My impression of size and sophistication of the Matrix was also enhanced by the exotic Hartzell carbon fiber scimitar-shape propeller. The composite blades save weight and also make possible the dramatic curved blade shape that increases efficiency and, to me at least, seems to reduce vibration. The Matrix ranks at the top of any piston single I have flown for smoothness.
Piper test pilot John Kronsnoble, who handled much of the developmental flying for the G1000 glass system in all three models of the PA-46, was in the right seat to introduce me to the new system. I instantly felt as though I was in the Cessna Mustang light jet instead of another G1000 piston airplane, because the glass displays are the same and the controls for the system are similar.
A nice pretaxi feature is fuel quantity synchronization with a single button push. The fuel on board as measured by the gauges is shown on the MFD, and if you agree that is correct, that becomes total fuel available in the system memory. As you fly, the system subtracts fuel burned and shows fuel amount and time remaining. It warns when fuel is low and announces when it's time to switch tanks in flight.
Another difference compared with other G1000 systems in many other piston airplanes is that you use a centrally mounted alphanumeric keypad to enter most data into the system. Radio frequencies can be tuned with the knobs in the normal way, but most navigation entries are made using the keyboard.
Not long after the gear was up on takeoff, I engaged the autopilot to track the assigned heading and to hold the target climb airspeed, which the system does with great precision. A workload-relieving feature is an automatic rudder trim capability that uses the yaw damper servo to keep the "ball" centered during airspeed and power changes. You may need to fine-tune rudder trim once level in cruise, but during maneuvering, the automatic system keeps the trim close so the pilot has one less distraction.
The Garmin GFC 700 autopilot that is integrated into the system flies with great precision and smoothness, as it does in the many other airplanes where it is available. The precision of attitude from the AHRS electronic gyros, and exact airspeed, altitude and vertical speed from the digital air data computers, allows the autopilot to do its job perfectly. And unlike with autopilots in previous versions of the PA-46, the maximum bank angle is restricted to around 20 degrees, while some of the previous autopilots would roll to 30 degrees or maybe more looking for a standard rate of turn.
Once you move beyond basic singles, nobody cares about standard rate of turn. In fact, that information is not even available in jets or some turboprops. Instead, pilots are taught to limit bank angle to 30 degrees for maneuvering, less at higher altitudes or when flying near Vref approach speed. Jet autopilots follow the same limits.
The 20-degree-or-less banked turns the Garmin system makes in the Matrix are comfortable and welcome for both pilots and passengers even though the rate of turn won't be "standard" at higher airspeeds.
The old emphasis on standard-rate turn was a crutch that made up for lack of information on precise ground tracking and that compensated for failure of the attitude indicator. Without attitude information available, the pilot of older airplanes only could hold standard-rate turn as indicated by a turn coordinator or turn-and-bank indicator for a specific time in order to roll out approximately on the desired new heading.
Attitude and heading information in the Matrix is totally redundant, so the loss of both AHRS on one flight is unlikely. And the GPS navigation systems with their WAAS-aided accuracy know the exact path of the airplane over the ground, so they predict and anticipate that path based on the turn rate available at 20 degrees of bank or less, rather than on an arbitrary standard change rate of 180 degrees of heading per minute.
This is a long explanation of how the G1000 system in the Matrix, as in other more recently certified installations, can fly all IFR procedures automatically at a variety of airspeeds without ever caring about a standard-rate turn. Turn anticipation to intercept a new leg of a procedure and perform procedure turns, holding-pattern entries and all other IFR maneuvers is automatic and flown with great precision either with the autopilot coupled or by following the flight director commands.
I know that disregarding the importance of a standard-rate turn is heresy to new instrument pilots and their instructors, but believe me, as you advance in your flying, you will forget all about rate of turn and fly by attitude.
Of course the system has the full WAAS glideslope capability that allows the Matrix to fly coupled LPV or LNAV with V approaches, which we did back into Vero Beach. We followed a business jet that was flying the VOR approach because it apparently didn't have WAAS capability, but the G1000 system in the Matrix tracked the GPS-calculated glidepath down to about 50 feet above the runway, where I punched the autopilot off for landing.
The switch to the complete G1000 system changed the Matrix standard price to $869,000. It is only $50,000 more compared with the previous avionics package that lacked complete autopilot integration and full sensor and display redundancy. The Mirage is now priced at $997,500 with the same equipment. When typical options are added, the 2010 Mirage can cost as much as $140,000 less than the 2009 version.
For the increase in price, the Matrix or Mirage owner gets the most turbine-like single available, and an airplane built with excellent quality in every detail. Piper's workmanship standards are at an all-time high for the company, and the new cockpit completes the transformation of the airplanes into one of the most desirable piston singles available.