Plane & Pilot
Monday, March 1, 2004

Getting Better All The Time

With an increase in useful load and some refinements to the avionics, Piper’s turbine Meridian continues to evolve

piperWhen New Piper first took the wraps off its Meridian, they set some rather lofty performance goals for their first single-engine turboprop. They needed to. Their target buyer was someone who would be moving up from either a high-end piston single or twin. They also wanted the Meridian’s performance and capabilities to attract owners who were already flying older turboprops, like King Airs and Cheyennes, but who may be in the mood for a new airplane that gave them the performance they were used to, while cutting their fuel and engine-maintenance bills virtually in half.
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Suma adds that, of the 170-plus Meridians already delivered since November of 2000, 80% are owner-flown and the rest are manned by professionals. “That was one of the criteria in choosing our avionics,” continues Suma. “We needed them to be both state-of-the-art and very user-friendly at the same time.” From the beginning, the Meridian has been equipped with Meggitt’s Magic flat-panel displays coupled to Garmin 530s.

Factory Comparison: New Piper Meridian
Socata TBM 700C2
Pilatus PC-12
New Piper Mirage
Price (comparably equipped): $1,750,000$2,150,000
$2,800,000 $929,200
Engine Horsepower (shp): 500
7001200 350
Gross Weight (lbs.): 51347430
9920 4340
Std. Empty Weight (lbs.): 3394
Useful Load (lbs.): 174027454188
Fuel Capacity (gals.):170282
Payload, Full Fuel (lbs.):720
Max Cruise (kts.):260
Climb Rate (fpm):
Sources: Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest, New Piper Aircraft, Inc., Socata Aircraft

While the Meridian is a wonderful airplane, truth be told, its airframe is really a beefed-up Piper Malibu—a fine airplane in its own right. The thing that really sets the Meridian apart and gives this thoroughbred its giddy-up is that 500 shp Pratt & Whitney, PT6A-42A, arguably, one of the most “bullet-proof” powerplants on the planet. The -42A not only gives the Meridian plenty of punch, it also provides that added degree of confidence and reliability that the not-quite-professional owner/pilot will really appreciate. And it delivers the goods to get you up and over the bad stuff in a hurry.

“After years of slogging around at altitudes that put me right in the middle of the weather and flying a lot of night IFR, I yearned for a plane that could take me up to where I could get over the stuff,” says Catalano. “With my Meridian, I’m routinely up there around FL290. Maybe not over all the weather, but most of it, for sure.”

Another benefit that Meridian owner/pilots enjoy is the cool turbine “growl” that you get when the prop is cycled between its pitch ranges. Hey, if you’ve dropped nearly $1.8 million on an airplane, you deserve the ability to announce your arrival.

The Meridian also treats its pilots to a reduced workload. Along with its state-of-the-art avionics suite, it also has a true single-lever engine control. Everything is automatic. The computer sets the optimum propeller pitch to meet your power selection. Push it forward for fast and pull it back for slow. The Meggitt system has also done away with the failure-prone vacuum system and gone with a much more accurate and reliable dual Air Data and Attitude Heading Reference System (ADAHRS). Of course, in the unlikely event of a total failure, pilots can rely on a set of all-electric standby instruments.

“As far as systems management and workload go, my Meridian is much easier to fly than my Ovation,” adds Catalano. “It’s an ideal single-pilot IFR airplane. Even the fuel is automatically balanced. Just make sure you have enough for the flight and the plane does the rest, until you land.”

In fact, when asked about the greatest hurdle facing pilots transitioning from a high-performance single or twin up to Piper’s turbine Meridian, New Piper program manager Stan Riker says, “The airplane flies like you’d expect, only things happen a lot faster. New pilots think the airplane to be much more challenging than it is. Really, the biggest challenge for a competent pilot, other than learning to fly up so high, is mastering all that the Meggitt and Garmin boxes can do.”


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