Along with the solar constant, Hubble's constant and Planck's constant, there's one more universal truth: All aviation journalists are idiots. Or, at the very least, they're smug and self-satisfied malcontents. I'm bringing this up now because about a year ago, when Piper announced its new Matrix six-place cabin class airplane, a few of us sat around the table at AOPA in Hartford and opined how this thing was going to be a huge loser.
Who wants a gutted out Mirage? And after all, didn't Cessna stub its toe on the 335, a downscale, non-pressurized version of the 340? Yes, it did, but that was then1980--this is now. What Piper realized and we didn't is that the six-place Saratoga series was losing its appeal and there was an entire class of step-up buyers from four-place Cirrus and Columbia models who wanted two more seats but not necessarily pressurization. So Piper trimmed a bunch of weight out of the Mirage and lowered the price by a third andprestoa new model is born and it's selling well.
It's too soon to say how long the legs on the Matrix sales numbers will stretch, but Piper has a good start, according to Rick Durden, who did a report on this new airplane for Aviation Consumer. You can read a courtesy copy of it here.
Bottom line, after adding everything up, we like the airplane. Losing pressurization saves on weight and complexity and the performance is similar to the Mirage. Although we predicted owners wouldn't want to venture into the mid-teens sucking on a nose hose, it turns out they don't seem to mind it at all.
Aircraft companies, at least recently, haven't proven especially adept at mining niche markets. Or even mainstream markets for that matter, given the failure rate of start-up aircraft ventures. What Piper seems to have done is recognized a niche and realized it could fill it without the kind of over-the-top investment that kills so many aircraft projects. It's nice, for a change, to see the spreadsheet numbers actually come true.
Durden's Aviation Consumer Report