Piper Aircraft upped its game in the single-engine turboprop market April 13 with the introduction of the M600, a higher-performing version of the Meridian. The M600 leads the new M-class series of airplanes, all based on the original PA-46 Malibu. The family now also includes the M500—the latest variant of the Meridian, and the M350, an upgraded version of the Mirage piston-powered single.
Using customer and dealer feedback, Piper set out to address the shortcomings of the Meridian, which debuted in 1999. While using the same fuselage as the other PA-46s, the M600 incorporates an all-new wing that allows for an additional 90 gallons of fuel, extending the range from just short of 1,000 nautical miles for the M500 to 1,300 nm with reserves for the M600. In addition, the M600 gets a maximum gross weight increase to 6,000 pounds, a 900-lb boost over the M500. In all, the M600’s standard useful load jumps to 2,400 lbs compared to the M500’s 1,698 lbs.
Simon Caldecott, Piper president and CEO, says the 700-lb difference allows the PA-46 to move into the class of a true business airplane because it has the payload to accommodate a professional pilot in addition to a reasonable payload for passengers and bags. With that, he sees new markets opening for the company.
The announcements involving the new models came during a gala event at the Piper factory in Vero Beach, Florida, for hundreds of dealers, customers, prospects, and the media. As Caldecott announced the M600, staff pulled a black drape from over a full-scale mockup. As a hangar door next to Caldecott opened the entire company workforce of 800 stood behind one of the three M600 test airplanes, clearly proud of the company’s latest addition.
The M600’s improvements in range and payload do not come at a speed penalty. When FAA certification is achieved this fall, the new model is expected to retain the M500’s maximum cruise of 260 knots true airspeed, thanks in part to an additional 100 shaft horsepower from the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A engine, the change to a radar pod embedded in the wing leading edge rather than an under-wing pod, and other aerodynamic cleanups.
Besides structural changes, the M600 also includes avionics upgrades, such as the Garmin G3000 cockpit, the first use of the touchscreen system in a single-engine turboprop. The panel change from the Garmin G1000 variants in the other M-class airplanes allowed Piper engineers to further refine the M600 panel with the use of back-lighted placards.
Although the M350 and M500 retain the G1000 cockpit, all of the models include the new lighted placards and a number of additional features compliments of the GFC 700 flight control system. For example, all of the models include Garmin’s ESP—Electronic Stability Protection, which provides flight envelope protection even when the autopilot is off. Underspeed Protection prevents the aircraft from stalling by automatically lowering the nose as needed. An emergency descent mode for the M350 and M600 kicks on when the GFC 700 senses a rise in cabin altitude to an unsafe level, leveling off at a breathable altitude. A Level Mode allows the pilot to return the airplane to straight and level flight with the touch of a button. And, especially important for improving safety during the final critical moments of a low instrument approach, the ability to fly an autopilot-coupled missed approach. At minimums, the pilot can go around without disconnecting the autopilot, although he must still advance the thrust lever or throttle. The M350 also includes a pulse oximeter built into the panel, allowing the pilot to monitor his blood oxygen saturation levels and pulse rate.
All of the M-class airplanes received interior refinements, including USB power ports throughout.
Caldecott expects M600 deliveries to occur before the end of the year; the first year’s production is already spoken for by Piper dealers. The M500 and M350 are available now. Prices range from $1.15 million for the 350-hp Lycoming-powered M350 to $2.26 million for the 500-shaft horsepower M500 turboprop to $2.82 million for the M600.