Two years ago at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention and Trade Show, the New Piper Aircraft, Inc. announced plans to build a single-engine turboprop, the Malibu Meridian. At that time, President and CEO Chuck Suma said it would be delivered to customers by mid- 2000, and his team intends to keep that promise. "The Meridian remains on time, and will meet its expected certification schedule," said Suma. "The Meridian is the first, full-scale certification program for The New Piper," he added, "and we're up to the challenge. The Meridian is basically a 'clean sheet' airplane and our team of dedicated people has made great strides to get us where we are today."

The Meridian timeline has been one of highlights. The first Meridian prototype made its first flight 10 days ahead of schedule, on August 21, 1998. Since then, three additional production conforming prototypes have been manufactured and placed in the flight test program. Together, the four prototypes in the flight test program have logged more than 340 flights and nearly 500 hours. "Our engineering flight test crew keeps the four prototypes flying throughout the week and even on weekends," Suma noted.

A critical element in the Meridian program is the fact that the three newest prototypes in testing were built on the new Meridian assembly line, with New Piper's production staff using the hard tooling it designed and created for full-scale production. "Our prototypes were not built by hand, as many are," explains Matt Amundson, Meridian Technical Program Manager. "We made the commitment to hard tooling early in the process and we are ready to build aircraft for delivery. We expect full-scale production to begin in February, 2000, with certification completed and the first deliveries made to customers in mid-2000."

Designed to be owner-flown

While the Meridian is a sophisticated and complex aircraft, it was designed from the beginning to be flown and appreciated by its owners. Working with some of the industry's most innovative organizations, including Meggitt Avionics, S-TEC Corporation, and GARMIN International, New Piper has developed General Aviation's most advanced avionics suite. The flightdeck of the Meridian rivals that of corporate jets costing millions more. Standard equipment for the Meridian will be dual GARMIN GNS 530s. The GNS 530's large, color display and easy operating system reduces a pilot's workload while enhancing a pilot's situational awareness and incorporates an IFR-approved GPS receiver, VOR/LOC/GS receivers, and a communications transceiver with 8.33 kHz frequency spacing. Also standard equipment on the Meridian is the Meggitt Avionics Engine Instrument Display System (EIDS) which provides the pilot with superior engine and systems information via dual Advanced LCD Flat Panel Displays. The system also provides exceedence monitoring and fuel system management functions.

Meggitt also provides an optional Electronic Flight Display System (EFDS) that provides a level of sophistication unheard of, until now, in an aircraft in this class. The EFDS includes Dual Primary Flight Displays, Dual Navigation Displays, Dual Solid-State Air Data Attitude Heading Reference System (ADAHRS), Engine Condition Trend Monitoring and three stand-by flight instruments. "We really don't expect to see many Meridian's delivered without this incredible option," Amundson says. "It puts the Meridian in the world of the true 'glass cockpit'. Few aircraft in this class can even dream of approaching this level of sophistication."

Powered by the time-tested and field-proven Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A turboprop engine, the Meridian will cruise at more than 260 KTAS, with a range of over 1,000 nautical miles and a useful load of about 1,600 pounds. The third production Meridian, N402MM, will be on static display during the 52nd NBAA convention in Atlanta. Meridian N402MM will only be on display from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, October 12th. A Meridian mockup will be on display throughout the show at the Piper exhibit in booth 5816.

The New Piper Aircraft, Inc., a privately held company headquartered in Vero Beach, Florida, is the only General Aviation aircraft manufacturer to offer a complete line of piston-powered aircraft for every General Aviation operation. From trainers (Warrior III, Archer III, Arrow and Seminole) to personal aircraft (Archer III, Saratoga II HP and Saratoga II TC), to business models (Seneca V and Malibu Mirage) there's an aircraft and a price point for every mission. And, soon, the Malibu Meridian will add a new dimension to the line. (Scheme Designers Selected To Create New Meridian Production Paint Scheme)
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