MMOPA Operating Practices for the Piper PA46


I have the privilege of serving on the Malibu & M-Class Owners and Pilot’s Association Safety Committee.  Along with 6 other Piper PA46 instructors, we were tasked with two things last year leading up to the MMOPA Convention in Colorado Springs last October.  The first was to develop a Master Aviator Program (more on that in a later article).  The second was to develop Operating Practices for the Piper PA46 fleet that we as instructors could all get on board with to teach the same thing, allowing everyone in the fleet to fly approaches and patterns the same way.

When I started instructing in the piston Piper PA46 line (the Malibu, Mirage, and Matrix), I was surprised to find that there were no recommendations anywhere that I could find for approach and pattern power settings and airspeeds.  This led to some experimentation on my part trying to find out what works well for the airplane.  I had originally been given good training in a Malibu, but hadn’t flown one for several years, so my numbers were a bit rusty.

I have been in the Cirrus world for a very long time.  One thing I greatly appreciated from an instructing point of view about Cirrus was the abundance of guidance the factory gives instructors and pilots on how the airplane is supposed to be flown.  All CSIPs and all Cirrus pilots should (theoretically) be teaching and flying the exact same way.

I was quite surprised that Piper didn’t put out similar information.  I wasn’t as familiar with MMOPA at the time, but was surprised they didn’t have any information either.

I apparently wasn’t the only one with a desire to have a little bit more standardization.

So, without further ado, here are the MMOPA Operating Practices that the Safety Committee put together.  If you are a new Piper PA46 pilot, these numbers are what you will expect to use when you do your Initial training.  If you are a seasoned Piper PA46 pilot, you probably fly these numbers, or pretty close to them already.

These are tried and true power settings and speeds for the approach phase and landing phase.  They work. That was the goal of the Safety Committee:  put down in writing something repeatable to enhance safety.  I believe we have accomplished that.

I Learn To Speak Seaplane


From the time I started flying, I have always had the dream to learn how to fly a seaplane.  As I learned in November, it’s actually learning to land a seaplane, and the veterans call them floatplanes.

ProMark Aviation at the Burnet Airport (KBMQ) offers a weekend float plane course that is high on fun and low on stress.  The school has a Piper PA12 Super Cruiser on amphibious floats (amphibs as I was corrected at one point.  I mean, if you’re going to fly a seaplane, er, floatplane, you have to know the lingo) that will land and takeoff on water, but does little else with ease and grace.  At 150 HP with those big floats and all the associated rigging hanging underneath the airplane, you are lucky to get to 500 feet before you get to your destination.

We weren’t working on setting any speed records.  I was learning the lay of the water.  I learned about the step, the keel, pumping the floats, how to read the water, currents, ducks (yes, ducks and birds are important to know about when you are flying low on the water), buoys, docking, and ditching.  Step taxiing was fun as you are basically at 3/4 throttle screaming across the top of the water just below flying speed.  It’s the best way to taxi a seaplane (truly, it is.  You get more air in your engine, you can see better, and you are moving.  Just don’t try and turn sharp).

Floatplanes also don’t have any shock absorbers, so the higher the wave, the more you get knocked around, so wind velocity and, in turn, wave height is very important.

A very important nuance of an amphibious floatplane compared to a straight floatplane (one that doesn’t have wheels that come out of the floats), is at one point, you want to make sure your gear is down for landing (runway landing) and at another, you want to make absolutely sure your gear is up for landing (water landing).  If you land wheels down in the water, you will capsize, 100% of the time.  Thankfully from my good instruction, I did not capsize.

Ken Wittekiend, my instructor, and I spent the majority of the weekend landing and taking off on Lake Buchanan (I was informed by locals it is pronounced “Buk-cannon”, not “Bue-cannon”), which is more open and therefore has more waves.  We did one landing on Inks Lake so my kids could see me land, which they thought was the best thing since cheese sticks.

There is a check ride at the end of the training, but, as Ken reassured me, it’s the most fun check ride you’ll ever have.  I still hate check rides, but that one I think I hated least of all.

I hope someday I can put my floatplane skills to practice, but for now, I can vouch that I now speak seaplane!

Matching the Airplane with Your Mission


Has it come time to buy your first airplane?  Have the skies been calling your name?  Or are you just tired of standing in the airport security line then getting shoved in a long metal tube with no leg room?  Or, maybe you are a businessman who does business in remote areas that have local airports but are hard to get to commercially.

Wherever your need is, you have decided it’s time to make a purchase.  If you are familiar with aviation, you may have an airplane in mind that you would like to have, but is that the right airplane for your mission?  If you are new to aviation, you may have no idea what airplane to go for.  Here are some helpful hints in narrowing down the different airplane options out there to fit your specific mission.

Flying For Enjoyment, but Not Going Far Fast

Piper Cherokee

If you’re just a weekend flyer who is tired of dealing with flight school rentals, but you don’t need to carry a lot of people or go very far, your options are pretty numerous.  Anything from a Cessna 152 to a Piper Cherokee, maybe a Beech Sundowner, or a Bellanca Viking, or anything in between.  If you are content with taking a weekend hop for a hamburger at 100-110 knots, you have limitless options for airplanes.  Tailwheels (Cubs, Citabrias, Huskies) are excellent birds for you well.

Getting Places Fast With Only You and Maybe One Passenger

Need to go 200-300 miles fast and not worried about weight?  A Cirrus SR22T, a Columbia 400, or Cessna Corvalis might be just what you need.  Cruise speeds on those are all around 180-190 knots at 10,000 feet. All are oxygen equipped if you want more speed higher up, as the service ceilings are 25,000 feet.  Payloads run in the range of 400-500 pounds with full fuel.  All these have air conditioning options, too.

Hauling More Weight, but Still Need the Speed?

Cessna 206 Mission

A little slower (150-170 knots) but a little bit more payload options are A36 & B36 Bonanzas, Piper Saratogas, Cessna 206s, or Cessna 210s might suit your fancy.  All come in turbo models if you are a high elevation dweller.  The Cessna 206 has been used for many years as cargo and people haulers in remote regions like Alaska, South America, and Africa.  I’ve even seen pictures of snowmobiles being carried in a 206.

Tired of Oxygen Cannulas?

The next step up from a Cirrus, Corvalis, or Saratoga is the Piper Malibu.  A bigger brother to the Saratoga, the different PA-46 models offer one of the best options for a single engine piston out there.  All except the Matrix (PA-46-350T) are pressurized, all the pistons cruise about 200 knots, and all are configured with club seating with plenty of leg room.  Useful loads range around 1200-1400 pounds (they hold 120 gallons of fuel, so payloads range from 480-680 pounds).  The original Malibu (PA-46-310P) only burns 16.5 GPH so that allows partial fuel to be carried to allow more people and bags.  All have 6 seats.

Need to Carry Even More Weight?

It’s time to get into the piston twin market, then.  A Cessna 414, a Cessna 421, a Cessna 340, a Beech Duke or a Beech Baron are all pretty good options here.  The 421 and the 414 have the largest cabins, while the Duke has the highest useful load.  Cruise speeds range from 200-220 knots, but the cabin is roomier and you get a few more pounds useful load than a piston single.  If you do get into a 421, get good training as they are equipped with Continental geared engines, which can be tricky to operate if you don’t know what you are doing.

Need to Carry a Lot of People and Go Fast?

Turboprops are the way to go for you.  King Airs have the most utility while  the Pilatus PC-12 is the cream of the single engine turboprop crop as you can put almost anything you want in it.  If you have 4-5 passengers, stay away from a Piper Meridian as you can’t carry a lot of weight.  Those are better for 2-3 passengers at the most (plus a pilot).  The TBM 900 is pricey, but fast (300-325 knots).  The original TBM 700 can be had for under a million bucks, you get 280 knots, and a very usable useful load.  You still can’t fill all 6 seats with full fuel, but you can do more with it then a Meridian.

Have a Boatload of Money Sitting Around?

A jet might be for you then.  Fuel, insurance, maintenance, and hangar costs are high, but jets will get you places real fast with room for all your friends and family.



Cirrus G2 Vision Jet


Well, that was fast.

In January, Cirrus announced the Generation 2 SF50 Vision Jet.  After getting the Generation 1 Vision Jet certified in late 2016, Cirrus didn’t waste any time in starting in on improvements.

The improvements are pretty sweet, making the G2 Vision Jet even easier to fly and step into for Cirrus’ target market, SR22 owners.

Here are the improvements on the G2 Vision Jet.

RVSM Approval

The G2 Vision Jet has received RVSM approval, allowing the airplane to fly at 31,000 feet.  RVSM stands for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (read more about RVSM here).  RVSM airspace starts at 28,000 feet, the G1 Vision Jet’s ceiling.  Now that the G2 Vision Jet is RVSM certified, it can fly at 31,000 feet.

For piston pilots, you are left scratching your head as to the advantage of this.  In a jet, the higher you go, the thinner the air, so the faster you go, and the less fuel you burn since the thin air needs less fuel to mix with.  This caps out at a certain altitude and the speed begins dropping and you start losing efficiency (even though the fuel burn is quite low).

According to Cirrus, at 31,000 feet, the G2 Vision Jet cruises over 300 KTAS and gets a range boost to almost 1,200 nm.

Garmin Perspective Touch+

Cirrus & Garmin have taken the new NXi interface and paired it with the Garmin Perspective Touch to create the Touch+.  You can read about the improvements on the NXi here, all of which are included in the Touch+ in the G2 Vision Jet.

The big improvement that is included in the Touch+ is Autothrottle capability.  An Autothrottle is integrated with the autopilot.  It automatically adjusts power settings and speeds based on the phase of flight without the pilot having to touch the throttle.  Pretty cool.

New Cabin

The G2 Vision Jet has a redesigned cabin as well, making it an extremely passenger friendly airplane.  The second row has been redesigned and equipped with a center console.  There is also a drop down TV screen that allows passengers to connect their mobile devices to it to watch movies or videos while traveling (no internet on board, yet.  That’ll probably be the G3 Vision Jet!).

Cirrus also put in more noise reduction in the cabin, creating a quieter ride for passengers.  Cirrus also allows for multiple different seating configurations, depending on the needs of the owner.

As always, Cirrus is on the leading edge of airplane technology, creating airplanes that are easy as well as fun to fly.  I’m excited to see how they continue to improve the design to both the SR22 and the Vision Jet.

I Love the Piper PA46


A lot of my customers ask me which airplane that I train in is my favorite.  The Cirrus and the Columbia both are very good airplanes, but if I had my pick, I’d go with a Piper PA46, specifically an ’86-’88 Malibu.

I love the Piper PA46.  6 seat, cabin class, pressurization, air conditioning, great ramp appeal, 17 GPH (in the Continental TSIO 520 or 550; Piper changed to the Lycoming TIO 540 in ’89, which you run rich of peak and burn 22 GPH, decreasing a little bit of the awesomeness).  What more can you ask for?  The interior is roomy, there is plenty of baggage space in the nose and in the rear of the cabin.  They are downright fabulous airplanes.  Plus, you can get into a nice one that has had some panel upgrades and a mid time engine for around $300,000.  That’s not bad.

Cessna tried to make a pressurized single with the P210, but it just doesn’t match up with the Piper PA46. The Piper has more room, more baggage space, a higher max differential pressure and service ceiling, and better air conditioning to boot!

Don’t know much about the Piper PA46?  It’s been called several things.  Originally, it was the Malibu, with a Continental engine.  Now the TSIO 520 was not one of Continental’s better motors.  However, most of the original Malibus have been upgraded to the much better TSIO 550C engine, which is a great product. Cruise around at almost 200 knots at FL200 and burn only 17 GPH.  It’s beautiful.

Piper changed to the Lycoming engine in 1989 and changed the name to the Malibu Mirage, later shortened to just Mirage.

Then, in 2016, Piper upgraded a lot of the avionics, cleaned up the panel, and dubbed it the M350.

Piper made the ill fated decision in the mid 2000s to quit making the Saratoga and instead make an unpressurized version of the PA46 called the Matrix.  It didn’t last long, only about 10 years or so, and hasn’t been very popular (see:  don’t buy one).  Piper took the best part about the PA46, the pressurization, and took it away, leaving an airplane that you still have to wear oxygen in to get the advertised high speeds in the upper teens and flight levels.  Who wants to be cruising around in a cabin class airplane with oxygen on?  Piper needs to bring the Saratoga back to give folks a low level, high performance option.

What would be my dream Piper PA46?  As stated above, an ’86-’88 model Malibu (Piper started off with hydraulic flaps in the ’84-’85 models and it wasn’t a very good system.  They changed to electric flaps in ’86) with a Continental TSIO 550C upgrade.  The Garmin autopilot isn’t out yet, so I’d go with the STEC 3100 Autopilot w/ a Yaw Damper (the airplane originally came with a King KFC 150, which is a really good autopilot, but most of them are getting old and are getting difficult to fix.  King’s replacement KFC 325 is still slogging through certification.  Garmin’s GFC 600 would be ideal, but that isn’t expected to be certified for the PA46 fleet till late this year).  A single Garmin 10.6″ G500 TXi with EIS tied to a Garmin GTN 750 GPS with a Garmin GTR 225 Nav/Comm as the number 2 radio.

Then I just put gas in it and go.  That would be my kind of airplane.