want to make a mistake when you're dealing with these digits. But if you know what you're looking for and you know what you're seeking, you can find that airplane of value.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely, and those are all the points that I wanted our listeners to really listen to and understand, because they don't always see the value proposition is with various years and with the equipment. All these factors weigh into it.
Have you seen clients that are flying maybe like a King Air 90 today, and they step down into the PA46? Of course, we are used to people that step up in airplanes, but have you seen folks maybe step back into the 46 due to its capability and efficiency?
Joe: Yeah, not as often as you would think, but we do see that. I can think of three clients that move down airplane this year, and we helped them with that. What ends up happening is a lot of times a person uses a King Air or something with their business, and then they either retire from their business or they have a life change that happens.
They don't go as far to carry as many people but they still want to fly. Usually, these people are very efficiency minded. If you had a business where you were flying three, four, five, six, seven clients to far around, you really needed a King Air. But now if you sold your business and it's just you and you still want to go skiing in the mountains and seeing the grandkids on the East Coast, well, all of a sudden that PA46 looks really good. An empty backseat of a King Air looks really bad. So, you do see those people that have a life change that move down, and it usually goes exceedingly well. They really appreciate the performance and capability of this airplane.
Adam: Yeah, I would imagine in most cases, it doesn't feel like they're really stepping down too much because the performance of the airplane is probably similar to what they were flying.
Adam: Could you give us an idea-- I know there's different ways to slice up costs of ownership. Can you give us an idea of what it costs to own and operate both the piston version and the turbine version of the PA46 and what on average people can expect to pay in maintenance over the course of a year so?
Joe: Yeah, let's say you're already an airplane owner and let's say you own a Cirrus or Bonanza, or Saratoga. If that number is x, you're currently flying Bonanza or Saratoga or Cirrus and you're paying x to fly that, then you're going to pay about 1.2 times x to fly a piston version of PA46. When I say that, that's for the nautical mile. In other words, you're going faster, so you've got to go fly fewer hours. That's about the number though that you would expect about, 1.2x.
Things in Cirrus is that the insurance is going to be cheaper in a Cirrus and the annual inspections cheaper in a Cirrus. A piston PA46, I would give it just a rough number that your annual inspection is going to cost between $10,000 and $15,000 on average, is what I think it cost all in. But the times where you need to replace a cylinder or two is going to be the expensive years and the years you don't are going to be the cheaper ones.
But you need to budget that dollar figure into it. I've got a post on my website that talks about expenses where I have a document that basically has all the hangar, insurance, oil, and maintenance, as all these numbers fit into their airframe reserve, engine reserve, all these fit in, and so you can look at all the numbers and you get down in the weeds as far as you want to get down in the weeds.
So, it's really hard to remember to say these costs this much dollars. But usually, it's comparative analysis to what you're presently doing.
If you're presently doing a Cirrus Bonanza, Saratoga, it's going to be about 1.2x for a piston, probably 1.4x for a turbine, a JetPROP for sure, maybe a little bit more for a Meridian. But again, you're going so much faster, it's so much different of a flight regime. But I would say that the numbers are not dastardly different with the arguable exception of acquisition price.
In other words, if there's some Cirruses out there that are crowning a million dollars and if you're flying-- I have a lot of clients that own a Cirrus, a $900,000 Cirrus that sell that Cirrus and buy a $900,000 JetPROP. So, their acquisition costs are the same. Their operational costs are not that big a difference. They're just not that great. They're writing a bigger check for insurance because you've got a retractable gear airplane with a half-million-dollar engine on the front.
So, the insurance company is going to buoy their potential loss in you not putting the gear down, where you don't have to worry about that in a Cirrus. That Cirrus, every 25, 35 hours or so, you're going to go get an oil change for 250 bucks. That JetPROP, you might not pull the cowling off that airplane from annual to annual.
Joe: It's just a different game, if that makes sense. So, usually if you're going to get into turbine world acquisition costs are a little bit higher, but operational costs in the PA46 are not significantly different than the piston versions of other airframes.
Adam: Interesting. You mentioned earlier that the older airframes are still a good airplane to buy if they're well maintained. Can you give us some idea of other than the annual inspection? Are there other maintenance requirements that are maybe not required or recommended that you think healthy PA46 should have had done over the years?
Joe: There's a whole list of service bulletins and service letters, but I would tell you this. There are some wonderful PA46-centric shops that are out in the world. There's a gob of them. I won't go to names right now, but you can go to my website and see some of the people that we go to. If your airframe was maintained by a good high-quality shop, and by that I mean that they're not just people that work on a PA46, but they are people that work only on a PA46 or that if you go open the hangar door to their hangar and 90% of what's sitting in that hangar is a PA46, then you're pretty much going to be able to know that you're in the right place and you're getting an airplane that has most of the service bulletins and things that you need to keep that airplane alive going.
If you're buying looking at an airplane that has been to a shop that does not focus on that, then you're rolling the dice and I don't know what you're looking at. But if you came out one of the premier shops-- and I don't mean service center. Service centers are great in the PA46. I'm not dogging them. Don't hear that. But I'm telling you there's some non-service center, PA46-centric shops that do nothing but PA46s that are fabulous.
You don't have to hear the word 'service center." If you hear the Malibu Airspace, Kevin Mead, Midwest Malibu, Sun Aviation, High Performance, these types of shops are not service centers, but they're turning out great products all the time. If it's a shade tree mechanic, you better look out. If it's a PA46 centric shop, you're probably doing the right things.
Adam: Yeah, and that's probably the case for most airplanes out, there finding a shop that is focused on a particular make a model airplane, and people get confused or caught up in the idea of a service center. In reality, the service center is nothing more than a couple of extra papers on the shelf that dictate that their service center doesn't necessarily, automatically mean that they're better than others.
Now, before we let you go, I know we're running a little short on time. What advice do you have for someone that is considering stepping up into a PA46? What's one thing you would share with that person that is looking to go ahead and make the jump?
Joe: Well, number one, do it. There's a little bit of a fear factor of can I fly pressurized, turbocharged, high altitude, there's a lot airplane, and this is the stuff that you don't want to messed up. But do it because you're going to broaden your experiences by moving up in an airplane. So, this is an airplane that if you're affording a lower airplane, then you can probably afford this. It's not that big if the numbers don't scare you, but if the experience scares you. I
'd say then overlook that or fight that fear, because it's not a hard airplane to fly. It's just one that you have to have a more professional approach, and gaining that professional approach is actually a lot of fun. You enter into a new world of aviation that's really cool. I tell people all the time that whatever you did in your other airplane, I'm saying, whether you had a Bonanza, Saratoga, Cessna 182, 210, whatever it happens to be, you're going to have a thing called mission creep.
Meaning, that if you used to fly 100 hours a year and you bought a PA46, and you think you're going to fly less, you're not. You're going to fly more. Because you're now flying a more capable airplane, and the more capable airplane allows you to do missions that you didn't know you could do.
I repeatedly hear people that get into this world that end up flying more than they thought they were going to fly because their mission creeped up, and what they were allowed to do crept up, and that's a blessing.
What I mean by that is now all of a sudden, you got an airplane that will go halfway across the country nonstop, so, you don't have to get on the airliner for that big long flight. You can go see the grandkids in Florida and it's only a three-hour flight. It ain't that bad. So, I would say if you're thinking about it and it's on your radar, then put feet to those thoughts and go pursue a little bit more. Like I said, all the PA46 airframes today are spectacular airplanes that are just phenomenal or they can be made into such.
So, if you buy something that has bad avionics, you can rip the whole panel out and put put the latest and greatest in. So, it's a wonderful time to be in aviation, it's a wonderful time to be in the PA46 world, because, again, there's not a close second.
Adam: All right.
Joe: I used to fly a Cessna 210P. That's not half the airplane that this is from a performance standpoint. I own a Bonanza, an N35, 1961 model that I love. But if I want to go to Florida or a long way, if I got 500 miles to go, I want to go in pressurized turbocharged comfort. So, I would say if you're thinking about it, if this is on your radar, assuage those fears and jump in the game, it's a cool place to be.
Adam: I think that's excellent advice and, on that note, how can people reach out to you or learn more about Casey Aviation, of course, the place to go to get more information about the PA46?
Joe: Yeah, go to flycasey.com, F-L-Y-C-A-S-E-Y dotcom. Everything we got-- I've got more articles on these airplanes. We have a rule that if we've got information, we put it out. We don't withhold a thing. So, I've got videos, and articles, and stuff on there that's just all about the PA46. The other one, if you're really interested in the PA46, you can't do better than to join MMOPA prior to you owning the airplane.
They have a wonderful forum there, it's a great group of people. You'll find that the people in the PA46 world are incredibly open and they are a gathering people. They're not repelling at all. So, flycasey.com and mmopa.org are the two websites I'd be checking out for sure.
Adam: Definitely, and I will put links to your website and the MMOPA on our show notes at airplaneintelpodcast.com. Joe, I could tell you that people need to check out your website because you do have a great video library explaining various systems of the aircraft, and flight profiles, and everything, and it's a great way to get introduced to the airplane.
So, everyone needs to check that out. But hey, Joe, I appreciate your time today. It was awesome speaking with you. I'd love to have you on again and more importantly, I'd love to go fly with you some time.
Joe: Hey, I appreciate you letting me be here and you've got an open invite to come fly with me. I love to look forward to that potential.