Henry Ford reportedly said to a prospective buyer of the Model T that any color he wanted was available, as long as it was black. For pilots seeking a cabin-class, pressurized piston single, the choice is similar, according to Jeff Schweitzer, who owns a 1996 Mirage and serves as editor of the Malibu Mirage Owners Association magazine: You can buy any plane you like, as long as it's a New Piper Malibu Mirage.
December 13, 2000
|About the Author ...
Jeff Schweitzer spent much of his youth
underwater pursuing his lifelong fascination with marine life. He
obtained his doctorate from the University of California through his
neurobehavioral studies of sharks and rays. He has published in an
eclectic range of fields, including neurobiology, marine science,
international development, environmental protection and aviation.
Jeff and his wife live in central Texas, moving there after retiring
from the White House as Assistant Director for International Science and
Prior to owning his Mirage, Jeff took advantage of being a
renter by flying Cessnas (152, 172, 182 and the twin T303), Beeches
(Bonanza V35, A36 and Baron 58), and Pipers (Seminole, Senecas II, III
and IV). He prefers his 1996 Mirage.
Jeff chronicles many of his flying adventures in leading aviation
journals, including Flying, Private Pilot, Plane & Pilot, and IFR. He
also writes more sedate articles on weather and safety in those same
magazines. Jeff is the editor of the Malibu Mirage Magazine.
The Malibu Mirage has the rare distinction of being
in a class by itself. No other plane currently in production can claim to be a
six-place cabin-class pressurized piston single. In spite of a complicated
history, the aircraft ultimately lives up to its reputation as a
full-capability IFR platform providing comfort and reliability in the flight
levels. The Malibu Mirage offers performance and comfort similar to many
cabin-class twins, with significantly lower operating costs.
The Malibu Mirage is actually two different airplanes. The Malibu,
designated the PA-46-310P, was first introduced to the public in late 1982,
and rolled off the production line in 1984. The Mirage (PA-46-350P), also
called the Malibu Mirage to create some confusion, came into the world in
1989, with a new engine, greater maximum gross takeoff weight and a slightly more modern
cockpit design. I will refer to the original bird as the Malibu and the later
version as the Mirage. The two share many common characteristics, and in those
cases, the Mirage will be used as the example. When the designs diverge
significantly, both will be compared. Malibu pilots believe that the older
aircraft is the better of the two, for reasons that will become clear below,
while Mirage pilots have a different view. This debate is reminiscent of the
heated argument one hears about French versus California wines, blondes versus
brunettes and Ford versus Chevrolet.
In order to appreciate the airplane and its capabilities, some historical
perspective is needed. That includes a brief background on Piper itself, which
has a rich history full of failure, trauma and triumph paralleling the story
of modern aviation.
William Taylor was an oilman in Bradford, Pa., when he joined the Taylor
Aircraft Company board of directors in the 1920s after investing $400 in the
company. He had no aviation experience, but he did have a degree in mechanical
engineering from Harvard, and had the experience of fighting in the
Spanish-American war. He also knew how to hire some good talent, including
Walter Jamouneau, who is known for bringing forth the J-3 Cub in all of its
bright yellow glory (the "J" stands for Jamouneau). Walter claimed
to have an aeronautical engineering degree from Rutgers University. To his
great credit and our long-lasting good fortune, Piper
overlooked the small fact that Rutgers did not have an aeronautical
engineering course. Shortly after coming on board, Taylor and Piper quickly
discovered they had different philosophies in developing the Cub, with Piper
insisting on building a basic, cheap, easy-to-fly airplane (now called
"faster, better, cheaper" at NASA). Piper eventually paid Taylor,
with whom he clashed more and more frequently, a total of $250 per month for
three years to buy out Taylor's interest in the company.
A fire in 1937 destroyed Piper's Bradford factory, and the company
relocated to a silk mill in Lock Haven, Pa., becoming Piper Aircraft
Corporation. For nearly 50 years, Bill Piper's Lock Haven factory churned out
about 77,000 aircraft.
Initially, an aviation boom made anything seem possible in the early days
of the move to Lock Haven. But the post-war sales boom for private airplanes
quickly deflated. In 1948, when many companies went belly-up, Piper
concentrated on transforming the popular Cruiser into the Vagabond, the Pacer
and then the TriPacer. The latter airplane had tricycle landing gear, a new
development for Piper, which previously produced airplanes with only the conventional
Singles To Twins
In 1954, Piper introduced the Apache, the company's first all-metal
airplane, and Piper's first twin. The name was in recognition of Bill Piper's
own American Indian roots, and was the first in a line of models named after
Native Americans. The Apache's success allowed Piper to open a new research and development
facility in Vero Beach, Fla., at an old U.S. Navy facility. Piper's presence in
Florida eventually led to a manufacturing facility in Vero Beach, where the
Cherokee (PA-28 series) was designed and produced. The design of the original four-place
Cherokee became the foundation for the Warrior, Archer, Dakota, Arrow, and
Saratoga, all together representing more than half of Piper's fleet. The PA-28
was stretched into the PA-32, or Cherokee Six, to accommodate six people. The
PA-32 family also includes the six-seat Saratoga II TC. Piper now had
experience with six-seat aircraft.
Equally important to the eventual development of the Malibu was Piper's
introduction of a cabin-class twin in 1967. The PA-31 Navajo was designed at
the start for business use, and from that model followed the Navajo Chieftain,
the largely-forgotten Mojave, and eventually the twin-turboprop Cheyenne
series. Not abandoning the piston fleet, Piper introduced in 1971 the
(PA-34), based on the Cherokee Six airframe, and the Seminole (PA-44) in 1978,
based on the Arrow. Piper has built more than 20,000 twin-engine airplanes.
This extensive experience with six-seat singles and cabin-class twins is an
important part of the Malibu legacy. But unlike many Piper aircraft designs
that evolved from existing airframes, Piper started at ground zero in
designing the Malibu. After three years of development, the Malibu became the
flagship of the Piper fleet, and in a small way revolutionized personal
aviation, offering creature comforts, and many of the capabilities, usually
found in small business jets at a small fraction of the cost.
A Bad Spell
But not all was well for either Piper or the Malibu. Through a series of
economic downturns, declining sales throughout the aviation community,
problems within the company and other events too complicated to list here,
Piper filed in July 1991 a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of
the U.S. Bankruptcy
Code. During the worst of this reorganization period, the company delivered
just 41 airplanes. Dark days were not confined to corporate woes, however. Between May 1989
and March 1991, the PA-46 suffered a string of seven fatal accidents, and the
airplane became the unhappy target of an intensive investigation by the FAA
and NTSB. The thought was that the airplane was somehow flawed and breaking up
in flight due to design problems. An emergency airworthiness directive (AD) was issued by the FAA in
March 1991 prohibiting Malibu pilots from flying in instrument conditions, and
prohibiting the use of the autopilot, the control wheel steering button and
vertical trim control to change altitude. (The autopilot could still be used
for level flight under the AD). In addition, the altitude preselect and
vertical speed select, if installed, had to be physically removed from the
aircraft. Finally, the AD stated that pitot heat and alternate induction air
had to be used in all phases of flight except takeoff and landing.
After a loud chorus of protests (leading eventually to the founding of the
Malibu Mirage Owners and Pilots Association), the FAA rescinded the AD. But
then, in a fit of bureaucratic weirdness, the FAA issued another AD
prohibiting flight in or near thunderstorms, icing and moderate to severe
turbulence. The odd implication was that all other aircraft could fly in or
near thunderstorms. The new AD also prohibited using the autopilot (the King
KFC 150) for altitude changes.
Perhaps most important for current and future owners of the Malibu and
Mirage, the FAA ordered a special certification review (SCR) of the PA-46.
This SCR was perhaps the most comprehensive of any undertaken and required
most of a year to complete. The conclusion was that the airframe and the
autopilots were in full compliance. The results of the review are impressive.
Structural analysis demonstrated that the wings would flutter at 600 knots
and the tail at about 1,000 knots. To put that in perspective, Vne is 198 KIAS.
The airplane passed every other test with ease, including out-of-trim tests
and tests of G forces at speeds as high as 200 KIAS, which is 40 knots higher
than required. The aircraft was tested extensively at and below maneuvering
speed using different weights and CGs. In all cases the plane stalled, as it
is deigned to at maneuvering speed, before reaching the limit of 3.8 Gs.
So-called "checked maneuvers" were performed from 150 to 200 KIAS,
also at different weights and CGs, in which the test pilot violently pulled on
the yoke, then suddenly pushed. This test is meant to simulate a panicked
pilot in turbulence. The tests yielded data from -2.5 to 4.2 Gs, well beyond
that required, and the aircraft had only one surprise for engineers: The
strength of the tail was much greater than anticipated.
As a result of this exhaustive review, 60 recommendations were put forward,
many related to the autopilot, and many already addressed voluntarily by
pilots through previously issued service bulletins. But the review left no
doubt about the strength and integrity of the Malibu and Mirage. Along with
the V-tail Bonanza, the Malibu Mirage has the distinction of being the most
thoroughly tested single-engine aircraft in the general aviation fleet. The
problem turns out to be pilot training. The study indicated that many pilots
moving into a Mirage often do not have sufficient respect for the complexity
of this type of high-performance aircraft nor the harsh environment of the
A New Beginning
With the Malibu and Mirage back on track, and a revival of general aviation
in the mid-'90s becoming evident, Piper was positioned for a comeback. In the
summer of 1995, President and CEO Chuck Suma, and a core group of employees,
took over the assets of the old company, giving birth to The New Piper
Aircraft Inc. The recovery at Piper since then has been remarkable. Just
three years later, in 1998, 295 new aircraft rolled out of the factory, and
annual production has been in the range of 300 ever since. Subsequent years
saw significant product enhancements throughout the Piper fleet, including new
engine and fuel management systems, new avionics from Garmin, new autopilots
and Smartboots. Also, Piper unveiled its new Malibu Meridian, a
single-engine turboprop that just received its certification this year. The
first Meridian was delivered in November 2000.
A strengthened Piper, a bright future for general aviation, and a clean
bill of health for the company's flagship piston single combine to make the Malibu and
Mirage attractive purchases, either used or new. But a decision between the
two is not trivial. Just as we reviewed the history of Piper as a means of
understanding the genealogy of the PA-46, we now need to delve into the
details of the Malibu, and compare them to the newer Mirage, in order to
reveal the relative merits of the two designs.
Continental vs. Lycoming
The biggest difference between the later-model Malibus and the Mirages are
the engines a Continental for the former and a Lycoming for the latter. The
Malibu PA-46-310P flew out the factory with a 310-hp turbocharged Teledyne
Continental Motors (TCM)
engine (TSI0-520-BE) developed specifically for that airplane. That engine was designed for lean-of-peak
(LOP) operations, and this led many
pilots not familiar with LOP to run the engine rich of peak (ROP), outside the parameters recommended by the
manufacturer. For additional, detailed
information on lean-of-peak operations, an excellent place to start is John
Deakin's series of "Pelican's Perch" columns here on AVweb. Early in the life of the Malibu, the
TCM engine proved
troublesome for many reasons beyond the leaning issue. Piston pins and
crankshaft bearings, not to mention main bearings, turned the engine into a
nightmare for many pilots. An ugly battle between Piper and TCM eventually led to a voluntary grounding of the airplane. In
addition to engine woes, the nose gear, which rotates 90 degrees when fitting
into its bay, had frequent problems. The early hydraulic system for the
gear failed often, was sensitive to dirt and required intensive
maintenance. Eventually, though, the engine and system problems were
During the time that the Malibu and TCM were having the greatest
publicity problems, Piper introduced the Malibu (Malibu Mirage actually), with
a TIO-540-AE2A 350-hp Lycoming engine. The engine is designed for rich-of-peak
operation. The new engine weighed about 113 pounds more, but the maximum
takeoff weight was increased by 200 pounds as well. The Lycoming was not
trouble-free, however. The power plant seems to suffer more from vibration
than the Continental. The excessive vibration sometimes leads to problems of
cracked exhaust pipes and fittings, broken brackets, fatigued metal parts and
bolts that back out, among other ills. Lycoming engines also seem to have a
problem with oil consumption, and this has been my personal experience. For
these reasons the Continental, and Malibu, are seen by many now to be the most
desirable package. Mirage owners feel differently, obviously.
To complicate matters, the Lycoming engine has come under renewed attack
recently. Engines shipped after August 25, 1995, with serial numbers listed
in a Special Advisory (59-800), need to have the rod bearings replaced, and
many engines need to have main bearings replaced as well. Prior to replacing
the rod bearings, an oil change is required every 10 hours, along with a
mandatory filter and suction screen inspection. In addition, a lawsuit has
been filed alleging widespread engine problems throughout the entire fleet.
Without commenting on the lawsuit, my personal experience with Lycoming has
been positive. Lycoming paid to have my rod bearings replaced as soon as the
parts became available, without hassle.
The choice between a Malibu and a Mirage is ultimately a choice between the
two engines. Choose your weapon. Good luck reaching TBO with either one,
particularly without overhauling the top end first. These engines seem to need a top overhaul on average
about every 650 hours or so. At this stage, both engines have gone through rough
periods, and both have ardent supporters. Again, the choice is a matter of
While different engines constitute the greatest distinguishing
characteristics of the two planes, a few other difference are worth noting.
Perhaps the most significant is that early Malibus have Gar-Kenyon gear, parts
for which are becoming difficult to obtain. Also, Piper modified a number of
other systems when introducing the Mirage. The hydraulic system was changed,
engine cooling was redesigned, the cabin door was made more robust, and the
flaps were changed from hydraulic to electric operation. The Mirage also had a
dual-bus electric system, internal windshield de-ice, dual alternators, dual
vacuum pumps, and an auxiliary heater for the cabin. (Cabin heating is still
not good in these airplanes).
Even so, the planes are more similar than not. Emergency gear extension is
free-fall and easy to accomplish in practice. Flaps and ailerons take up
significant real estate. The size and motion of the flaps is one reason for
the impressive stall speed of 59 knots. The ailerons and one-piece elevator
are mass-balanced, and all primary flight controls are commanded by cable.
Both aircraft are constructed using conventional aluminum alloy, but
extensive use is made of flush riveting. Drag is further minimized by skins
being butted end-to-end instead of lapped. Rivets have largely been replaced
by internal bonding. Even in the early days of production, computer-aided
manufacturing was used on the factory floor. The high aspect-ratio wings span
43 feet, making for a good high-altitude ride, but also making the plane a
little bumpy in turbulence. Yaw dampers are a must. Each wing contains 60
useable gallons. Each wing tank feeds into a collector sump, where a boost
pump is activated when the pilot selects left or right tank. The tail juts
upwards to 11.3 ft. The plane sits impressively on the tarmac.
Cabin Class Comfort
Entering the aircraft through the air-stair clamshell door leaves no doubt
about the cabin-class nature of the beast. The Malibu has chains covered with
fabric supporting the doors, while the Mirage has retractable cables. Steps
automatically deploy on the door when the bottom half of the clam is lowered.
Locking the door for flight is accomplished with a large handle turned 90
degrees, and four green gauges indicate the door is sealed.
The cabin is large, light and inviting. Passengers are ensconced in a room
49.5 in. wide and 47 in. tall, with 38 in. and 37 in. of headroom in the front
and rear seats, respectively. From the instrument panel to the rear bulkhead
is a generous 148 in. Many airplanes have plush leather seats, all of which
recline. Each passenger has a private reading light, cup holder and
ventilation outlet. A folding writing table sits between the right fore and
aft passenger seats. The rear baggage compartment is located behind the aft
seats, holding 20 cubic feet or 100 lbs, all within the pressure vessel. (The
baggage space just behind the engine is of limited use due to CG limitations,
in spite of the stated 100 lb max, but the space is nice to have for light
The cockpit is easily accessed between the two forward seats and is
spacious and properly organized for this class of airplane. Visibility is excellent and noise levels are
quite low, largely due to a pressurized cabin, and the fact that the forward
baggage compartment insulates the cockpit from the engine. Instruments are
logically presented. The Transicoil Enhanced Digital Indicators provides
analog and digital readouts of all relevant engine parameters, fuel flow, and
outside temperature. A big difference in cockpit organization was introduced
in 1996, when some of the switches were moved overhead, freeing up panel real
estate, and making cockpit organization more ergonomically friendly. The seats
recline, move fore and aft, and up and down. Two large drawers behind the
pilot and co-pilot seats provide convenient storage for charts, approach
plates, maps, and emergency items that should be within easy reach. Large
pockets are also on both sides of the cockpit just in front of the seats.
Heating and air vents are individually controlled on both sides.
The Nitty Gritty
The electrical system is robust, with dual 28-volt, 75-amp alternators and
a 24-volt, 10-amp-hour battery. Circuit breakers are also on both sides of the
cockpit, making access to some a bit awkward. Breakers for the autopilot and
autotrim are on the right side, near the panel. The pilot has to reach over,
and then around the yoke, to pull those. The hydraulic pump breaker, which is
pulled during emergency gear extension, is on the left within easy reach.
Almost all other switches are of the large rocker variety. The battery,
alternators, mags, nav lights, de-icing equipment, heaters, blowers, air
conditioner, dump switch and yaw damper are all rockers. Interior lighting is
controlled by rotating reostats.
The de-icing system is effective, although any icing encounter should be
exited immediately as with any GA airplane. One big change in the de-icing
system to note is that in 1995 Piper went to a glass heated windshield on the
pilot's side. The de-ice boot inflation system is divided into three
six-second segments, automatically cycling through the segments with one push
of the boot switch. The wing boots inflate in two stages, with the lower half
inflating first, then the upper. Watching the boots in action in ice is
impressive. New Mirages now have the Smartboot system by BF Goodrich, which
detects and measures ice buildup, indicates when to activate the de-ice
system, and verifies that ice has been removed. With either the old or new
systems, using the autopilot in icing is a bad idea. An ice bridge can easily
form, resulting in loss of elevator control. Other weather gear in most
cockpits include the WX-1000 Stormscope and RDR-2000 Vertical Profile
New airplanes have a number of changes in the panel. For example, the new
airplanes have dual Garmin 430s, versus the KLN 90B found in earlier years.
Most of the PA-46 fleet has a KFC-150 autopilot in the panel, with a flight
director, auto electric trim, altitude hold and VOR/LOC/GS coupling. Model
year 2000 planes, however, have an S-TEC System 55 Flight Control System. The
move to the S-TEC system is considered controversial by many people. The
debate about rate-based versus attitude-based autopilots is fairly heated, but
in reality the difference is more one of taste and preference (again similar
to the wine or hair color discussion above). But the difference is worth
a small digression.
Rate-based systems such as S-Tec/Meggitt use the electric turn coordinator rate
gyro, which does not depend upon the aircraft vacuum system or attitude gyro.
With a rate-based unit like the S-Tec/Meggitt, if either the vacuum system or attitude gyro fails, the turn coordinator and
the autopilot are unaffected. Having a separate gyro control the attitude
indicator and autopilot could be an advantage in IMC if one fails. Also, a
rate gyro will not tumble due to unusual attitudes. Because they do not
tumble, rate gyros will function in any attitude and are not damaged or worn
excessively by unusual attitudes. On the other hand, with attitude-based
autopilots, attitude information is better for rapid recovery in turbulence
because the roll signal is not influenced by yaw angle or rate. Also, an
attitude-based system banks the aircraft at a pre-set maximum bank angle
(usually 20 degrees), independent of aircraft speed. As a result most attitude based
autopilots handle turbulence better than rate autopilots because they are able
to correct the turbulence input more rapidly with less course error.
Proponents of both systems claim that one gives a better, smoother ride. In
either case, all new Mirages have the S-Tec/Meggitt system for better or worse.
Finally, new airplanes have 3-blade Hartzell props, compared to the old
standard 2-blade, although four-blade propellers are also STC'd for the Malibu and Mirage.
Several other modifications are available. An extended range tank, which actually
consists of new filler ports farther outboard that yield additional capacity
in the wet wing,
provides for 10 more gallons per side, or about another hour of flight. A TCM
IO-550 is STC'd for the Malibu, but not the Mirage. Several interior
mods are also available.
Time To Fly
1996 Malibu Mirage
Engine: Lycoming TI0-540-AE2A, 350 hp, 6 cylinders
Propeller: Hartzell 2 blade, constant speed
MGTOW: 4,300 lbs.
Standard Empty Equipped
Weight: 3,080 lbs.
Standard Useful Load: 1,238 lbs.
Wing Area: 175 square feet
Wing Span: 43 feet
Length: 28.9 feet
Height: 11.3 feet
Cabin Length: 148 inches
Cabin Width: 49.5 inches
Cabin Height: 47 inches
Headroom: 38 inches (front and middle seats), 37 inches rear seats
Fuel and Oil
Useable Fuel: 120 USG
Oil Capacity: 12 qts
Forward area: 100 lbs, 13 cubic feet
Rear area: 100 lbs, 20 cubic feet
Normal Cruise: 1,055 nm (you'll never see
Economy Cruise: 1,340 nm (you'll never see it)
High Speed Cruise: 213 knots (norm cruise
pwr, mid cruise wt)
Max Speed: 220 knots (at mid cruise weight)
Stall: 58 knots (full flaps)
Service Ceiling: 25,000 feet
Max Differential Pressure: 5.1 psi
Takeoff Distance Ground Roll: 1,090 feet
Total over 50-foot obstacle: 2,090 feet
Landing Dist Ground Roll: 1,020 feet
Total over 50-foot obstacle: 1,960 feet
The complicated history of the airplane, and controversies suffered through
the years, are quickly forgotten when nestling into the left seat. Start-up
procedures are straightforward for anyone used to turbocharged engines.
Taxiing requires a firm step on the pedal, but control is tight and
comfortable. The plane has some complicated systems, and these need to be
carefully examined in the run-up. This includes a thorough ground test of the
autopilot, a review of all the Transicoil readouts, and confirmation that you
have 28 volts and both alternators on line. Set the cabin pressure. The
pressurization system is nearly foolproof, easy to use and reliable, but a
little care is needed if you want to avoid maxing out the pressure vessel on
Takeoff And Climb
The tower clears you for takeoff. Fuel pump on, AC off, strobes on,
transponder on, and throttle full forward. Takeoff using full throttle (42
in.) and 2,500 RPM gives reasonable acceleration, but you'll know that you are
not flying a jet. Rotate at 80 knots, gear up, climb at 120 knots, and at
1,000 feet AGL, reduce throttle to 35 in. and switch off the fuel pump. This configuration will typically
give about 900 feet per minute, keep the CHTs below 400 degrees, the TIT below
1650 degrees, and consume about 35 gph. (Mixture is full rich in all climbs).
Somewhere in the climb the airspeed will have to dip to 110 knots to maintain
900 fpm. At higher altitudes, again depending on conditions, the climb rate will
have to be reduced to 500 to 700 fpm to keep the CHT and TIT happy.
At cruise, reduce to 28 in., 2,500 RPM and lean to about 20 gph, again
depending on altitude and temperature. Sometimes leaning will be limited by
TIT, other times by CHT. I never let TIT exceed 1650 nor CHT 400 in any
condition. To avoid a fuel imbalance of more than 10 gallons per side, a
switch between left and right tanks will be necessary during the climb. If you
want to extend the range, go to 26 in./2,400 RPM, and the fuel burn will be
about 18 gph.
Regardless of book values, experience shows that the airplane will hit a
true airspeed of just over 200 knots, burning 20 gph, in the flight levels, at
28 in./2,500 RPM. To maintain realistic reserves, I have never planned a trip
over 800 nm without a fuel stop (I do not have extended range tanks), and that
only in VMC. If the destination is marginal or worse, my longest distance gets
reduced to 600 nm. These limits are conservative, but practical and safe.
The PA-46 handles well above and below 18,000 feet. Control authority is
surprisingly good all the way up to FL250. One downside to the long, high-aspect-ratio wings is a low maneuvering speed. In a normal descent, staying at
or below Va is nearly impossible. Most pilots I know descend at the top of the
green arc, unless the air is turbulent. I personally avoid that by requesting
a cruise descent well prior to my arrival. (At 20,000 feet, I start my descent
120 miles from the destination, using a leisurely 500 fpm rate until I get to
warmer altitudes when I can start reducing power). The landing gear is an effective
speedbrake, and can be lowered at 165 knots (170 on the Malibu). Once down, the
gear can be left out to nearly the top of the yellow arc (Vne). The Mirage can
dive with the best of them if necessary with gear down and flaps up. But
lowering the gear at altitude is not optimal unless you need to get to the
ground quickly. The first notch of flaps can be lowered at the same time as
the gear for more stately descents.
Approach And Landing
Back at the airport, the landing is conventional with no surprises. Intercept
the localizer with 20 in. Hg, 2,500 RPM at 120 KIAS. Gear down and first notch
of flaps at glideslope intercept will give you a 500 fpm descent at 100 KIAS, right
down the pipe. Full flaps and 80 knots over the numbers set you up for
Cost Of Ownership
The PA-46 is an amazing machine, wonderful to fly, but expensive to
maintain. Actual cost per hour figures vary widely between pilots, flying new
and old machines and using different methods of accounting. In my first year
of ownership, flying about 200 hours, my experience has been that the cost of
ownership and operation (both direct and indirect) is on the order of $250 to
$300/hour. Direct costs include those expenses directly related to flying the
airplane: oil, gas and maintenance (airframe, avionics, prop and engine).
Indirect costs are incurred whether the plane is in the air or not, and
include insurance, hangar, pilot supplies, and database subscriptions. My
figure is admittedly somewhat inflated because of expensive first-year
maintenance and upgrades that will not be recurrent. Also, I hope to fly
closer to 300 hours next year, bringing down the hourly cost. Others may find
the final figure closer to $200/hour or even less. These numbers do not
include the cost of financing the purchase.
The Malibu Mirage is a proud flagship of Piper's piston line of aircraft.
While a long distance from the J-3 Cub in the most obvious ways, the Malibu
Mirage is an appropriate product of Piper's dream of building affordable
planes dating back to the Cub. The price tag of a Mirage will definitely take
one's breath away, but the airplane is actually modestly priced compared to its
closest cousins, the cabin-class twins. Once when asked if he liked being
thought of as the "Henry Ford of aviation," Piper reportedly replied
that a more accurate description would be that Henry Ford was the "Bill
Piper of automobiles." No doubt, in that long tradition, William Piper
would be proud of the Malibu Mirage.