If you’ve read my stuff on this website thus far, you know I’m a huge fan of the PA-46 airframe. So you’d think I’d be all about the new Matrix, right? Well…yes, and no…there’s lots to love, but there’s something big missing.
First, the good. Here’s some good reasons to consider a Matrix:
It’s new: If you like new, then you’ll love the Matrix. This is one of the best reasons to buy one. Every Matrix I’ve seen is just beautiful. They are new, fresh, smell great, and look spectacular, and that means a lot.
It’s got a great dash: Yup, this is one super avionics suite. The G1000 is really nice. If you like the best of the best in its pure form, then go for a Matrix. It is not a panel that’s been adapted, it came from the factory with a super dashboard.
It is a PA-46: You should probably read my report Thinking of buying a Mirage as the Matrix is basically a Mirage with no pressurization. It is a wonderful airframe that Piper was wise to consider for upgrades.
Now, the bad…and it really is only one drawback…but a huge drawback it is! A Matrix is nothing more than a Mirage that is not pressurized. And…pressurization is one of the finest systems on the PA-46! The Matrix basically takes a system that is cheap, bulletproof, and critical for comfortable flight and throws it out the window. The PA-46 is happiest when it is operated on long flights in the upper teens and lower 20’s (flight levels). In this altitude range the PA-46 will easily do 190-205 KTAS, but if you are in a Matrix, you (and everyone else on board) will have tubes stuck up your nose. Yea, it’s not that big a deal, or is it? I think it is. It is just one more thing that you have to manage on a flight. Flying is like a juggling. Anyone can do one ball, most can do two, many can do three, but when the fourth ball goes up in the air, most drop all the balls. It’s just one more thing to manage, but that one more thing could be the one thing that causes everything to fall.
Ride with pets? They’ll be hypoxic in a Matrix. Ride with kids? You better have an adult in the back monitoring their usage of oxygen on long flights. Do you have an oxygen bottle in your hangar? You will if you buy a Matrix, and you’ll get to pay to have the bottle filled regularly.
Plus, your body does not get the benefit of pressurization. There is a difference between sucking oxygen in the flight levels and flying in the flight levels with a cabin altitude less than 6,000ft. The guy who rides in pressurization will be more refreshed, more alert, and more ready for the day by having his whole body operating in a lower cabin altitude than the guy who is only sucking O2.
Hull value is important. I think the Matrix has the potential to lose some value in the marketplace as people begin to see that pressurization is so valuable. In fact, I’m betting that someone will soon come up with a retrofit kit (in the form of an STC) to convert Matrix’s to Mirages. I bet the cost of the kit is high and I bet it becomes a popular STC for the Matrix in the future. There’s not too many people out there talking about this right now, but give it five more years and I bet this is a real topic of discussion as the Matrix loses its position in the marketplace. In five years, the avionics suite in the Matrix will be antiquated, and the “newness” of the Matrix will be gone. Then, the only difference between a Mirage and a Matrix will be the pressurization. Unquestionably the mirage will win every time, and the Matrix could suffer by losing value. It’s only my opinion, and might be worth what you paid for it, but I could be right too.
Considering value, the Matrix is not a good candidate for an upgrade to a Jetprop. The Jetprop is a fabulous conversion, and many Jetprop seekers will buy a late model Mirage and have it converted. Don’t discount this when making your purchase decision…the Jetprop is a proven conversion and as 100LL becomes more scarce (and pricey), the Jetprop conversion could become even more in demand.
Piper is selling the Matrix as a “stepping stone” to the more advanced Mirage. I can tell you that Initial and Recurrent Training is still required by the insurance companies, and they require it because the PA-46 is a complex airplane that requires a competent pilot. You will go through the same Initial Training in the Matrix as the Mirage, and they are equal in demand upon the pilot. It is simply not a stepping stone. If you can handle a Matrix, you can handle a Mirage.
Yes, it has a slightly higher useful load, a slightly greater range, and it is about $70,000 cheaper than a Mirage. However, if you can afford $1.05m, then the cost savings for a Matrix is a drop in the bucket. And, the payload and range for a PA-46 is already fabulous. Do you really need another 50 miles range when you have 1300+ available?
Now, with that long tirade against the Matrix, let me assure you that there are plenty of Matrix owners out there that love their Matrix. It is a FABULOUS airplane. I just don’t know why anyone would buy a Matrix when a Mirage is available. If I had a million bucks, I’d buy a really nice Malibu, put a brand new paint job on it, put the best interior that can be found, and deck the panel out with the best avionics money can buy, and you’d still spend less than $600k. Do the same to a 1990’s Mirage and you’d have a dream bird for less than $800k. If you must have something brand new, then go for a new Mirage. Truthfully, any PA-46 is better than any other aircraft in its class, it’s just that the Matrix is least of the PA-46’s.