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Best in classBest in class

Piper makes the grade with its new M seriesPiper makes the grade with its new M series

  • Integration of the Garmin G3000 cockpit required a wholesale overhaul of the M600’s panel, but the results bring remarkable versatility in screen selections. An Aspen Evolution with its own battery provides emergency backup. The Aspen display is standard in the M class.
  • The gang’s all here, as all 800 Piper employees—including the test pilot team in orange flight suits—show up to proudly show off the M600.
  • The M600 in flight.
  • Piper President and CEO Simon Caldecott introduced Scott and Patty Middleton (below) to the M600 (left) at the Piper unveiling. The Middletons are the first customers for the new turboprop.
  • The large cowling-mounted exhaust stacks set the M600 and M500 turboprops off from the M350 piston airplane.
  • The M600’s radar pod is integrated in to the wing’s leading edge, a move from the M500’s under-wing position.
  • A screen on the turboprop’s landing lights helps prevent reflections for the pilot.
  • The upswept wing tips are distinctive to the M600.
  • M500, M600, M350 (from left to right).
  • The M600's prop.
  • Piper extensively redesigned the interior for the M Class, including handy USB and entertainment ports throughout. Detail lighting showcases the wood accents and table. The aft seatbacks fold forward, individually or together, to expand the baggage compartment.

It’s almost as if Piper created the new M600 single-engine turboprop just for James (Scott) Middleton. A frequent trip for the entrepreneur was from his medical supply company’s headquarters in North Florida to Denver, where he owns a respiratory equipment company. Distance: Just shy of 1,300 nautical miles. IFR range with reserves on the new M600: 1,300 nm.

“When they told me about the extra 90 gallons, they had me,” said Middleton, who is the first customer for the new model and expects to take delivery this fall. Middleton knew what he was getting into; he already owns a 2014 Piper Meridian and loves the airplane. “My first 15 months were the perfect ownership experience,” he said. “I had zero squawks in the first year of ownership. I’ve never had that in 30 years of owning airplanes.”

Middleton learned to fly in 1986 after a friend took him for a flight in a Citabria, lifting off from the grass at a family picnic. “That was on a Saturday. I was at the airport for my first lesson on Monday.”

He soloed in about eight hours and immediately bought a Piper Seneca II. You know a student is all in when he buys a twin right after solo. Middleton owned the Seneca for 16 years, but with a growing family he moved up to a Cessna 414. When the aging Cessna started becoming a maintenance burden, his wife, Patty—a frequent passenger—said, “You should buy a new one.”

Understanding that permission is good, he purchased the new 2014 Meridian—or, as Piper CEO Simon Caldecott likes to put it, Middleton “saw the light and came home.”

However, even with the new Piper, he longed for more range to simplify that trip to Denver. His Piper dealer encouraged him to visit the Piper factory to see what they were working on. On a trip there in a 2015 M500 turboprop—an upgraded Meridian—he experienced some of the new autopilot features and saw what the engineers were doing with the all-new wing, which can carry an extra 90 gallons of fuel. “I always thought with an extra 75 to 100 gallons, it would be the perfect airplane.”

That clean new wing, fat with extra fuel and the structure to allow for a maximum takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds, boosts the Piper Meridian from a personal airplane to a serious business-aircraft contender. The smooth new wing includes no aerodynamic devices, short of stall strips. Gone is the wing root glove found on the Meridian, added to house jet fuel as the PA–46 transitioned from the piston-powered Mirage to a single-engine turboprop in 1999. Instead, the new M600 wing is straight, with a much wider chord.

More important, though, the higher weight—along with the extra fuel—give M600 owners a great deal more flexibility in trading fuel/range for passengers. In fact, with a standard useful load of 2,400 pounds, the M600 can carry 700 pounds more than the standard M500. A fully fueled M600 with 260 gallons can carry only about 107 pounds more than an M500 with full tanks (170 gallons), but the 53-percent increase in fuel capacity provides a range of payload options not available to the M500 owner.

Piper’s Caldecott believes that flexibility opens a new market for the M600—that of a true business-class airplane, because it has the capacity to carry a professional pilot as well as reasonable payload for passengers and bags. Prior to the upgrade, most Meridians were flown by owners on personal missions, at least in part because of the payload limitations.

Although the M600 weighs considerably more, it gives up no cruise speed to its lighter cousin. When it is certified this fall, the M600 is expected to have a maximum cruise speed of 260 knots true airspeed, on par with the M500. The speed comes in part from a 100-shaft-horsepower boost, to 600, for the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A. Also contributing are that clean wing, and moving the radar antenna from an under-wing pod to a pod embedded in the leading edge—worth about 3 knots, according to the Piper test pilots.

In addition, the M600 carries a VMO of 250 knots indicated airspeed, compared to just 188 for the M500. The higher VMO means M600 pilots can descend more quickly, saving fuel by staying high longer and reducing block times.

Besides the wing and slightly wider gear track, the M600 sets itself apart—and earns the $600,000 cost difference, compared to an M500—through the use of the latest in cockpit technology. The M600 is the first single-engine turboprop to use the Garmin G3000 cockpit, which includes a pair of touch-screen controls to manage the PFDs and MFD. The three 12-inch screens create an all-new, clean panel with a minimalist feel, even though its capabilities are tremendous. To the left of the pilot’s PFD, an Aspen EFD1000 with an internal battery serves as emergency backup, eliminating the need for any mechanical instruments. In addition, all of the placards are now backlit, improving night operations.

The G3000 incorporates an automatic digital pressurization controller, meaning the pilot need only set the destination’s field elevation; the system does the rest. Taking note of the recent spate of accidents seemingly related to pressurization and hypoxia problems, the G3000 includes a hypoxia recognition system. If the pilot hasn’t interacted with the avionics in some way for a period of time, or if the cabin has climbed to an unsafe altitude, the GFC700 flight control system will descend the airplane to a safe, breathable altitude.

In a further attempt to improve safety, Piper and Garmin worked together to leverage other capabilities of the GFC700, including ESP—Electronic Stability and Protection; USP—Underspeed Protection; LVL—Level Mode; and GA—Go Around. ESP automatically nudges the airplane back closer to the center of the flight envelope when it strays with the autopilot off—the pilot feels higher resistance as the airplane gets closer to departing controlled flight. USP causes the nose to pitch down, preventing a stall. LVL allows the pilot to return the airplane to straight-and-level flight with the touch of a button.

GA permits a pilot to fly a coupled missed approach, especially critical during a low approach when the pilot decides to go around. Too frequently, pilots lose control when forced to hand-fly a missed approach as they reenter instrument conditions while transitioning from a nose-low, low-power situation to a nose-high, high-power climb. Allowing the autopilot to fly the procedure can improve safety. The pilot must then manage only power.

“The ESP and underspeed protection, it really works,” said Middleton, who experienced it in the M500, which began deliveries earlier this year. “We all think we’re great pilots, but not everybody is completely on your best game every day. If you lose attention for a moment, this can save you. It was amazing.”

The cockpit changes represent a significant advancement in safety—so important that Piper decided to infuse them into all of the M Class airplanes. The M Class includes the M600, the M500—the Meridian still with a Garmin G1000 panel, but with the flight control upgrades and interior refinements—and the M350, the rebranded piston-powered Mirage that also includes the flight control upgrades and interior changes. In fact, the M350 also includes a panel-mounted pulse oximeter that allows the pilot to keep track of his blood oxygen saturation level and pulse rate. In addition, the device warns if carbon monoxide levels become dangerous.

The M500 does not yet include the emergency descent mode, but Piper officials say that is in development.

The new family of airplanes gives Piper customers a clear path to more performance and capabilities. The 350-horsepower, 213-knot M350 is the only pressurized six-place, cabin-class single in production. Standard equipped price is $1.16 million. The 500-shaft-horsepower M500, at $2.26 million, brings turboprop speeds of 260 KTAS and turbine reliability, but at less range and more fuel burn. The M600, at $2.82 million, keeps the speed and adds the more sophisticated cockpit, but nudges the range out to 1,300 nm—close to the M350’s 1,340-nm range. It’s interesting that the slowest model with the least amount of fuel (120 gallons) has the greatest range—that says something about the efficiency of piston engines.

Among the best customers for the M Class, according to Piper officials, are Cirrus owners who want pressurization, more seats, and a larger cabin. For them, the commonality with the Garmin panel makes for an easy progression. Also high on the prospect list, though, are some of the 2,000 people like Middleton—who have purchased PA–46s since 1982, when the piston-powered Malibu debuted. As Caldecott says, “We welcome them back into the family.”

Email [email protected]

Piper M600

SPEC SHEET
Piper M350 PA–46-350P

Standard price: $1.16 million

Specifications
Powerplant | Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A 350 hp
Recommended TBO | 2,000 hr
Propeller | Hartzell, 3-blade, composite 80-in dia
Length | 28 ft 10 in
Height | 11 ft 4 in
Wingspan | 43 ft
Wing area | 175 sq ft
Wing loading | 24.8 lb/sq ft
Power loading | 12.4 lb/hp
Seats | 6
Cabin length | 12 ft 4 in
Cabin width | 4 ft 2 in
Cabin height | 3 ft 11 in
Standard equipped weight | 3,050 lb
Max ramp weight | 4,358 lb
Standard useful load | 1,308 lb
Payload w/full fuel | 588 lb
Max takeoff weight | 4,340 lb
Fuel capacity, std | 122 gal (120 gal usable) 732 lb (720 lb usable)
Oil capacity | 12 qt
Baggage capacity fwd | 100 lb, 13 cu ft
Baggage capacity aft | 100 lb, 20 cu ft

Performance
Takeoff distance, ground roll | 1,087 ft
Takeoff distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,090 ft
Max demonstrated crosswind component | 17 kt
Cruise speed/range w/45-min rsv, std fuel (fuel consumption) @ max continuous power 25,000 ft | 213 kt/1,343 nm | (134 pph/20 gph)
Max operating altitude | 25,000 ft
Service ceiling | 25,000 ft
Landing distance over 50-ft obstacle | 1,968 ft
Landing distance, ground roll | 1,020 ft

Limited and recommended airspeeds
VX (best angle of climb) | 81 KIAS
VY (best rate of climb) | 110 KIAS
VO (max operating maneuvering) 4,340 lbs | 133 KIAS 3,200 lbs | 114 KIAS
VFE (max flap extended) | 165 (10 dg), 130 (20 dg), 116 (36 dg) KIAS
VLE (max gear extended) | 195 KIAS
VLO (max gear operating)
Extend | 165 KIAS
Retract | 126 KIAS
VMO (max operating speed) | 198 KIAS
VR (rotation) | 78 KIAS
VS1 (stall, clean) | 69 KIAS
VSO (stall, in landing configuration) | 58 KIAS

Extra
At a range of 1,343 nm, the M350 has the longest legs in the M class.

SPEC SHEET
Piper M500 PA–46-500TP

Standard price: $2.26 million

Specifications
Powerplant | Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A 500 shp @ 2,000 rpm
Recommended TBO | 3,600 hr
Propeller | Hartzell, 4-blade, 82.5-in dia
Length | 29 ft 7 in
Height | 11 ft 4 in
Wingspan | 43 ft
Wing area | 183 sq ft
Wing loading | 27.8 lb/sq ft
Power loading | 10.2 lb/hp
Seats | 6
Cabin length | 12 ft 4 in
Cabin width | 4 ft 2 in
Cabin height | 3 ft 11 in
Standard equipped weight | 3,436 lb
Max ramp weight | 5,134 lb
Standard useful load | 1,698 lb
Payload w/full fuel | 559 lb
Max takeoff weight | 5,092 lb
Fuel capacity, std | 173 gal (170 gal usable) 1,160 lb (1,139 lb usable)
Oil capacity | 12 qt
Baggage capacity | 100 lb, 20 cu ft

Performance
Takeoff distance, ground roll | 1,650 ft
Takeoff distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,438 ft
Max demonstrated crosswind component | 17 kt
Cruise speed/range (NBAA range w/ IFR reserves) | 260 kt/850 nm (fuel consumption) @ max continuous power 28,000 ft | 248 pph/37 gph
Max operating altitude | 30,000 ft (28,000 ft in RVSM airspace
Service ceiling | 30,000 ft
Landing distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,110 ft
Landing distance, ground roll | 1,020 ft

Limited and recommended airspeeds
VX (best angle of climb) | 95 KIAS
VY (best rate of climb) | 125 KIAS
VO (max operating maneuvering) | 127 KIAS
VFE (max flap extended) | 168 (10 dg), 135 (20 dg), 118 (36 dg) KIAS
VLE (max gear extended) | 168 KIAS
VLO (max gear operating)
Extend | 168 KIAS
Retract | 129 KIAS
VMO (max operating speed) | 188 KIAS
VR (rotation) | 85 KIAS
VS1 (stall, clean) | 79 KIAS
VSO (stall, in landing configuration) | 69 KIAS

Extra
At $2.26 million, the Piper M500 is the lowest-cost turboprop.

SPEC SHEET
Piper M600 PA–46-600TP

Standard price: $2.83 million

Specifications
Powerplant | Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A 600 shp @ 2,000 rpm
Recommended TBO | 3,600 hr
Propeller | Hartzell, 4-blade, 82.5-in dia
Length | 29 ft 10 in
Height | 11 ft 4 in
Wingspan | 43 ft 2 in
Wing area | 209 sq ft
Wing loading | 28.7 lb/sq ft
Power loading | 10 lb/hp
Seats | 6
Cabin length | 12 ft 4 in
Cabin width | 4 ft 2 in
Cabin height | 3 ft 11 in
Standard equipped weight | 3,650 lb
Max ramp weight | 6,050 lb
Standard useful load | 2,400 lb
Payload w/full fuel | 658 lb
Max takeoff weight | 6,000 lb
Fuel capacity, std | 260 gal usable, 1,742 lb usable
Oil capacity | 12 qt
Baggage capacity | 100 lb, 20 cu ft

Performance
Takeoff distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,350 ft
Cruise speed/range (NBAA range w/ IFR reserves) | 250 kt/1,200 nm
(fuel consumption) @ Max continuous power 28,000 ft | 261 pph/39 gph
Max operating altitude | 30,000 ft (28,000 ft in RVSM airspace)
Service ceiling | 30,000 ft
Landing distance over 50-ft obstacle | 2,125 ft

Limited and recommended airspeeds
VX (best angle of climb) | 95 KIAS
VY (best rate of climb) | 122 KIAS
VO (max operating maneuvering) 6,000 lbs | 153 KIAS
3,750 lbs | 121 KIAS
VFE (max flap extended) | 147 (15 dg), 112 (35 dg) KIAS
VLE (max gear extended) | 170 KIAS
VLO (max gear operating)
Extend | 170 KIAS
Retract | 130 KIAS
VMO (max operating speed) | 250 KIAS
VR (rotation) | 85 KIAS
VS1 (stall, clean) | 76 KIAS
VSO (stall, in landing configuration) | 63 KIAS

Extra
VMO at 250 KIAS simplifies operations and speeds descents.

For more information, contact Piper Aircraft, Inc., 2926 Piper Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32960; 772-299-2403; 

VIDEO Extra: View the video.

Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines

Editor in Chief
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.

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