In the past, turboprop singles used for business flying typically did not offer the speed, load capability or systems redundancy of turboprop twins, though singles have amassed a comparable safety record. But the differences between them are disappearing with the advent of new breed of turboprop singles destined to enter the market in the next two or three years.
Business Jets: In 2007 demand for business jets surges
In the aftermath of July’s well publicized engine-out ditching of a Pilatus PC-12 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Russia, industry observers are asking how this and other recent accidents have affected the statistical reliability of single-engine turboprops and if sales of these aircraft are suffering.
Piper Aircraft last month received FAA certification for flight into known icing for the company’s new Meridian turboprop single. Piper is implementing a retrofit scheduling program to bring the fleet of approximately 100 Meridians up to the latest production standards, and will include modifications to allow for the approval.
When Charles Lindbergh began planning one of the first truly long cross-country solo flights in 1927 everyone understood the risks inherent in a 3,000-mile journey in an airplane powered by a single 223-hp Wright J5 engine. Failure meant he’d probably end up as a shark snack. Luckily, he didn’t have the boss on board.
PIPER PA-46-310P OSTEEN, FLA., JUNE 14, 2002–Flying in an area of thunderstorms, Piper Malibu N9143B, a JetProp turboprop conversion, lost its right wing and left horizontal stabilizer in flight. The private pilot and two passengers were killed when the airplane crashed at about 8:35 p.m. The turboprop single was en route from Raleigh, N.C., to Marco Island, Fla.
When Piper introduced the Meridian in 2001, it marked the return of the Vero Beach, Fla.-based manufacturer to the turboprop market and the end of a nine-year hiatus since the Cheyenne production line went quiet in 1992.
Piper Malibu Meridian PA-46-500TP, Parowan, Utah, Jan. 16, 2007–The NTSB determined that the runway overrun of the Malibu Meridian at Parowan Airport was due to the inadequate design of the engine mount, which caused an uncommanded left turn during the landing roll and loss of directional control. The Meridian hit a snow bank. No one was injured in the accident.
Piper PA-46-500TP Malibu Meridian, Wellsville, Mo., June 28, 2007 – All three occupants of the Meridian were killed when it broke up in flight in VMC near Wellsville. The turboprop took off from the Spirit of St. Louis Airport at 7:52 a.m. and was cleared to FL230. Radar contact was lost at about 8:15. The path of the wreckage was about four miles long.
The race is on; the first manufacturer to certify, build and deliver a single-engine jet that offers reasonable performance and price might have the market to itself until Piper Aircraft’s PiperJet joins the fray in 2010. Unless Cirrus Design has far more up its sleeve than it has revealed thus far, it appears that Diamond will be first to market with its surprisingly roomy D-Jet.