No one makes it easier for a pilot to step up to a turboprop than Piper Aircraft. Product-wise, Piper’s PA-46 M-Class pistons provide the perfect transition platforms to the turbine-powered PA-46 Meridian. From a price/performance perspective, the Meridian arguably delivers the best bang for the buck among turboprop singles. And operationally, no OEM has made a turboprop that’s easier to operate than the Meridian. “It’s a turboprop airplane for the man who’s never flown a turboprop, so we want to make it as simple as we can,” said Bart Jones, Piper’s chief pilot, as we did a walkaround of CGAMM at the Piper factory in Vero Beach, Fla. “This is the most simple turbine engine airplane I’ve ever flown.”
The brand-new Canadian-registered Meridian would be starting homeward the following day, but the owner had graciously allowed Piper to use it first to show off the current generation of Piper’s flagship product, which includes a new interior soft-goods upgrade introduced a year ago. With its 260-knot top cruise speed and 30,000-foot ceiling, you need to climb up to altitude and go somewhere to get to know this airplane. Mindful that AMM was headed to Canada, far from its balmy birthplace, we decided to give it a proper tropical send off and filed direct for Key West, 200 nm south-southwest, at flight level 240.