Plane & Pilot
Thursday, December 1, 2005

New Piper Meridian

Entry-level turbine with an all-glass cockpit

piper meridianThe newer generation of pilots may not remember that Piper had a proud tradition of building turboprops long before the advent of the company’s current flagship, the Meridian. As far back as the mid-1970s, Piper was selling Cheyennes, and true Piper trivia buffs like to remind us that the company also built a turboprop version of the P-51 Mustang called the Enforcer. Piper attempted to market the fire-breathing Enforcer to U.S. and foreign governments as an economical, military ground-pounder. (The Enforcer mounted a whopping 2,455 shp Lycoming turbine out front and could carry a range of ordinance.)
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With 500 shp on tap from the PT6A-42A, the Meridian comes off the ground cleanly at 80 knots and starts uphill aggressively. Clean up the underwing, hold 110 knots, and you’ll see an easy 1,500-fpm climb at gross, more like 2,000 fpm flying with full fuel and only two pilots up front. As mentioned above, torque limit is 1,330 pounds, and if you keep pushing and maintain that power as you climb, torque will begin to fall below the maximum at about 20,000 feet. In ISA conditions, plan on reaching 18,000 feet in 15 minutes and 25,000 feet in just under a half hour. The PA-46T isn’t certified for reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) operation, so the airplane is limited to FL280 and below. During certain times of the year, however, that may not be the only altitude limitation. The airplane has no fuel heaters, and that constrains the Meridian operation to fuel temperatures no colder than minus-34 degrees C. Remember, those are fuel temperatures, not OATs. The wet wing-tanks probably insulate the fuel a few degrees, so the OAT limit may be minus-37 degrees C or so.

Still, if you operate a New Piper Meridian up high in the northern United States or Canada during winter, you’re liable to see temperatures that cold or colder at heights well below the airplane’s maximum legal altitude of 28,000 feet. That can be a problem, and Piper is currently working on a fix.

Most pilots don’t buy an airplane in this class to fly at economy cruise, and given its head, the Meridian can speed along at 250 knots at 25,000 feet. If your mission allows a maximum fuel load, you can pump 170 gallons aboard the essentially all-wet wing. At a typical burn of 33 to 37 gph, that’s enough for a realistic 3.5 hours plus reserve or almost 900 nm between pit stops.

The airplane I flew was New Piper’s primary corporate transport—Jones flies it regularly with company president Chuck Suma in the back. I spent about three hours total flying with Jones, including an abbreviated run to altitude and an hour-long air-to-air session with a slower camera ship. Air-to-air is a great way to get to know an airplane because low-speed characteristics are more significant than high-speed habits. The Meridian proved an easy machine to drive along at 130 knots 10 to 20 feet from the Saratoga SP photo ship. Somehow, it seemed only appropriate that we elected to do the photo shoot above the beaches of Malibu in California.


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