The Piper Mirage, or Piper PA-46 M350P as it is currently sold, is a straight-wing, pressurized, single, piston-engine, six (5+1) seater aircraft with retractable tricycle gear. The split air stair opens conveniently into the center of the four-passenger cabin, between the club-style seating arrangement.
Since its first flight in November 1979, the Piper PA-46 has seen a few competitors in the pressurized single, piston-engine category. However, it has stood the test of time and remains the only pressurized single, piston-engine aircraft that is currently in commercial production.
The PA-46 is available in a few variations built on the same main airframe. The commercial Piper PA 46 Malibu aircraft’s number and letter designations refer to the Horsepower and type of engine used.
The original prototype for the PA-46 carried the designation 300-T and first flew in November 1979. The original prototype did not feature a pressurized cabin, but the commercial piper aircraft was announced and named the Piper Malibu Mirage with the designation PA-46 310P.
Piper confirmed that the commercial PA-46s would be fitted with a 5.5psi pressurization system installed to compete with the Cessna P210 Centurion. Piper also released the Malibu Matrix, which uses the same airframe but is un-pressurized.
The Piper Malibu PA-46 310P hit the commercial market at the end of 1983 with reasonable success. However, after five years of production, the aircraft’s 310 horsepower Continental TSIO-520BE engine was cited for having failed on a number of aircraft, which led to the manufacturer paying out 32 million dollars in damages. After engine problems, the Malibu became the Malibu Mirage with a new 350-horsepower Lycoming TIO-540 AE2A engine, with the designation PA-46 350P.
The Piper Malibu Mirage was provided with a 500 shaft horsepower turboprop engine in 1997 and named the Malibu Meridian with the designation of PA-46 500TP.
Piper Mirage Specs
- Interior Specs
- Crew: 1 or 2.
- Passengers: 4 or 5 with a single crew member.
- Cabin Length: 12’ 3” – 3.73M
- Cabin Height: 3’ 11” – 1.18M
- Cabin Width: 4’ 1” – 1.25M
- Cabin Volume: 165 cu ft – 4.67cu M
- Door Dimensions: 3′ 10″ x 2′
- Interior Storage Volume: 20cu ft (100lbs) – 0.57cu M (45kg)
- Exterior Storage Volume: 13cu ft – 0.37cu M
- Aircraft Length: 28′ 9″ ft – 8.8M
- Wingspan: 43” – 13.1M
- Wing Area:
- Wing type: Low-mounted, straight-wing.
- Tail: Standard low tail.
- Landing gear: Retractable Tricycle Gear.
- Engine: Lycoming TIO-540 AE2A Turbocharged piston engine
- Power: 350hp
- Propeller: Hartzell 3-blade constant speed composite prop.
- Propeller size: 80” diameter – 2.03 Meters.
- Maximum cruise speed: 213ktas – 395kmh
- Economy Cruise speed: 195ktas @ 20,000ft
- Service ceiling: 25,000ft.
- Cabin Altitude : 8,000ft, @ 25,000ft exterior altitude
- ‘No Wind’ Range: 1,343 Nautical Miles – 2487 kilometers (with 45 mins reserve fuel).
- Take-off distance (ground roll): 1,087 ft.
- Landing Distance (ground roll): 1,020 ft.
Payload, Weight, and Fuel Specs
- Basic Operating Weight: 3,050lbs / 1,383kg
- Max Ramp Weight: 4,358lbs / 1,976kg
- Max Takeoff Weight: 4,340lbs / 1,968kg
- Max Landing Weight: 4,123lbs / 1,870kg
- Max Payload: 1,308lbs / 593kg
- Max Payload Fully Fueled: 588lbs / 267kg
- Max Fuel: 120 Gal. / 454 lt. – 718lbs / 326kg
- Fuel consumption: 22 Gallons per hour
As the Mirage has been in production for over 40 years, there have been many updates to the avionic equipment since the original aircraft first flew in 1979.
Today’s models are sold with the G1000 Garmin EFIS system installed. There are options to include further IFR sensors and display equipment too.
Piper Mirage Prices
The price of a Piper mirage with the basic equipment package will cost just over $1,200,000.
On the used market, an operational Piper Mirage with over 1000 hours and in need of TLC can be found in the region of $300,000 – $350,000
With an older avionics package, including
- KFC 150 FLIGHT CONTROL SYSTEM
- KY 196A VHF COMM (DUAL)
- KNS 81 VOR/LOC/RNAV/GS RECEIVER
- KN 53 VOR/LOC RECEIVER
- KR 87 ADF
- KLN 90B GPS (IFR)
- KDI 574 DME
- FLIGHT DIRECTOR
- SPERRY RADAR
- GARMIN GTX 335 TRANSPONDER ADS-B
- ACK E-04 ELT WITH COCKPIT REMOTE
- GLOBAL–WOLFSBURG FLITEFONE
Piper Mirage Annual Fixed Cost
The annual fixed cost of maintaining a Piper Mirage is around $35,000.
Piper Mirage Variable Costs
The variable costs of operating a Piper Mirage are calculated at 450 flight hours of operation per year. Variable costs for operating a Piper Mirage are in the region of $140,000 or around $310 per hour.
Maintenance and Inspection Schedule
The service will provide members notifications of any service bulletins, change notices, or new airworthiness directives.
The progressive inspection plan from Piper for the Mirage states that inspections should be carried out at 50-hour event intervals to complete a 200-hour annual inspection cycle.
Piper Mirage Performance and Handling
The Piper Mirage is a great plane for a pilot’s natural progression from a Cessna 182 or 172. It fits the bill as being the perfect single-engine aircraft before moving up to twin or turbine engine airplanes.
The Mirage is very stable throughout taxi, takeoff, climb, and level flight, and the behavior on approach exhibits the same docile and stable tendencies. The range, fuel consumption, and full-suite IFR avionics make the Mirage an excellent cross-country plane.
The powerful 350hp engine and pressurized cockpit make the Mirage an actual 200ktas aircraft at higher altitudes and 180 knots cruising at 8000ft.
With 3 hours of fuel, plus reserve, the aircraft has a real-world range of around 600 Nautical Miles with a 700lbs payload. With the pressurized cabin’s comfort, the Mirage shines for cross-country use. In its class, the Mirage is in a league of its own.
Piper Mirage Modifications and Upgrades
The Mirage comes with the G1000 Garmin NXi Digital Flight Instrument System as standard, but upgraded avionics systems are available upon purchase.
The most common upgrades for the Piper Mirage are to the avionics package, and three options are available in addition to the standard equipment.
The awareness package offers
- Enhanced AFCS Enablement Autopilot,
- Jeppsen ChartView,
- Garmin Synthetic Vision TWAS-B (Terrain Awareness and Warning System),
- GTS 825 Traffic Advisory System.
The weather package provides
- GWX 75 Weather Radar
- GDL 69A XSM Sattelite Radio (weather)
- FIKI (Flight Into Known Icing
- L3-WX500 Stormscope
The premium package will equip your Mirage with
- 110 Volt AC Power outlet
- GSR 56 Iridium Transceiver
- FlightStream 510
- Executive interior
- AmSafe seatbelts for pilot ad co-pilot positions
Piper Mirage Engine
The piper mirage has a Lycoming TIO 540 twin-turbocharged 350 horsepower engine, which replaced the more economical but less reliable Continental 310 horsepower piston engine.
Where to Find Replacement Parts
As the PA-46 M350P is still in production, parts can be ordered from Piper directly. There are also several agencies, dealers, and outlets for Piper replacements and spares, both new and used.
The Piper PA-46 range has had some bad press for being a ‘problem plane’; however, many owners still rave about its great capabilities, especially for the price.
The original Piper Malibu 310 was cited as having engine problems. However, following further consideration, those failures may have been more commonly due to pilots’ mismanagement of engine temperatures.
The efficient Continental engines of the Malibu 310 recommended ideal operating conditions to run the fuel-to-air mixture quite lean. Standard engine operations suggest that making a lean fuel-to-air mixture slightly richer would allow the engine to run cooler; however, aspirated engines run ‘lean of peak’ and get hotter when the fuel-to-air ratio is richer.
In the early 80s and the days of the Malibu 310, pilots were often unaware of the proper operation of engines designed to run lean of peak. Old habits carried over from a standard engine may have resulted in overheating the lean of peak engines by unnecessarily enriching the fuel-to-air mixture, which could have led to engine failure reports.
Following the number of accidents that occurred in IFR conditions, the FAA even went so far as to publish a change in the directives for the PA-46 and restricted it to VFR for a short time. This further tarnished the reputation of the Mirage. But again, following extensive research, it was found that the aircraft and its instrumentation were not the cause of the accidents, and the FAA lifted the restriction.
Earlier model Mirages also had some trouble with landing gear, but design improvements to the undercarriage of later models have improved the reliability dramatically. Most of the older model Mirages will probably have been fitted with the upgraded gear over time.
Some newer model Mirages have had problems with the sensors of the G1000 Garmin EFIS system. Operators who are members of the G1000 extended warranty scheme known as FlightLevel have a range of options to cover malfunctioning equipment.
Insurance for a Piper Mirage will cost around $7,500 per year for liability coverage. More comprehensive insurance is available that will cover damage to the hull, passenger injury, etc. These policies can cost up to $35,000 annually.
The Garmin aviation suite can also be insured on a separate policy direct from Garmin called FlightLevel.
Depending on the condition of the aircraft, a Piper Mirage will typically provide resale for around $500,000. One of the later construction that has been recently overhauled could set you back $800,000, whereas an older model that needs some attention will be closer to the $300,000 mark.
Piper Mirage Owner Reviews
Owners and operators of the Piper Mirage are generally happy with the aircraft’s performance, reliability, and economy. With the Premium option Garmin G1000 avionics package, pilots rave about its cross-country or semi-cross-country aircraft capabilities.
There are others on the opposite side of the fence; however, they recommend purchasing a used plane with a turboprop engine for a similar cost as a new Piper Mirage.
Piper Mirage Similar Aircraft
As the Piper Mirage is the only pressurized single-piston-engine aircraft still in production, there are limited options for similar aircraft. The Mooney M22 was the first pressurized production, single piston-engine aircraft available on the market; following a poor production run; the aircraft was partially blamed for the bankruptcy of Mooney.
The other competitor is the Cessna P210N Pressurized Centurion. The P210N follows a typical Cessna airframe with a top-wing and tricycle gear. The Cessna was much more successful than the Mooney, with over 800 units of the P210N and P210R pressurized aircraft delivered.
In 1964 the Mooney M22 first took to the air, and the year following its verification in 1966, the Mooney M22 was displayed at the 1967 Paris airshow following its non-stop flight from New York to Paris in just over 13 hours.
The Mooney M22 was well received by aviators, but the airplane was designed and sold at a loss. After only 36 units were delivered in a 5-year production run, manufacture was halted. The M22 was said to be one of the reasons for Mooney’s financial collapse and bankruptcy.
Cessna P210N and P210R Centurion
The Cessna P210 has been around since the late ’50s, but it wasn’t until the late 70’s that Cessna fitted the aircraft with a pressurized cabin. The Cessna P210N Pressurized centurion was produced from 1978 to 1983, and the company completed production of over 800 units.
In 1985 Cessna released the P210R Pressurized centurion, but the production only ran for one year and saw just 40 aircraft completed.
Piper Mirage Clubs You Can Join
The MMOPA is the Malibu M-Class Operators and Pilots Association, and it is advisable to join the association if you are thinking about purchasing a Piper Mirage. The website and community will be able to provide answers to almost all of your questions.
The experienced MMOPA members will be able to provide information and tips on flying, maintaining, servicing, and inspecting your Piper Mirage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How fast is a Piper Mirage?
Answer: Maximum cruise speed is 225ktas.
Question: How much is a Piper Mirage?
Answer: The average price for a used Piper Mirage is around $800,000. A new Piper Mirage with standard equipment costs just over $1,200,000
Question: Is the Piper Mirage Pressurized?
Answer: Yes, the PA-46 M350 is pressurized and certified to an operational ceiling of 25,000ft with an interior altitude of 8,000ft.
Question: What is the difference between the Piper Malibu and the Malibu Mirage?
Answer: The Piper Malibu or PA-46 M310 was the predecessor of the Piper Mirage. The Mirage was fitted with a more powerful engine, but the airframe otherwise remained almost unchanged.
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