PA46 500TP Malibu Meridian
Introduction And History
The Piper PA46 500TP Meridian is arelatively young aircraft, but with older roots. Derived from thepiston powered Piper PA46 Malibu and Malibu Mirage that first sawproduction in 1983, the Piper Meridian is the flagship aircraft fromPiper and is unmatched in cost for performance and utility. Perhapsthe most notable change from the Meridian's predecessors is the powerplant. Equipped with a PT6A-42A turbine, this business turboprop hassome very impressive numbers that make it an attractive airplane tofly even in a simulator. With a landing distance over a 50 footobstacle of just 2,110 feet, the Meridian can land in many smallerairports making it an excellent choice for many pilots. It also boastsa max service ceiling of 30,000 feet, a max range of 1,000 nm, and a maxcruising speed of 260 KIAS. These impressive specs give you theflexibility to fly across the United States with just two stops, andmuch of Europe nonstop. With that said, let's find out how Carenadorepresents the Piper Meridian in X-Plane 11!
Documentation And First Impressions
Like all of Carenado's aircraft, the Piper Meridian ships with theusual array of documents. This includes Normal Operating Procedures,Emergency Procedures, Performance Tables, Reference Speeds,Recommended Settings, and a basic guide of how to use the enhancedG1000 equipped in the airplane. It would have been nice to see atutorial flight provided, though the Normal Operating Procedures PDFwalks you through any relevant information you need to know. I didfind myself struggling to locate some of the items listed, and acouple of the items mentioned in the checklist did not function, suchas the oxygen test.
The Carenado Meridian ships with five liveries and a blank whitelivery, presumably for repainting. Three liveries are from the UnitedStates, one from Germany, and one from the Czech Republic. Uponloading the aircraft into the simulator for the first time, I waspleasantly surprised to find how easy it was on FPS. I rarely had anyissues with FPS drops when using max texture resolution and highsettings, something I didn't expect from an aircraft from Carenado.
The user interface provided by Carenado has three tabs. Theseinclude the autopilot panel, cockpit view options, and an additionaloptions panel for reflections and eye candy. I didn't find myselfusing this at all and found it rather annoying as it was present inall my screen shots. I found out later by accident that if you hoverover the GUI selector and scroll down, it adjusts the opacity and youcan remove it that way. That will be good to remember for my nextflight!
The exterior details with the pitot tube covers add an extra detailthat enhances the look, though I was surprised to see no chocks,something you might expect.
Exterior Model And Texturing
As all things Carenado, the modeling on the Piper Meridian isabsolutely superb. Starting off with the whole aircraft in frame, Inoticed the slightly boxy yet sleek appearance this aircraft has. Itcarries a unique presence on the ramp and looks stunning from allangles. The attention to detail on every part of the model isincredible and makes the preflight walk-around an enjoyable experienceadding to the immersion of each and every flight. The rivets on theaircraft are not 3D, a detail which would have been nice to see. Theyare instead 2D with a bump map that gives them a 3D appearance whichlooks good as well and helps the FPS.
Each aircraft livery folder contains two 4096 by 4096 PNGfiles. The result when applied to the aircraft model is very sharpfrom a distance, however the quality diminishes as you getcloser. When up close to the aircraft you can see the pixels making upthe stripes and rivets pretty clearly which reduces the immersionslightly. This can also be seen on the navigation and strobe lights. Ihad expected to see a transparent housing with 3D modeled lights butinstead was met by a 3D model with quite a low resolution texture ontop. This is a small complaint, and while slightly disappointing, itdoes not take too much away from the otherwise outstanding exteriormodel. The rest of the texturing works seamlessly with the exteriorand really gives the aircraft a stunning appearance.
Interior Model And Texturing
The interior is where the PA46 really starts to shine. Every singledetail down to the appearance of the leather stitching of the Meridianlogo on the leather seats is given attention. The appearance of thecabin during dawn and dusk hours is absolutely incredible, and thehigh quality materials from the real aircraft carried into thesimulator with a result that makes you say "wow". The tray table, windowshades, lights, textures, and reflections just make this aircraft sonice to look at.
Moving to the cockpit the same stunning level of detail spills intothe switches, knobs, and circuit panels. The leather on the yoke,seats, side paneling, and glareshield bring the quality of the realaircraft right into the simulator and you really feel like you areflying a 2 million dollar airplane. The night lighting on the interiorlooks superb. It is highly customizable and gives you a lot of optionsto fit your needs.
There are a couple issues I found in the interior that were lackinghowever. The first is the reflections on the glass displays and theshine on the panel. The reflections felt very fake and a littleimmersion was lost there. The G1000 panel textures are also lowerresolution than the rest of the panel and are quite noticeable whenviewed up close. The second downside which bothered me were thegauges. The standby instruments seem quite low resolution compared tothe rest of the aircraft, and the G1000s become blurry when viewedfrom an angle. This creates a very fake looking scene when viewed atsharp angles. The rest of the interior looks great and I found nomajor issues with it.
The Piper Meridian is equipped with a G1000 NXI suite which makesthe transition very simple if you fly other aircraft equipped with theG1000. I however have never flown a G1000 equipped airplane, and whilethere was a learning curve, Carenado provided a great manual to helpwalk me through using their enhanced G1000. The MFD, using the G1000system has a GCU 475 which is used in place of the standard controlsfound on the G1000 bezel. The issue I have however, is that the GCU isquite limited in its functionality. You can only use the knobs toenter data and waypoints into the G1000. The keypad and number padhave no function and you are restricted to using the standard methodof data entry, something which could have been modeled without toomuch extra effort. The GCU modeled in the interior cockpit on thepedestal also has no use and is only a hot spot to click the 2D GCUpanel open. A little bit of a letdown there. The autopilot panel worksin the 3D cockpit and also includes a 2D pop up through the GUI,though I did not find myself using it.
The depth of the systems on the airplane are where some might beginto feel disappointed. It has enough systems modeled to make a flightfrom startup to shutdown, but in terms of the ability to do emergencyprocedures, you will be limited. It is certainly not simulated to thelevel many would wish for, but it is the typical Carenado level and isenough to make a flight enjoyable.
Flight Characteristics And Sounds
I have flown the Piper Meridian in X-Plane 11 for the past coupleof weeks and find it to be extremely enjoyable to fly. It's not a fastclimber by any means, and at sea level and standard temperature enjoysa stable climb at 1600 fpm. This degrades considerably the higher yougo, as is to be expected, and by the time you reach 18,000 feet, itdegrades to an 800 fpm climb. It is a pleasant experience to hand flyand I found myself not reaching for the autopilot right afterdeparture but rather enjoying the flight myself. During cruise itflies well, cruising around 220 KTAS while sipping just 23 gallons ofJet-A per hour, quite reasonable! Comparing it to the charts it wasquite accurate and I had no issues with the performance.
Landing characteristics are a different story compared to the restof the flight. I have made around 50 or so landings between flyingpatterns and actual flights and I had maybe 12 or so smoothlandings. It is hard to control at slower speeds and even at therecommended approach speed of 85 kts it is a bit harder to control. Ifound adding 5 kts helped with this but it is still a littleinteresting on the approach.
The sounds of the airplane are very well done and it sounds justspectacular in both the interior and exterior. The buttons and enginealarms and warnings are all high quality and give the Meridian anotherlevel of immersion. I did find that when using the GUI to open thepassenger door, the sound of the door opening would play, however whenopening it using the click spot the sound did not play. I could notfigure out what caused the issue but that was the only error I foundwith the sounds. The PT6A sounds spectacular and Carenado did a reallygood job with the sounds for the aircraft.
Carenado has done a fantastic job replicating the look and feel ofthe Piper Meridian. There are a few downsides, such as the G1000 gaugeblurriness and GCU functionality, but this does not detract much froman otherwise beautiful plane. It runs very well on high settings withmy somewhat modest rig, and I only had performance dips in heavyclouds. This is with default X-Plane however, so if you do run it withSkymaxx Pro or another intensive weather program you may experience alower frame rate. Be sure to check to make sure your PC can handlethis aircraft before purchasing, but from my experience it isrelatively easy on your FPS and is quite flyable.
The Carenado Piper PA46 500TP Meridian has a price tag of US$34.95, which is pretty standard for most Carenado products. While notoverly expensive, it is not cheap either so if you are expecting ahighly detailed systems simulation that replicates all the smalldetails and failures associated with the airplane, you will bedisappointed. If however you are looking for a new light turboprop toenjoy flying and don't want to break the bank with the Hot Start TBM900, this is the airplane for you. It has great performance and canstill make it into the small GA airports, a characteristic you will besure to love. If you are shopping for a new turboprop to enjoy, theCarenado Piper PA46 500TP Meridian should be on your list of aircraftto look at.
Purchase Carenado - PA46 500TP Malibu Meridian G1000 for X-Plane 11
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