The Piper Archer is the perfect aircraft for the private pilot, and to get aviators…
André and Jacqueline Oremus are enthusiastic flyers. Over the years they flew a variety of aircraft, from MLAs to, for the last 16 years, the Cirrus SR22. But this year they decided it was time for a turbine powered aircraft. The choice fell on a Piper M600/SLS, which they purchased through European Aircraft Sales in Denmark. The aircraft is built at Piper in Vero Beach, Florida. They decided to pick up the plane there themselves.
André wrote this intriguing report, first published in AOPA Magazine Netherlands in October 2021.
By André Oremus
Would we take the next step? We asked ourselves at the beginning of this year. After more than 30 years of flying single engine piston aircraft, including MLAs, experimentals and the last 16 years in the Cirrus SR22, that next step should be something with a turbine engine. And if you make such a step, which aircraft would suit us best?
We started with the spreadsheet and entered the data of five candidate aircraft. Fantastic machines that all have their pluses and minuses, both in performance but also in range, payload, required runway length, space, avionics, personal appeal, purchase, operating costs etc. etc.
Both Jacqueline and I concluded that for our “mission”, as it is so beautifully called, the Piper m600/SLS should fit best.
European Aircraft Sales
We contacted European Aircraft Sales, the Piper distributor for Scandinavia, the Baltics, and the Netherlands. A meeting in Odense was quickly arranged. After parking our Cirrus at this large but quiet field in the middle of Denmark we were greeted by Bjarne Jorsal and Katja Nielsen from EAS. Obviously, we had a series of questions and Bjarne had arranged an M600 to make a test flight.
We would fly to Aarhus with Jacqueline in the front seat and on the return flight I would get the opportunity to fly the aircraft.
The first thing that struck me was that Piper in recent years, just like Cirrus, has made great strides in finishing both inside and outside. Compared to the Piper Meridian (now the M500) the “beefy” wing with the straight leading edge was immediately noticeable, so without the characteristic kink at the root of the Meridian wing.
The M600 wing is newly developed to be able to store 1764 pounds of jet fuel and reach a Vmo (maximum operating limit speed) of 251 IAS.
What also struck me is that some dexterity is required to get into the front seats (for me, not for Jacqueline…). Once seated the comfortable seats are a pleasure to sit in. With such a test flight you get a first impression of the flying characteristics of the plane. The power of the PT6 with its de-rated 600 shp (shaft horsepower) pulls you with almost 2000 ft/min quickly through the first cloud layer to arrive at FL120, the cruising altitude on today’s flight to Aarhus, after about 7 minutes.
At this relatively low altitude for the turboprop you already cross 240 kts TAS with normal cruise settings.
While Jacqueline flew in the front with the owner of the plane and wore headsets, Bjarne and I sat in the back, and we could just have a conversation without having to use the headsets. What we found a bit as a bit of a setback are the windows which are smaller than what we were used to in the Cirrus. But then again, the advantages of a pressurized cabin are worth it. The luxury of flying above FL120 without oxygen tubes and cannulas feels like a kind of liberation, especially for the passengers. After all questions were answered to our satisfaction, we made our decision. Delivery July 2021, formally in Odense.
Pick it up yourself in Florida
But that was not our plan. We had flown a Cirrus from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Europe before, so we wanted to pick up the aircraft ourselves at Piper in Vero Beach, Florida. Specifically, to undergo the M600-training there, at the affiliated Legacy Flight Training Center. Bjarne would arrange a “coach” for us to make the ferry flight home.
After arranging all kinds of things, the time had finally come. We could enter the USA and reported to Piper at 8 o’clock on Monday morning. Patrick, our instructor for that week, was already waiting for us. Later that morning we would be able to see our new car. Bjarne had arranged someone for the test.
At the training center, right next to the Piper factory, they have a number of certified simulators (some full motion) for the various Piper models including of course the M600. It soon became clear that it would not be a week of vacation. The program was always from 8 to 5 with a short lunch break. Ground school, simulator, and from Wednesday also flying our own plane, Friday end of afternoon exam. All boxes had to be checked.
Patrick proved to be an excellent professional instructor with a thorough knowledge of the systems of the plane. Besides the theory he gave many practical tips on how to operate the aircraft. The simulators were mainly used to get to know the G3000 better and to simulate emergency situations.
The training area had air conditioning but the air conditioning in the aircraft could only be switched on after the engine was started. Florida in July is hot and a cabin that has been in the sun for a while is much, much hotter still.
Flying in America is always an experience for me. So many airports close to each other, almost all with an instrument approach, long runways, many without a manned tower, most fields with no landing fees. When you come to refuel, they sometimes literally roll out a red carpet for you. It was a strenuous week and gradually the feeling for the plane started grow and we felt more and more comfortable and so did Patrick.
The G3000 is different from the G1000-based Cirrus Perspective. It is touch screen operation and has a lot of extra “tricks”. The Garmin principles have remained the same and that helps.
Of course, it all goes a bit faster than with the Cirrus but the plane lands easier than expected. Be careful with the foot pedals because small movements will cause the nose wheel to turn out of control. Using the reverse, you don’t need more than 400 meters to come to a standstill. Patrick demonstrated a landing within 300 meters.
Friday afternoon was rounded off with an exam and the certificates were handed out. Now it’s time to fly home.
On Sunday evening Hans Mölback reported. He is a good friend of Bjarne and has been flying as a captain for NetJets for many years. The ferry flights are kind of a hobby for him. Early Monday morning the route was discussed, and we focused mainly on the first leg from Vero Beach to Bangor in the northeast of the US.
Piper had planned to surprise us at 10:30 with a ceremony with about 30 Piper employees because it would be the first M600/SLS aircraft in the Benelux with EASA certified Autoland. We were a bit eager to take off because a front was approaching from the west with some thunderstorms. According to Hans it would be a good opportunity to practice the use of the weather radar, and it was a very nice ceremony, and we could leave shortly.
The weather on the way to Bangor was not too bad if you are comfortable at FL270 and can see the build-ups well and steer around them with some deviations. We flew right over New York but unfortunately, we could not see anything because of the cloud cover.
In Bangor we spent the night and the aircraft had to be exported. Hans was a great help here, as he knew his way around all the forms, customs and, not to forget, the Covid regulations.
The next morning, we woke up very early because we wanted to go to Reykjavik via Goose Bay in Canada.
Flying east means losing 4 hours of time. The weather forecast was pretty good. Lots of low and medium clouds and a tail wind of 20 to 30 knots. Directly from Goose to Reykjavik should be possible under these conditions and we could skip Greenland.
If necessary, we could call Narsarsuaq or Nuuk in Greenland. This time we did not have to worry about whether AvGas would be available as before with the Cirrus. Jet fuel is available almost everywhere.
At Goose Bay we put on our survival suits and life jackets for the first time. A little more agility was needed to get to the front left. Also, this flight on FL280 at 265 ktas TAS went well. The ground speed was above 300 kts for part of the flight and according to the range ring on the G3000 we could have flown to Norway thanks to the nice tail wind.
The max range of the plane is 1658 nm at zero wind. Because of the clouds below us we could hardly see anything of beautiful Greenland. During our previous trip with the Cirrus we flew almost cloudless and with a beautiful view of the icebergs and icecap, but then always with headwind.
Reception in Reykjavik
The reception in Reykjavik FBO was super friendly and helpful. We were even taken to our hotel by and FBP employee.
Hans knew a very special restaurant at the harbor where they allegedly serve the best lobster soup in the world. We sat down on a wooden bench with the soup and prepared the last leg from BIRK to EKOD Odense.
The next day, halfway, the clouds finally broke and we could see the Faroe Islands. About two hours later we landed in Odense where the champagne was waiting for us. We said goodbye to Hans who, apart from being a “coach”, also turned out to be a very pleasant flying partner.
After the import formalities we had one last flight waiting for us the next day; to our home base in Seppe. For us the first time together in the M600/SLS, no instructor and no “coach”, flying to our home base Breda-Seppe, with a runway of less than 800 meters. As expected, the landing turned out to be a non-event and we could turn to the taxiway at the first exit. We were welcomed there by our buddies from Vliegclub Seppe and again champagne was waiting for us. A few more remarks about the plane: We are now about 50 flying hours further and have made the necessary trips. Because we live of the year in Portugal it is very nice to be able to fly to the destination without a stopover. With full tanks you can go the distance with three people of normal stature and 40 kg of luggage. Also for business trips in Europe the range and speed are a real plus. Although the Autoland system already makes use of the auto-throttle, the auto-throttle itself is not yet certified. Just like the certification for the use of grass runways. This is expected in the fall.
The Autoland system, which is also EASA-certified, is a wonderful safety system for single pilot operations. In case the pilot becomes unwell, a passenger only has to press one button to activate the system. Garmin takes control, talks to the passengers, to air traffic control, squawk 7700, finds a suitable field, takes weather into account, descends to the IAF and starts the approach. The software controls all necessary systems like power lever, gear, flaps and brakes.
On YouTube there are a number of demos. It’s a pity you can’t try it for fun.