According to Piper the all new PA-46 Malibu was the first pressurised cabin class piston single. It promised to be one of the first of a new generation of light aircraft introduced from the early 1980s before recession and oppressive liability laws in the USA strangled the GA industry. Nevertheless, the PA-46 has sold relatively strongly.
Announced in November 1982, the Malibu was intended to compete against Cessna's pressurised P210 Centurion, plus older light business twins. Designed with the aid of CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture), an unpressurized experimental prototype, the PA-46-300T, flew for the first time on November 30, 1979. The prototype for the first production model, the pressurized PA-46-310P, first flew in August 1982. Certification was awarded in September 1983, with production deliveries from that November.
Features of the first production model PA-46-310P included the specially developed turbocharged 230kW (310hp) Continental TSIO-520, a high aspect ratio wing, a relatively roomy cabin with club seating for four behind the pilot, a rear airstair style door, IFR avionics as standard, and cabin pressurisation.
The improved PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage, first flight December 21, 1987, replaced the 310P Malibu in production from October 1988. The major change introduced on the Malibu Mirage was the 260kW (350hp) Textron Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A, while other changes included a new electrical system and revised interior.
Since 1994 New Piper has made a number of minor improvements to the Malibu Mirage including to the brakes, autopilot and air-conditioning. In 1999 the Mirages gained the strengthened wing of the turboprop Malibu Meridian development, allowing an 18kg (40lb) increase in max takeoff weight. The Mirage is also offered with conventional and EFIS avionics packages. Production ceased temporarily in 2001 to allow Piper to concentrate on introducing the Meridian to production, but was later resumed. Production is continuing alongside the turboprop PA-46-500TP Malibu Meridian (see separate entry).
A turboprop conversion is available from Jetprop as the DLX (see Malibu Meridian entry).
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