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Piper M600: More of Everything

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September 2016 Issue




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Checklist

- New wing carries enough fuel to bump range to more than 1400 NM.

- Higher gross weight allows filling the seats and flying 1000 NM.

- Garmin G3000 avionics suite includes upset protection features.

Avionics Up Close: Garmin G3000

By Rick Durden, Larry Anglisano

Piper M600: More of Everything Piper upgrades the Meridian with a new wing, more power and new avionics that delivers more speed, higher useful load and increased capability.

In April of this year, Piper announced that its PA46 line of cabin-class singles would henceforth be referred to as the M-Class. While the Matrix would retain its name, the Mirage was becoming the M350 (for its 350-HP engine) and the Meridian was now the M500. Shortly afterward, it announced that its new, top-of-the-line M-Class machine, the M600 had completed FAA certification. It did so in almost unprecedented time—44 days—a tribute to engineering and flight test groups that did developmental testing with amazing thoroughness and FAA inspectors who went through the certification flight testing in a no-nonsense fashion.

The M600 uses the fuselage—with beef ups—and a higher-power version of the engine from the M500. The M600 also has a new wing—marketing claims it’s a clean-sheet design—that carries 90 gallons more fuel than the Meridian, allowing the M600 50 percent more range, a 958-pound higher gross weight and 100 more pounds in the cabin with full fuel. The M600 is also Piper’s first airplane to use the sophisticated Garmin G3000 avionics suite.

The single-engine turboprop market has long been broken into two halves: an extensive group of haulers such as the Cessna Caravan line, Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter and PC-12, PAC P-750 and the Quest Kodiak; and a small selection of personal transport machines targeted at the owner-flown market, the Piper Meridian and Socata TBM line.

Piper M600

A Niche to be Filled

Until now, there was a sharp dichotomy in performance and load-carrying ability between the offerings in the single-engine turboprop personal transport world. The TBM line offers a 1700-NM range and speeds over 300 knots. With full fuel, the TBM 930 can carry 1300 pounds in the cabin. At the other end of the spectrum, the M500, as an outgrowth of the Malibu, suffers from the cruel physics of putting a turboprop on an airframe sized for piston power—by the time you stuff enough heavy jet fuel in it to satisfy the thirst of the turbine and go any distance, cabin payload is down to 500 pounds. Filling the seats means carrying just slightly more than an hour’s worth of fuel.

That’s not a criticism of the Meridian—the turboprop conversions of the Cessna 206, 207 and 210, Beech Bonanza and Piper Malibu/Mirage wrestle with the same problem. While not in the TBM’s speed class, at max cruise the M500 whistles along at 260 knots. Pulling the power back and flying high can bump the range up to 1000 NM. Speed costs money: A new M500 is priced at $1.9 million while a TBM 930 starts at $4.1 million.

At $2.85 million, we think the new M600 fits nicely into the niche between the Meridian and the TBM series. Max cruise is 274 knots. The new wing carries 260 gallons of jet fuel—bumping the NBAA range to 1484 NM. The cabin and pressure vessel is still that of the Malibu/Mirage/Meridian, however, the empennage has been beefed up to handle a Vmo of 250 KIAS, a speed that we think will allow the airplane to mix easily into the demands of crowded airspace.

Despite rumors, the new M600 wing is not recycled from the jet Piper was developing some years ago; it was designed specifically for the M600. It carries a radar pod incorporated into the leading edge, a lower drag configuration than slinging it under the wing. We were told that there was initial concern with adverse stall effects with a leading-edge mounted pod, but there proved to be none. We noted that the stall strips on the leading edge were symmetrical on each wing and when we did stalls, there was no sign of roll off at the break. The main gear is further aft than on the M500 and has a six-inch wider track.

There are easily removable fairings around the wing roots for fast maintenance access, a design we applaud.

We noted that the new wing maintained one of the smart features of the Meridian—the leading edge attaches to the fuselage forward of the pressure vessel, so the fuel lines remain outside of the pressure vessel on their way to the engine. That’s an important crashworthiness consideration.

Garmin G3000 avionics suite

Garmin G3000 avionics suite is more advanced than the G1000 used in other Piper models, including the M500.

Powerplant

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