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Last Updated on Thursday, 27 September 2012 15:56

Can A Personal Plane Offer Big Business Benefits?

Meridian 200x93
(Photo - Piper Aircraft Inc.) 
By Dale Smith, Editor Premier Aircraft Sales. 

You bet, particularly when you’re talking about Piper Aircraft’s top-of-the-line Meridian.

I think that far too many people who could benefit from private aircraft travel underestimate the value of a modern propeller airplane. They suffer from “if it’s not a jet, it’s not for business” type of thinking. How wrong they are. Take the Piper Meridian. It’s a single-engine turboprop so despite the propeller, it is truly jet-powered and that really means business. Admittedly, I’m a Piper fan from way back. I the lead copywriter on the Piper account when the Meridian’s older brother, the piston-powered Piper Malibu was introduced. It was love at first flight. With its pressurized cabin and ability to fly high over most weather, the Malibu defined a new class of cabin single-engine airplane.

While the Malibu was a good, airplane it was elevated to “great” when Piper mated the Malibu fuselage and wing to a Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop engine. The result, called the Meridian, is truly amazing, especially if you’re lucky enough to pilot one.

Jet-Powered Piper Meridian Scores Big On Performance

I’ve had the pleasure of flying a lot of airplanes, and the Meridian is one of my all-time favorites. With 500 shaft horsepower, it is solid and responsive at its 260 kt (300 mph) high cruise speed as well as slow 75 kt (86 mph) landing speeds, and that responsiveness is a very nice complement to the Meridian’s short 2500 foot runway capability. It can easily takeoff and land at small community airports many of which have runways that are too short for even the smallest jets.

That kind of performance makes the Meridian a natural step up for any owner/pilot who is currently flying a high-performance, single-engine piston aircraft. That alone will make most insurance carriers happy, and while type-specific training is always a good idea, there’s no FAA requirement to get a type rating to fly the Meridian.

One of the coolest things about flying a Meridian is taxing. With that big propeller and the ability to use reverse-thrust, you not only have a lot of control without wearing out the brakes, you get the added bonus of announcing your arrival with what can best be described as a growl as the prop cycles into the reverse range.

Cockpit Capabilities And Cabin Comfort.

The current version is equipped with the Garmin G1000 avionics suite – the same package that’s in the popular entry-level Cessna Mustang – so suffice it to say that the Meridian is at no loss for capabilities and situational awareness enhancements. It even includes an onboard four-color weather radar. That’s one piece of equipment that I think is essential for hard-core business travel. Satellite weather is good, but it’s no match for live radar – especially if you fly in the southeastern U.S.

Now that I’ve compared the Meridian’s cockpit to a entry-level jet, let’s talk overall performance. The Meridian delivers an honest 260 kts (300 mph) and a range of just over 1,000 nm (1150 miles – New York to Memphis). So on a typical business trip, your Meridian will cost you a few minutes in travel time, but save you hundreds of dollars in fuel compared to a small jet. And with a $2.176 million sticker price, the Meridian is about a $1 million less than one of the top selling entry level jets so that will cover a great deal more fuel cost, as well.

While the Meridian may be everything a pilot could want, the folks fortunate to be traveling the cabin will be equally content. The cabin, with club seating for four, is spacious and the seats are Lexus-like in their comfort. In addition, with the Pratt & Whitney engine far up front, the Meridian’s cabin is quieter than many small jets that I’ve traveled in.

So the next time you’re dreaming about flying privately, don’t limit yourself to jets. Try the impressive Piper Meridian. Chances are this single-engine turboprop may dramatically change your view of business and pleasure travel in a very big way.

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