The Piper Malibu Mirage is as close as you can come to a "no excuses" piston single. Its 350-horsepower Lycoming TIO-540 engine lets you cruise at altitudes up to 25,000 feet and true airspeeds as fast as 225 knots. With a full load of fuel and a long-range cruise power setting, Piper claims the Mirage can fly three people about 1,450 nautical miles and land with IFR fuel reserves. At high-speed cruise, maximum range is a respectable 980 nm.
Newer Mirages, as in the ones produced in the mid 90’s, come with known-icing certification and a Bendix/King RDR-2000 color weather radar, complete with vertical profiling capability. Add lightning detection equipment and you've got a fighting chance at dealing with most adverse weather.
These Mirages have an extensive roster of standard equipment, including a whole slew of AlliedSignal avionics, complete with slaved compass, KC-291 yaw damper, KFC-150 flight control system, and KAS-297B altitude alerter and vertical speed selector. Also thrown into the deal are an IFR-certified Bendix/King GPS 90B, copilot flight instruments, dual glide slope indicators, a Mode S transponder, and a six-place PS Engineering intercom with CD player. There's even a relief tube.
Bleed air from the Mirage's twin Garrett AirResearch turbochargers lets you fly at sea-level cabin altitudes up to 13,000 feet; at the airplane's maximum operating altitude, a 5.5-pounds per square inch pressure differential keeps cabin altitudes at 8,000 feet.
Then there are the aesthetic, ergonomic, and tactile aspects of the airplane. Leather seats, a relatively wide cabin, and inflatable lumbar support for the pilot and copilot seats make for a very comfortable ride. And its handling qualities are admirable. Control forces are light in all axes — surprisingly so in the roll axis, given the 43-foot-long wing span. There is a proclivity to yaw in turbulence, and this is no doubt because of the interactive effects of the wings' high aspect ratios and the longitudinal short coupling. This is where the yaw damper comes in handy.
Hailed, reviled, then resurrected — all against the backdrop of a faltering parent company tainted by bankruptcy — the Mirage's strengths have sustained the marque through thick and thin. With 41 slated for production in 1995, the Mirage was expected to account for 40 percent of Piper's total anticipated sales of 173 airplanes and outsell every other model that the company was producing. It was Piper’s strongest player in its effort to recover from bankruptcy, and it's still more popular than ever.
Piper Malibu Mirage
Thomas A. Horne, AOPA Pilot, June 1995