The Piper PA-46 Malibu Mirage is a low-wing; single piston engined; six-seater cabin-class pressurized aircraft with retractable undercarriage.
In the late 1970’s Piper began investigation for a new generation of light aircraft designed with the aid of CAD/CAM technique to reduce the
assembly time for the manufacturer. The PA-46 was designed with a cantilever sheet-metal low-wing monoplane airplane accomodating one pilot
and five in a configuration for sight seeing applications, that be could operated from short or unpaved runways even in worst weather conditions.
An unpressurized experimental prototype, the PA-46-300T, first flew on 30 November 1979. The productionmodel PA-46-310P Malibu was to feature cabin
pressurization, a feature not included on the prototype. Designated Piper PA-46-310P Malibu, the aircraft is of cantilever low-wing monoplane
configuration with retractable tricycle landing gear and powered by a Continental TSIO-520-BE turbocharged engine, the pressurised cabin
providing seating a pilot and five passengers and fitted with airstair style door and equipped with IFR avionics. The prototype for the first
production model, the pressurized PA-46-310P (Malibu), first flew in August 1982. FAA Certification was awarded on 27 September 1983, with
production deliveries commencing from that November. The PA-46-310P Malibu has set several world speed records, but in 1988 the Continental
TSIO-520-BE powered Malibu production was discontinued following a series of incidents and accidents attributed to engine failures. A further
development of the Model PA-46 was the PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage: new features included the more powerful 350 hp Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A engine;
Avidyne Entegra system; Garmin Avionics suite and improved wings. On 30 August 1988, FAA certification for the Model PA-46-350P (Malibu Mirage)
was approved. 402 PA-46-310P aircraft powered by the 310 hp Continental TSIO-520 engine were built before in October 1988, this model was
replaced in production by the PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage. By spring 1991, Piper had orders for over 100 of the PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage but,
after several aircraft broke up in adverse weather conditions, the FAA revoked its IMC certification and began a Special Certification Review.
Piper worked hard to clear the design's reputation and by February 1992 the Malibu was returned to full operations. In 2001, the production
of the PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage was temporarily terminated for introducing the next Model PA-46: the PA-46-500TP Malibu Meridian, powered
by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A turboprop engine and equipped with Garmin GFC 700 autopilot as a replacement for the Avidyne Entegra
system. The production prototype of the PA-46-500TP Model (s/n 4697001) was testflown as N401MM and FAA certification was approved on 27
September 2000. Deliveries of the PA-46-500TP Malibu Meridian started in November 2000. In October 2007, Piper announced the Matrix,
an unpressurized version of the Mirage. The new model was designated PA-46R-350T, indicating retractable landing gear, and a 350 hp
turbocharged engine. FAA certification for the PA-46R-350T Malibu Matrix was approved on 26 October 2007. Standard equipment on the
Matrix included a built-in oxygen system; Avidyne Entegra glass cockpit; S-Tec 55X autopilot and air conditioning. Matrix deliveries
began in early 2008. In 2015, Piper introduced the M600 (Model PA-46-600TP), as an upgrade to the M500 (Model PA-46-500TP). The M600
has a Hartzell four-bladed propeller, powered by a 600 hp turbocharged Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A engine. It received its FAA certification
on 18 June 2016.
Piper Aircraft no longer refers to the Model PA-46 aircraft with the names Malibu, Malibu Mirage or Malibu Meridian.
The PA-46 line of aircraft, as of 2015, is now referred to as the Piper M-Class. The M350, M500 and the M600 make up the entire M-Class line.
The M350 is an updated version of the Mirage. The M350 is fitted with the same 350 hp turbocharged Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A engine and Hartzell three-bladed
propeller as the Mirage. Improvements over the Mirage are an Ametek digital fuel quantity system and an improved Garmin G1000 NXi flight system.
The M500 is an updated version of the Meridian. The M500 is fitted with the same 500 hp turbocharged Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A engine.
It also has the updated Garmin G1000 NXi flight system, like the M350. The G1000 NXi system includes an automatic wings-level function and
control override to prevent exceeding the plane's flight envelope.
In 1991, the original Piper Aircraft Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 1995, the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy
and was renamed The New Piper Aircraft Company. As part of the end of bankruptcy protection, the company was sold
to Newco Pac Inc., itself owned by Piper's creditors and a Philadelphia-based investment firm. In 2006, the New
Piper Aircraft Company was renamed Piper Aircraft. The company currently produces the M350, M500 and M600.
Next to the Piper M350, M500 and M600, the Malibu (Mirage) JetPROP DLX is known. The JetPROP DLX is an aftermarket
turbine engine conversion for the piston-engined PA-46-310P Malibu and PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage. In August 1998,
JetPROP LLC received the supplemental type certificate (STC) for its model DLX (Roman numerals for its 560-shaft-horsepower
engine’s power rating). Starting with a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 turboprop aircraft engine, 90 PA-46 aicraft were converted,
before the -34 engine was replaced by the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-35 as the procuction of the -34 engine was discontinued. A lower
cost JetPROP DL conversion became available in October 2003 utilizing the 550 hp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-21. Today, over 235 JetPROP
conversions have been completed and delivered by Rocket Engineering of Spokane, WA. Over twenty percent of the entire PA-46 fleet
have been converted.