Piper Launches Three New M-Class Models, Including a New Turboprop

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photo courtesty Jim Barrett Photography

photo courtesty Jim Barrett Photography

In a surprise announcement Monday, Piper Aircraft revealed three new models of its upper strata M-Class aircraft, including a new turboprop called the M600 that’s loosely based on its popular Meridian. With a new G1000 variant from Garmin, the Meridian itself is getting some retooling, becoming the Meridian M500, and the Lycoming-powered Mirage will morph into a new model called the M350.

Although the M600 bears a familial resemblance to the original Meridian, Piper says it’s different enough to be considered a clean-sheet design. The new airplane will have the same Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A as the Meridian, but with increased horsepower to 600 from 500 hp. The M600 will also have Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite, also found in the HondaJet, the Embraer Phenom 300 and the Cirrus Vision SF50, among others. Although the cabin is similar to the Meridian, the G600 has a new wing and carries 100 gallons of additional fuel. Piper says the M600’s max cruise speed with be 260 knots with a top payload of 1200 pounds.

In the M600 version, the G3000 avionics will include sophisticated envelope protection including electronic stability protection, underspeed protection and self-leveling mode, a feature Garmin pioneered in the Cirrus SR22 Perspective system. The avionics will also feature a novel hypoxia recognition feature that requires the pilot to engage with the avionics within a specified period when the aircraft is being flown above 14,900 feet on autopilot. If interaction isn’t detected, the autopilot will automatically descend the airplane to a lower altitude, allowing the pilot to recover. The underspeed protection is an autopilot function that keeps the aircraft from stalling, adjusting the angle of attack just below stall, if power is not added. The M600 will also have a new digital pressurization system.

As for the original Meridian, it will remain in the line but as an updated model called the Meridian M500. Although the M500 will retain the Garmin G1000, the suite will be upgraded to include some of the same envelope protection offered in the G3000. The new version of the piston-powered Mirage, to be called the M350, will also have the upgraded G1000 with envelope-protection features. The non-pressurized version of the Mirage, the Matrix, will remain in the Piper lineup under the same name. In announcing the new models, Piper CEO Simon Caldecott said increasing avionics capability has allowed the company to offer a safer airplane. “The addition of proven avionics technology with electronic stability protection, underspeed protection, and automatic level mode were among other improvements. What’s more, a Piper M350 can now safely fly itself unassisted to lower altitudes in the rare case that the pilot is non-responsive at altitudes where oxygen is required,” Caldecott said.

Pricewise, the retooled M-class has considerable stratification against its competitors. The piston M350 will sell for $1.15 million, the Meridian M500 for $2.26 and the new M600 for $2.82 million. Piper is completing certification details and the models are expected to be ready for sale later in 2015. Piper expects to have displays and mockups on display at Sun ‘n Fun next week.