Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

New Piper Aircraft flew the single-turboprop Malibu Meridian for the first time on 21 August, 10 days ahead of schedule. The Vero Beach, Florida-based manufacturer says there were "no major problems" on the maiden flight of the turboprop derivative of its Malibu Mirage high-performance piston single.

The aircraft is the first of four prototypes which will be used for flight tests leading to certification in the year 2000. Deliveries of the six-place, pressurised $1.35 million aircraft are scheduled to begin in mid-2000. New Piper says it has orders for more than 90 Meridians.

The aircraft is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A derated to 260kW (350hp). This will provide a time between overhauls of 3,500h, with a hot-section inspection (performed on-aircraft) at 1,750h. Cruise speed will be 262kt (485km/h) at 30,000ft (9,100m) and range will be 1,980km (1,070nm), thanks to a 190 litre (50USgal) increase in fuel capacity to 645 litres.

Other changes to the original Mirage include adding a leading-edge cuff at the wing root and increasing the size of the horizontal stabiliser by 37%. With these changes, New Piper expects to keep the Meridian's stall speed below the 61kt limit for aircraft certificated to US FAR 23 rules.

New Piper has also announced that the Meridian will be equipped with a new "glass cockpit" avionics suite. This will be based around dual Garmin GNS 350 navigation/communications systems, each with a global positioning system receiver, large-screen moving map display and VHF transceiver with 8.33kHz channel spacing.

Meggit Avionics will supply the engine instrument display system, with dual liquid-crystal displays, and the optional flat-panel electronic flight display system. The latter includes primary flight and navigation displays for pilot and copilot and solid-state air-data attitude heading reference system.

Meanwhile, S-Tec will supply its System 550 autopilot, to be fitted as standard and fully coupled to the GNS350, New Piper says.

Source: Flight International