Back in 1983, the new Piper Malibu was a revolution. In the nearly 30 years that have passed since its introduction, the ride has been anything but silky smooth, though the resultant product is a very satisfying one. Owners, it should be said, have pretty much always felt that way. There are options galore when it comes to buying one of these airplanes on the used market (as you’ll read in a bit), but Malibu/Mirage owners adore their airplanes, and rightly so.
When the Malibu was first introduced in 1983, it was very much the same airplane as it is today and a very different airplane, too.
The creation of the PA-46 was a risk that seemed worth taking when it was launched in the late 1970s. Piper, along with just about everyone else in aviation, was coming off a series of heady years in which tens of thousands of airplanes of every description were being sold — contrast this with today, when 2,000 airplanes is considered a big year.
There was probably no way for Piper to know that the Malibu would have as long a life as it’s turned out to have — even early airplanes are highly desirable and maintain their value well, thanks to a number of upgrade programs. Surely, there was no way for the company to know what struggles lay ahead. Those struggles included a few bankruptcies, several economic downturns and the complete transformation of the light general aviation market. Through them all, the PA-46 has been a steady performer for Piper.
The concept of the PA-46 was in many ways far from revolutionary. It was, after all, an all-metal pressurized six-seat cabin-class airplane. That was nothing that Piper or Cessna or Beech hadn’t been doing for decades. The big difference was that the Malibu was a piston single, and that was big news.
It wasn’t the first pressurized single. Mooney had a highly unsuccessful model, the M22 Mustang, of which only a handful were built. It had all the downsides of a Mooney of the day, with its small interior and limited visibility, but none of the upsides, including the great economy and excellent speed per weight. It was never a player.