October 10, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Piper Aircraft is already producing the 2012 models of its Malibu, Matrix, and Meridian models with nine improvements compared to previous models. The company terms the three models as its “M” class aircraft.
In addition, tooling is being installed in its new Altaire jet factory in preparation for the redesigned jet’s first flight in 2012.
M-class improvements include easier cockpit access, which required a redesign of seats and a handhold between the pilot and copilot’s seas; sculpted side panels for better elbow room; enhanced LED lighting; Bose headsets; improved ventilation; better seating; additional power outlets; performance chart improvements to reflect calculations for additional altitudes; and new paint schemes. There’s even a larger map pocket designed to hold an iPad.
The greatest of the improvements is a redesign of seats, allowing easier access to the cockpit. Seats behind the cockpit can fold flat, as can the copilot seat. When flying alone, the pilot can fold down the copilot seat to reveal cup holders and a writing surface or desk area to hold an iPad. New 110-volt outlets allow power to computers, or for recharging electronic devices.
The Altaire jet is scheduled for a critical design review in the fourth quarter of 2011. Piper is already bonding sections for the aft cabin skin.
Although second-quarter deliveries as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association were down, 33 compared to 45 for the same quarter of 2010, results for the company flagship—the Meridian—were up. Piper delivered eight PA-46R-500TP Meridians in the first half of 2010, but delivered 14 in the first half of 2011. Total billings were up slightly in the second quarter, to $31.1 million and were up $8 million in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period of 2010, to $26.1 million.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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