Piper Meridian Factory Tour

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Since the introduction of the Cherokee lineup in the 60s, Piper has been building all-metal airplanes at its Vero Beach, Florida, factory.Photos By: Robert Goyer
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The Piper Meridian is a success story due in part to Piper having leveraged its existing expertise and facilities in building the airplane. Nearly the entire airframe is built in-house, and there only a few composite parts.
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A Piper worker assembles a Meridian tailcone in a fixture. Most of the airplane is built using simple and time-proven built-up sheet metal construction, as shown here.
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Stamped fuselage parts are assembled and riveted together.
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Assembling the pressure bulkhead that goes at the rear of the passenger cabin.
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Sheet metal cut into shape for making the rear fuselage skins.
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Applying aluminum skin to a section of the tail. The skins vary in thickness depending on the component, but the use of a lot of rivets is a constant.
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A tail skin bent into shape and ready for riveting.
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The most expensive component on the airplane, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6 turboprop engine. Even it undergoes assembly before being installed on the airplane, as accessories specific to the Meridian have to be installed.
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Employees apply the finishing touches to composite components for the Meridian.
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As the airplane is assembled, workers install wiring, trim actuators, rigging and even antennas — this comm antenna is placed inside a vertical fin fairing — before closing up the structure.
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Workers use special tools to properly set the throw of the ailerons and the flaps on the Meridian.
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The PT-6 installed, this Meridian is ready for another expensive component, the big four-blade Hartzell prop that goes on front.
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The radar pod installed and ready to go, the airplane is jacked up and the gear is tested.
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Bearing its own weight, the Meridian now has an engine and a prop and is almost ready to roll out the door.
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Components that might be damaged by the assembly process, like these fine leather seats, are installed as late in the process as possible.
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No it's not a Meridian wing — there wasn't one in the paint shop when we visited — but this drawing of the paint scheme has the instructions for completing the paint scheme as the customer has specified.
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A Seneca getting prepped for its special day in the Piper paint shop.
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This Meridian has gotten its Avidyne Entegra flat-panel avionics system. The interior installation is soon to come.
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A shell of an airplane still, this Meridian will be a fine finished product with a couple of days of hard work.
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A "beer can" airplane, as they're referred to around the shop, this Meridian will be looking pretty after it visits the paint shop.
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Before an interior goes in, a lot of ducting and wiring has been installed at various stations along the line.
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Even after the paint has been applied, there's more work to do. This worker installs a cabin trim piece with lights pre-wired and ready to power up.
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Out of paint and ready for final prep, this Meridian is days away from flying home with a happy owner.