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Piper Matrix: A Surprise Top Seller

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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 then—1980--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 and—presto—a 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.

Related Content:
Durden's Aviation Consumer Report

Comments (10)

No surprise to me!!! You may not be able to "count ont the industry to invent cheap flying" but when they make a model cheaper than one with similar performance capabilites its really a no brainer! Just cuz the price of your average high performance single is very high...doesnt mean the market likes it..it just doesnt have any other options. Its true what they say..its only worth what the market will bare, but that doesnt say much when you dont have other options...The matrix..was what the market wanted in performance and what it needed in price...I beleive there are plenty of pilots out there there would gladly forsake some of the wizbangs and doo-dads for price and the matrix is an example.. With the matrix you get very comparable airspeeds and range with the mirage...but you pay almost 400k less for the standard model..384K for a pressurization system? really? I think for that kind of money aviation as a whole would use aviator's oxygen! just my thoughts!

Posted by: rob haschat | September 2, 2008 7:11 PM    Report this comment

I am surprised that so many are willing to don oxygen masks. In my neck of the woods im looked at with a cautious eye when I mention using oxygen masks. But the cheapskate engineer in me prefers the heck out of an oxygen bottle to all of the cost and problems associated with pressurization. I just recently read the aviation consumer article on the Matrix and look forward to upgrading to it some day.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | September 3, 2008 7:30 AM    Report this comment

I am surpised that aparently so many are thought to be unwilling to use oxygen. Have we really become that decadent that we would rather pay an extra 400k to avoid it?

Posted by: rob haschat | September 3, 2008 12:17 PM    Report this comment

I take delivery of a new Matrix in December and couldn't have asked for a better aircraft to suit my mission. Conducting business in Texas requires a comfortable aircraft with legs, but the trips are short enough that we will rarely need to climb into oxygen country. On the rare occasion that we do don the masks, nobody minds. It's relatively low operating costs and newly competitive pricing gave it a real edge over other six-place singles. When looking for similarly capable aircraft to compare, there simply wasn't one. I think they call that a NICHE.

Posted by: jesse dykman | September 4, 2008 10:33 AM    Report this comment

My first thought of the Matrix was - who needs it - but then I realized it is exactly the aircraft we didn't have in the market. Many non-pilots aren't too impressed with crawling into a tin can through a minute opening and squeezing their way into a seat. The Matrix offers a superb cabin - no other single comes close even. The Saratoga/Bonanza isn't anywhere near the comfort and "big airplane" feel that the Matrix offers. As for pressurization, if you need it get the Mirage, but for hauling people and gear in comfort you now have the option. Yup, I'm completely sold on it. Well done Piper!

Posted by: Krister Lundberg | September 5, 2008 2:50 AM    Report this comment

$800,000 for 570 pounds of payload? I guess you could seat the Chinese women's gymnastic team in there.

Posted by: Paul McGhee | September 5, 2008 8:39 AM    Report this comment

I would consider the Matrix if I needed to haul more than 1 or 2 people on a regular basis, I have a Mooney Rocket, with a nose cannula is a great option when the winds are favorable or the weather reduces my options over the western part of the US. Yesterday I came from Oregon to Colorado and home to Texas at 17.5 and 15.5 with 250KTS and 230 KTS ground speed, smooth, cool and no traffic to speak of.

Posted by: Donald Shapansky | September 5, 2008 9:42 PM    Report this comment

You guys who like oxygen must not have little kids. (I fly high, fast, smooth and cheap with O2 all the time in the flight levels in my Mooney 252, but when I have the kids along, I'm stuck down in the slow, often weathertrocious altitudes. I might pay a couple hundred K for pressurization.)

Posted by: Unknown | September 6, 2008 4:08 AM    Report this comment

You're right about the full fuel payload. By contrast, the Cessna Mustang has a full fuel payload of 800 lbs for a bargain 2,7 M...

Pressurization is great - if you need it. If you don't the Matrix seems to fit nicely in the top.

Posted by: Krister Lundberg | September 6, 2008 9:01 AM    Report this comment

If it were simply the cost of aquisition of a pressurized aircraft it would be more popular, I used to own a pressurised twin, it's the maintenance, the annual recurrent training, the extra weight and the engine or engines are pushed a lot harder. The whole enchliada is a lot more expensive.

Posted by: Donald Shapansky | September 6, 2008 7:20 PM    Report this comment

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