Piper PA-46

Nowadays the sight of a PA-46 is not so unusual anymore, but when it was developed in the late 1970s there were few aircraft with this appearance, even though it is quite conventional. However, cabin class single engine aircraft were not around yet. The PA-46 is positioned between the single PA-32 and twin PA-31. It has in most cases a pressurised cabin, hence the cabin windows are like those on the Cheyenne, rectangular in portrait mode, with rounded corners. In the nose is a horizontally opposed piston or turboprop engine, driving a propeller with two to five blades. To allow sufficient ground clearance, the landing gear is relatively long. The cabin can be accessed via an airstair door that opens in two parts, up and down. For the rest there are no specific characteristics.

All PA-46 versions have the same nearly rectangular cabin windows with slightly rounded corners. An airstair door opening up and down is standard.

Different versions

The different versions of the PA-46 family can be recognised by:

  • the presence of cabin windows
  • the shape of the dorsal fin
  • the shape of the engine cowling
  • the number of propeller blades
  • the shape of the wing leading edge near the root
  • the location of the weather radar


At first Piper developed a sort of proof-of-concept aircraft, dubbed PA-46-300T. It was a non-pressurised experimental aircraft without cabin windows, and with upward opening cockpit doors. The PA-46-300T had a three blade propeller. Furthermore, testing was done with a large dorsal fin, from the middle of the vertical fin leading edge down to the fuselage.

The experimental PA-46-300T is easily distinguished from the later PA-46s by its lack of cabin windows.

PA-46-310P Malibu

The first PA-46 model was pressurised and powered by a 310hp Continental engine, hence the designation PA-46-310P. This engine has two exhausts at either side of the nose gear. These exhaust have straight, triangular fairings. A two blade propeller is standard. The PA-46-310P has three cabin windows on both sides.

The two-blade propeller is already a possible indication that this is a PA-46-310P Malibu, but not a conclusive one. For that you'll have to look at the exhaust tunnels (see detail on next photo).

The Continental piston engine of the PA-46-310P has straight exhaust tunnels on both sides. Compare them to those of the PA-46-350P, and you will see the difference.

PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage/M350 & PA-46R-350T Matrix

As the Continental engine of the original Malibu proved troublesome, Piper developed a new version with a 350hp Lycoming engine. This engine has different exhausts, leading to more curved exhaust tunnels than on the PA-46-310P. The engine powers a two blade or three blade propeller, but conversions with more blades are possible. For the rest the PA-46-350P is the same as the PA-46-310P, including the optional weather radar. With the introduction of the M-class, for marketing purposes, the new name for the PA-46-350P became M350.

Another version that is externally the same is the PA-46R-350T Matrix. This is basically a non-pressurised version of the PA-46. However, this is not visible from the outside.

M350 is the current marketing name of the PA-46-350P, that was originally named (Malibu) Mirage. Note the three blade prop and weather radar, often found on this version.

The curved exhaust tunnels of the Lycoming engine are the way to recognise the PA-46-350P (and PA-46R-350T) from the PA-46-310P.

PA-46-500TP Malibu Meridian & M500

From the PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage the Malibu Meridian was developed by replacing the piston engine by a turboprop engine. It has two air intakes, left and right below the propeller spinner, and two exhausts on both sides of the nose, aft of the prop. For better handing during slow speeds, the wings have triangular leading edge root extensions, also called wing gloves. These are clearly visible on the top photo. Finally, the weather radar is still placed under the right wing.

In 2015 Piper introduced a new model name for the Malibu series, the M-class. The M500 is essentially the same as the Malibu Meridian, save for some avionics and interior upgrades.

The PA-46-500TP Meridian is the first factory new turboprop version of the Malibu. The engine has air intakes left and right underneath the prop spinner, and exhausts at the side.

This detail photo shows the wing root gloves, that are present on the PA-46-500TP, but not the PA-46-600TP. Also note the location of the weather radar.

PA-46-600TP M600 & M600/SLS

The M600 is an improved version of the Meridian with a more powerful engine. At first, a four blade propeller was standard, but this has since become a five blade prop. Compared to the previous models the wing gloves (triangular leading edge root extensions) are gone. Instead, the wings with straight leading edges have a wider chord. The wings also have small winglets (more slightly bent-up wingtips) and the weather radar is now mounted in the right wing’s leading edge instead of underneath the wing. 

The SLS variant has updated avionics with a built-in emergency autolanding system. It is externally not different from the standard variant.

The M600, officially designated PA-46-600TP, has two versions, the basic M600 and M600/SLS shown here. It has a five blade propeller.

The wings of the M600 have slightly bent-up tips. Moreover, the weather radar is located in the leading edge of the right wing. Not clearly visible is the wing root, another feature of the PA-46-600TP.

PA-46-701TP M700 Fury

Another engine upgrade resulted in the fastest aircraft ever built by Piper, the M700 Fury. Its official designation is PA-46-701TP. It has a five blade prop as standard, but that is no deciding characteristic considering that these props can be fitted on the M500 and M600 as well. In fact, we have yet to find an external difference compared to the M600.


The JetPROP DL and DLX are turboprop conversions of the piston PA-46-310P Malibu and PA‑46‑350P Mirage. You can distinguish them from the original PA-46 turboprop versions by the engine cowling, especially the single air intake directly under the propeller spinner. Also, the nose of the conversions is longer than on the factory new turboprop variants. Another difference between the PA-46-500TP and the Jetprop conversion are the wing gloves, as the conversions don't have them. This difference does not apply to the M600 and later models though. The JetPROP DL and DLX differ only by engine subtype and power.

About the same time Piper introduced the Meridian, Rocket Engineering developed the JetPROP DLX turboprop conversion of the original, piston powered PA-46s.

The nose of the JetPROP DLX is longer than that of the PA-46-500TP & -600TP. Moreover, the engine has a single air intake, underneath the spinner.

Other PA-46 turboprop conversions

Piper converted one PA-46 Malibu with a PT6A engine with a large single exhaust on the right side, but did not go beyond a flying prototype.

One Malibu was temporarily fitted with an Allison turboprop, which was removed after perfor­mance appeared to be too low.

Confusion possible with

Myasishchev M-101T Gzhel

m 101t

This Russian single engine turboprop is more similar in appearance to the TBM series than the Piper. Even the cockpit side window looks much like that of the TBM. Look at the engine cowling, three cabin windows and small nose gear doors to recognise the M-101T.

Aero Vodochody Ae270


The PA-46 can be distinguished from the Ae270 mainly by the six cockpit windows, the smaller, rectangular cabin windows (in portrait mode, so higher than wide), but also by the air intake(s).

Daher (SOCATA) TBM series

pa 46 500tp

This single turboprop can be distinguished from the PA-46 mainly by the typical cockpit side windows, the smaller, rectangular cabin windows (higher than wide), but also by the single air intake under the prop spinner.

Comp-Air 12

comp air 12

This single engine turboprop has winglets, two large exhausts under the nose and a higher placed stabilo. That should be enough to avoid a mix-up with the Piper.

Epic LT/E1000

epic lt

The Epic LT has two very characteristic curved cockpit windows and (nearly) round cabin windows. Also notice the nicely curved leading edge of the vertical stabiliser.

Farnborough F1

farnborough f1

The Farnborough F1 (a.k.a. Kestrel JP10 and One Aviation K-350) is very similar to the Epic LT. Both have two very characteristic curved cockpit windows and (nearly) round cabin windows. 

Falcon 402

falcon 402 oval windows

When you put a single turboprop in the nose of a Cessna 402 you immediately get a PA-46 look-al-like. However, the tip tanks, cockpit and cabin windows and tail are still clearly original to the Cessna, and as such key features for recognition. (photo Kevin Cleynhens)