Thursday, 21 January 2010

Airborne at last (2)

…and it just gets better and better. Minutes after landing in the Mirage we were climbing into a new Meridian. If the Mirage is impressive, the Meridian is even better (and of course more expensive).

There are quite a lot of airframe changes, and although the standard six-seat fuselage plug remains the same, the wing has been modified quite a bit. The empennage has also been strengthened which does make me wonder about the non-strengthened JetProp, although it has to be said that they're not falling out of the sky.

If you don't think about it too deeply, operating the Meridian out of the UK should be fairly reasonable - at least in terms of fuel costs. Now, where can I get my hands on a JetProp for comparison?

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Airborne at last (1)

A while ago I mentioned that I hadn't flown for a while. I'm happy to say that the situaton has now been corrected. After Piper's LSA announcement, there was a scramble amongst US journos to fly the PiperSport. Now, I have nothing against it, but having flown a couple of SportCruisers(exactly the same aeroplane apart from the paint scheme and name) I felt no compunction to join that particular scrum.

As luck would have it, Bart Jones, Piper's chief pilot and a new Mirage both happened to be in the same place at the same time, so I jumped in with Bart and FLYER's Rod Simpson and went flying. The Mirage is a pressurised six-seater that's powered by a 350hp turbocharged Lycoming. Inside, there's lots of leather in the back and a three-screen Garmin G1000 in the front. It's built to climb to cruise altitude and sit there until the time comes to descend for landing. It's not a bimbling machine and it isn't cheap to run, but it does what it does very well indeed. More details of this and other Pipers in a future edition of the mag... but in the meantime, it feels bloody good to fly again.
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Piper gets sporty

A couple of years ago I had a long chat with Piper's now ex-CEO, Jim Bass. He explained how Piper's fortune (and in General Aviation fortune is interchangeable with survival) was pretty much based on the six-seat fuselage that is the Matrix, Mirage and Meridian. He couldn't quite bring himself to say it out loud, but the four-seat, single-engine line was, well, a little tired. Jim's view of Piper's future didn't include a whole lot of four-seater business.

Skip forward a couple of years. Jim Bass has gone and Kevin Gould now sits in the left-hand seat at Piper. Last summer, Gould announced that the Warrior would be relaunched with a glass cockpit and leather interior and now he's telling the world that Piper is entering the LSA market. Unlike Cessna, Piper hasn't developed its own aeroplane, but has instead reached an exclusive distribution arrangement with Czech Sport Aircraft. The SportCruiser is no more; in its place is the PiperSport.

With Piper and Cessna both selling LSAs, the sector is maturing nicely - who knows, perhaps even Cirrus Aircraft will relaunch the SRS, a project they put on a distant back-burner over a year ago.
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Sunday, 17 January 2010

Still grounded

I daren't look at my logbook - I probably haven't flown the C182 for three or more months and that's not good for me or the aeroplane. I'm about to head out to the US for a while, but it's more of a road trip than a flying trip. We're taking our flight training exhibitions to the US, so I'll be heading from the LSA show in Sebring, Florida to JFK over a three week period and visiting lots of people on the way. With a bit of luck, I'll get to do a little flying in there somewhere.