Line up on centerline and hold the brakes. Take a deep breath and focus. Things are going to start happening fast. Slide the power lever forward with your right hand to max takeoff power, 1,313 foot-pounds of torque. Listen as the turbine winds from a low-pitched whine into a throaty howl. The airplane absorbs the force of the four-bladed Hartzell prop biting into the air, compresses the nose strut and pitches down a little. Feel the plane straining against the brakes, hunkering into a sprinter’s crouch as if waiting for the starter’s gun. Your eyes make a last check of the annunciator panel—it’s dark as it should be for takeoff—and of the engine readouts on the multi-function display (MFD), which show that it’s fully ready, willing and able. It’s time to fly, so roll your toes back off the brakes while readying your right foot for action; you’re going to be managing some 500 horses of Pratt & Whitney PT6A during the takeoff roll.
The smooth, slingshot acceleration shoves you into the leather seat as the airspeed numbers on the primary flight display (PFD) begin their upward race, and you find that the nosewheel steering is absolutely solid, sure and so intuitive that staying on the centerline seems only to require thinking about applying pressure to the rudder pedals.
|The Piper Meridian cruises down the Atlantic shore, near Piper’s factory in Vero Beach, Fla. |
In moments, 85 knots appears on the airspeed readout, and you give a brief tug on the control wheel, then almost immediately relax the pull to finesse the nosewheel just clear of the runway. The airplane rolls for a second or two longer, then makes it utterly clear that it’s finished with the ground and begins clawing its way skyward. Positive rate of climb established, you snap the gear selector up, mindful of the 129-knot maximum speed for retracting the gear as the airspeed passes through 100 knots indicated, heading for the 125-knot best-rate-of-climb speed.
This is Piper’s latest iteration of the Meridian (www.piper.com
), aviation’s personal hot rod, and right now it’s kicking hard, right in the seat of the pants, and I can’t help but think about the Shelby Mustang I used to play around with. It sure couldn’t match this ride.
Nailing Vy, I watch the rate of climb settle at about 1,400 fpm, even though I have the airplane right at gross weight. I’ve got a full load of fuel in the wings, 1,120 pounds (170 gallons) worth, enough to take me over 1,000 nm with VFR reserves at max cruise once I get up into the flight levels where the engine moderates its appetite for jet fuel.
Leveling off at FL250 (max operating altitude is FL300), I select max cruise and watch as the true airspeed on the Avidyne display settles down at 263 knots, three knots faster than what Piper promises in the POH. The club seating of the cabin can fit four passengers and includes such high-end amenities as reclining seats and a beverage cabinet. With the S-TEC autopilot taking care of things, there’s ample time to look around the elegantly understated cabin of the Meridian.
On the remarkably uncluttered panel in front is the flat-panel Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. Its two PFDs flank an MFD that seamlessly integrates the dual Garmin GNS 430 GPS/COM and the S-TEC digital autopilot. Pilots can pick and choose how they want to display information on the screens, which feature satellite weather, detailed engine operation data (engine information may be downloaded by your maintenance technician for trend and condition monitoring), traffic alerting, large-scale moving maps, airborne radar and charts and approach plates. You can use Meridian’s flight-into-known-icing capability when passing through ice-bearing clouds on the climb out. It’s safe to say that not only is the Meridian aviation’s personal hot rod, but it also has weather capabilities that make it an ideal personal transportation machine.
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