Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Piston Singles Buyer's Guide 2013

You want it, you got it: trainers, cross-country haulers, bush planes and more!

Liberty Aerospace

Liberty XL2
Liberty XL2
Derived from the Europa XS motorglider, the XL2 is a wider, taller, two-seat airplane, with modified landing gear and a Continental IOF-240B, FADEC-controlled engine driving an MT composite prop. Intended primarily as a trainer, the XL2 features an all-metal, laminar flow wing with a composite fuselage, a 4130 chromoly tricycle gear and a Piper-style stabilator rather than an elevator. Fuel is contained in a single, 28-gallon, fuselage tank, so the system is either on or off. Cruise is 113 knots, and stall is an insignificant 50 knots. After selling only three airplanes in 2011 and none in 2012, the Chinese order of 200 XL2s certainly should revive the airplane's prospects. All airplanes in the new order will be built in China. No price had been announced at press time.

Piper Aircraft

Piper Archer TX/LX
Piper Archer TX/LX
After its brief aborted flirtation with an LSA trainer, the Piper Sport, the company's entry-level airplane has settled down to the Archer TX/LX. The two designations describe a trainer and a luxury version respectively. The trainer version comes with teaching machine avionics, while the LX model adds a Garmin G500 glass PFD and upscale trim. Both offer the same performance—800 fpm climb and a 130-knot cruise at 7,500 feet. Perhaps foremost of the Archer's talents, however, is its docile nature for student pilots and old-timers, as well. The stall is practically non-existent, and landings make everyone look good. Price: $319,200.

Piper Arrow
The Arrow is currently the only complex trainer available from an OEM. It's also, more than coincidentally, the most benign retractable in the sky, partially owing to its lineage with the Archer. The Arrow IS essentially an Archer, but with the addition of a constant speed prop, 20 additional hp and folding gear, it comprises a class of one. If you're looking for a light, production, single-engine retractable, you've just found it. (Yes, there's the G36 Bonanza, but that's hardly a trainer.) Price: $414,900.

Piper Matrix
An unpressurized, semi-economy clone of the Mirage, the Matrix gains about 190 pounds of payload by forgoing an inflatable cabin. Weight loss has become the goal of practically every manufacturer these days, and the Matrix incorporates a simple solution. It also costs about $130,000 less and is blessed with the same power and gross weight, so it's not surprising that the Matrix achieves all the same performance goals as the Mirage, while carrying one more person (for a total of four with full fuel). Price: $903,800.

Piper Mirage PA46-350P
Everyone's friend and the airplane that almost single-handedly kept Piper afloat in the volatile 1990s, the Mirage is the only production, pressurized, piston single on the market. Though it doesn't look that much different than the original, Continental-powered Malibu, the Mirage's Lycoming boasts an extra 40 hp and an additional 200 pounds gross weight. Reliable cruise is 210 knots following a 1,000 fpm climb for the first 10,000 feet or so. Like all turbocharged aircraft, the Mirage does its best work in the flight levels, but owners in a recent survey reported operating at 17,500 feet MSL or below most of the time where cruise is still 200 knots. Price: $1,037,400.


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