In 2016, I stepped away from a Citation V with two nearly-new twin turbofan Pratt & Whitney JT15-5D engines capable of roughly 6,000 pounds of total thrust, 4,300 fpm climb, 16,300 pounds maximum gross weight, and Garmin avionics. This aircraft boasts a nearly 2,000-mile range with 45,000-foot service ceiling, a refreshment center and a flushable toilet.
And from this, I upgraded to a Piper M500. Maybe I should start at the beginning.
I learned to fly in the late 1980s, first owning a 1980 Cessna 172RG. In 1997, I started my own company in computer vision and automated inspection, and within three years I was ready for a bigger and faster aircraft. I obtained my multi-engine rating and purchased a Cessna 340A, which was a capable aircraft, super turbocharged, known-icing certified, pressurized with the ability of flying up to FL250.
By the late 2000s, the business was doing well while the rest of the economy was doing poorly. Suddenly, highly capable jets were on the market at a fraction of the price they sold for a few years prior. I purchased a 1980 Citation 501SP, obtained a CE500 type rating and began flying with a capable jet instructor/first officer all over the country. A year later, I obtained single-pilot jet privileges but seldom flew alone, especially into the busy corridors of the east and the west coasts.
Why switch to a single-engine turboprop? Why the Piper M500? There were several reasons.
First, our company grew and I needed to spend more time attending to it rather than fly to the customer sites. My long trips out west subsided and shifted to the East Coast with the range requirements of 200 to 600 nm, although I occasionally still do longer trips. Second, the Citation V is a two-pilot aircraft with stringent insurance requirements on the second-in-command (SIC). The qualified SICs in our area were not always available when I needed them. One can get a single-pilot waiver by training every year and subsequent check ride in the Citation V. But then I ask any owner-pilot, “How lucky do you feel flying a 16,000-pound jet in less-than-stellar weather poking into New York or other busy airspace and all alone?”
I test-flew the M500 and it was love at first flight. Once in the air, she flew more like a jet than a single-engine aircraft. It had a positive and stable feel to it. The takeoffs and landings in twin-jets, especially in stiff crosswinds, are somewhat easier since they typically weigh a lot more than the Meridian. However, the takeoffs and landings in the Meridian are simply fabulous if you are proficient on your “stick and rudder” skills. I also enjoyed the “new smell” of a modern, factory-new machine equipped with a solid integration of Garmin G1000 avionics and autopilot.
Once the decision to purchase a factory-new M500 was made, everything fell into place as smooth as clockwork.
Of all the aircraft I’ve owned in my 30-year flying career, this aircraft is a true pilot’s airplane, with the most responsive, immaculate handling characteristics of anything else I have flown. Having now owned my M500 for nearly a year, it has more than met all of my expectations. It’s love at every flight.