The Piper PA-46 Malibu, known plainly as the Piper Malibu, is a light aircraft that is manufactured by The Piper Aircraft Company of the United States. The aircraft is powered by a single engine and has the capacity for one pilot and five passengers. Early Malibus were all piston-engined, but a turboprop version, the Malibu Meridian, is also available. The piston powered Malibus may be converted to turboprop with the Jetprop DLX conversion.
The aircraft is the third pressurized cabin class piston powered aircraft with only one engine to ever reach the market (the Mooney M22 and Cessna P210 Centurion being the others). It is sold mainly for civilian customers; small airlines (such as air tour companies) may also include the aircraft on their fleet.
Work on the PA-46 began in the late 1970s, with a prototype (the PA-46-300T) first flying on November 30 1979. The type was announced in November 1982, apparently to compete with Cessna's newest creation of the era, the P210 Centurion. Like the Centurion, the Malibu was to feature cabin pressurization, a feature not included on the prototype.
The first example of the initial production version flew in August 1982, and FAA certification was obtained in September 1983. Deliveries started one month later. 404 aircraft with Continental TSIO-520 engines were built before this model was replaced in production by the 350P.
The PA-46-310P is powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors TSIO-520BE engine rated at 310 hp (230 kW). The PA-46-310P has several advantages over newer aircraft, including the Mirage. Fuel consumption, range, and the ability to cruise at "lean-of-peak" are three interrelated advantages of the original Malibu. The PA-46-310P has a maximum cruising range of 1550 nautical miles (with reserves), while the PA-46-350P initially had a maximum cruising range of only 1,055 nautical miles (1,954 km), although it has since been increased to 1,345 nautical miles (2,491 km)..
The PA-46-310P Malibu has set several world speed records: Seattle to New York set November 23, 1987 at 259.27 mph; Detroit to Washington, DC set January 4, 1989 at 395.96 mph; and Chicago to Toronto set on January 8, 1989 at 439.13 mph. All 3 records were set by Steve Stout in his 1986 Malibu N9114B..
The Continental-powered Malibu was discontinued in 1986 following a series of incidents and accidents attributed to engine failures. One such accident resulted in a settlement in which Teledyne Continental Motors paid over USD$32,000,000 to a pilot injured in the crash of a Malibu. The poor record of the original Malibu may be attributed to improper engine operation. Unlike virtually every other Continental engine in production at the time, the TSIO-520BE was designed to be operated with mixture set to the lean side of peak TIT ("Lean of Peak"). However, due to habit, misunderstanding, or poor advice, many pilots chose to operate with the mixture on the rich side of peak TIT ("Rich of Peak"), which is how most other airplane engines were operated at the time. On that engine, such operation caused excessively high engine temperatures and cylinder pressures, and led to premature failures. Owners of original Malibus who operate the engine Lean of Peak as recommended have had excellent reliability.
PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage
Production of the Malibu Mirage commenced in October 1988. New features included a more powerful Textron Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A 350 hp (263 kW) engine and a new wing. This model remains in production as of 2008. Various changes have occurred over the model years. Earlier models had an all King panel and later this became largely Garmin. The Avidyne Entegra "Glass Cockpit" is now standard in the Mirage. In 1995, the pilot's windshield became a glass assembly (earlier it had been acrylic glass with a heat strip overlay). In 1996, numerous switches were moved to an overhead console. In 1999, the Mirage gained the strengthened wing designed for the turboprop Meridian. The base price for a 2008 Malibu Mirage is USD$1,141,500.
PA-46-500TP Malibu Meridian
In 1997, Piper announced its intention to market a turboprop-powered version of the Malibu, and flew a prototype the following year powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A of 500 shp (373 kW). Certification was achieved in September 2000 and deliveries began in November that year. Changes made to allow for turboprop power include larger wings and tail surfaces.
In October 2007 Piper announced the Matrix, an unpressurized version of the Mirage. It seats six and its base price is $757,000 (2007 USD). Piper announced it had 100 orders for the Matrix as of October 5, 2007. The new model has been designated as the PA-46R-350T, indicating retractable landing gear, 350 horsepower (260 kW), turbocharged.
The Matrix's powerplant is a turbocharged Lycoming TI0-540-AE2A producing 350 hp (260 kW). The aircraft's performance includes a cruise speed of 215 knots at 25,000 feet (7,600 m), 215 knots (398 km/h) at 17,500 and 188 knots (348 km/h) at 12,000 feet (3,700 m). Maximum take-off weight is 4,340 lb (1,970 kg) and an empty weight of 2,937 lb (1,332 kg) giving a standard useful load of 1,421 lb (645 kg).
Matrix deliveries began in early 2008.
The JetPROP DLX is an aftermarket turbine engine conversion for the PA46-310 Malibu and PA46-350 Malibu Mirage. Originally certified in August 1998 with a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34, conversions 90 and above used the P&W PT6A-35 when the -34 was discontinued. A lower cost JetPROP DL conversion became available in October 2003 utilizing the P&W PT6A-21. As of September 2008, 233 JetPROP conversions had been completed and delivered by Rocket Engineering of Spokane, WA. Twenty percent of the entire PA46 fleet have been converted.
The PA-46 family of aircraft are supported by an active aircraft type club, The Malibu/Mirage Owner and Pilots Association.
Specifications (PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage)
Published - July 2009
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