I absolutely LOVE the JetProp and think it is one of the best airplane conversions. It makes a great airplane (PA-46 Malibu) even better. Here’s why:
1.) A Jetprop is just as easy to fly as a piston PA-46. In fact, it is arguably easier since there’s no mixture to deal with. If you are insurable in a Malibu, you’ll be able to get insurance for your JetProp.
2.) The climb rate is WAY better. All the bumps are usually below the first layer of cumulus clouds. The faster you get to the smooth air, the better everyone likes it. Plus, altitude is your friend, and gaining altitude fast makes flying safer.
3.) It costs the same to operate. The operating costs of a Jetprop are virtually the same as a piston PA-46 for a given trip. Although the fuel burn is higher, the speed is much faster. Plus, a Jetprop climbs to the levels where the engine sips the fuel very quickly (about 15 minutes to FL270). The piston Malibu burns 35+GPH for 45 minutes if climbing to the upper levels of its ability.
4.) It is smoother. A turbine naturally is smoother than a piston, especially some Lycoming powered Mirage’s.
5.) No more upgrades. For most owner-flown pilots, the Jetprop will be the last airplane they will buy. If you buy a piston PA-46, you’ll always dream the “what-if” dream that will never go away until you get out of aviation or bite the bullet.
6.) Turbine reliability: Yes…all machines can break, I get it. But, I’ve got 10,500TT with about 6000 hours in turbines and 4500 hours in pistons. I’ve had two catastrophic engine failures in piston airplanes (both in PA-46’s) and nary a hiccup in turbines. Coincidence? You decide. For me, I’ll take the turbine every time if given the choice.
7.) Faster is always better. There is a huge difference between 200 KTAS and 255KTAS. Nuff said….
8.) No big expense in your future. Pilots calculate total cost for flying by including an “engine reserve” in their calculations. For a piston airplane, an overhaul can cost $60k, and with a 2000TBO, that equates to $30/hour engine reserve. But, either piston engine in a Malibu will also require a Top Overhaul at about 1000 hours SMOH, which will cost another $20k. So the real Engine Reserve on a Malibu can be considered to cost about $50/hour. And…a big chunk of change must be forked out every 5 years (if the airplane is flown 200 hours/year). In a Jetprop, the engine has a 3600-4000 hour TBO (-35/-34). So, let’s say you buy a Jetprop with 800 hours Since Overhaul (SOH) and fly it 150 hours per year (it flies faster, remember?), it will not need replacement/overhaul for more than 18 years! Who knows what will be going on in your life in 18 years from now! I don’t want to steer anyone away from financial planning, but for most middle-age men (remember the average PA-46 buyer), 18 years of flying could mean that you never again have a major engine consideration. Just fly the Jetprop until you die or lose your medical….sounds morbid, but that’s what most Jetprop owners end up doing.
9.) Rare oil changes. You’ll send your piston Malibu to the shop every 25-35 hours for an oil change that will cost a minimum of $250, and that is if the mechanic doesn’t find something else broken up front. In the Jetprop, you’ll change the oil every 800 hours.
10.) It is the only turbine that doesn’t require a hourly/phase inspection. King Air’s MU2’s, Twin Commanders, and virtually every other turbine requires hourly/phase inspections. An annual inspection does need to be accomplished, but there are no “6-year gear inspections” (which cost $35k in every King Air), 100-hour inspections (which costs $8k in an MU2), or Phase “D” Inspections ($250k in a Piaggio!). These inspections can completely break the bank when they come due. Ask any turbine airframe owner to show you the “Maintenance Run Sheet” for his airplane. It will be 4 (King Air) to 50 (Citation) pages of small-print listing maintenance items that are due at certain intervals. Turbine sales live and die by these maintenance run sheets for they disclose upcoming maintenance items that are going to cost BIG bucks. Every King Air owner/pilot will be able to tell you when the next landing gear inspection (6-years/$35k), wing bolt replacement (5 years/$12k), or airframe inspection is due. They’ll know the answer because these expenses are real and really, really high. Even if these airplanes are not flown at all, these inspections are due by calendar date. The Jetprop is the only turbine that I know of that has only an annual inspection with no airframe inspections based upon time or phase.
11.) It is a “tried and true” conversion with no skeletons. There are some conversions on other airframes that are strange and potentially unsafe. A lot of conversions put high horsepower on airframes that were never intended for high horsepower. Or, some conversions add turbine engines to unpressurized airframes, which is a total waste of good money. There are hundreds of Jetprop conversions in the world and it is considered to be one of the best conversions on the planet. In fact, Piper gave Jetprop one of the best compliments it could have ever given by creating the Meridian to compete with the Jetprop. I tell people that the PA-46 is a super airplane “firewall backward”. The PT6 on the front of a PA-46 simply makes it a super airplane “nosecone to tail”.
12.) Reverse thrust is a safety tool. The ability to go into Beta on a Jetprop means that the landing distances are shorter, and far more reliable. On a piston model PA-46, the brakes are the only tool available to the pilot to slow down on a short runway. And…the brakes on a PA-46 are susceptible to failure when neglected (see this post for more info). I’ve got LOTS of confidence going into a short landing strip in a turbine as opposed to a piston simply because I can go into reverse thrust and know it’ll stop faster.
13.) You’ll look cool. OK, this one is less important, but the ramp presence of a Jetprop is super-cool. It sounds cool, looks cool, and is cool. If you want to arrive in style, show up in a Jetprop.
14.) Its the best time in history to buy a Jetprop. Are you kidding me? A Jetprop can be bought for $600k? I just looked on Controller.com and found 8 Jetprops for less than $750k and all were nice airplanes. All of these airplanes should be trading for nearly $1m. But, since the world economy is in the toilet right now, Jetprops can be bought a 40% discounts. 6 years ago you couldn’t find a Jetprop for less than $800k and most were north of $1.2m. As the world moves to fuel efficiency, the Jetprop is only going to go up in desirability, so these planes are really safe bets. Come on guys…the shelves are stocked and the blue light is on!
15.) Owner satisfaction. Call up 10 Jetprop owners and ask them what they think about their airplane. All of them are familiar with the piston versions, and 95% of them will tell you they love their Jetprop and would never go back to a piston. Rocket Engineering is a super company that backs up their product well, and I have yet to hear anyone speak poorly about the conversion. Don’t ask people that have only flown it a couple of times…ask those who own one. Since just about all owners are pilots as well, they will know the real numbers and the real costs.
16.) Derated engine. A piston powered PA-46 has an engine that was originally designed for about 250HP and then has all sorts of stuff added to the engine to allow it to make 310/350HP. The engine is constantly under high demand. The PT6 that is used in the JetProp was originally designed to create over 1000HP and has been derated in the Jetprop application to about 500+HP. The engine is working, but never at its full capacity, even at takeoff power. Which engine do want carrying you up in the flight levels? I’ll take the derated engine every time if afforded the choice.
17.) No required HSI (Hot Section Inspection): Most Jetprop’s have a Trend Monitor, which monitors the engine parameters on a regular basis. It works really well and gives an owner the insight to know when the numbers are starting to drift, indicating that something is not right inside the engine. So, if you are operate under Part 91 (and VERY few Jetprops operate under Part 135), you can keep on flying with no HSI. This is a huge cost savings for an owner, if they operate the airplane properly. If it is operated improperly, the trend monitoring will let you know, and the HSI will be in your future.