Enough Of The Excuses... Here Are Our Final Decisions On The
Best Birds Of The Year
Each year, we put our heads together, look over reader input as
well as our own reports and other sources of info and try to
recognize the VERY BEST aircraft in a number of pivotal
Each year, the choices get tougher. Worse; we tend to also make
it more difficult by tightening the reins on the decision making
process so that it gets harder and harder to make the cut as the
best in any category, much less wind up at the top of the pack as
our Overall Plane Of The Year selection.
As 2008 came to a
close, we also made some additional decisions as to what
constitutes a "Best of Breed" and how wide we wanted to cast the
net. As previously noted, it struck us that naming an overall
"best" aircraft across the entire spectrum of general (or sport)
aviation is probably no longer reasonable. There are simply too
many aircraft that have distinguished themselves in too many
outstanding ways for one to truly be called better than the other
on an overall basis. One man's perfect high-speed Hot-Rod, for
instance, becomes the expensive "way too hot to handle" mistake of
another pilot whose mission requirements may differ markedly. So...
we're going to cop out -- just a bit, mind you. From here on out,
we will name the best aircraft in individual categories, and
reserve the right in the future to whittle down those categories as
necessary. But, the fact of the matter is that no one airplane is
all things to all pilots, and within the spectrum that we have
decided on, these are the aircraft selections that truly impressed
us in each of the chosen categories.
Let me also note that while aircraft that previously were named
Best Of Breed in any category, or overall, are eligible for
inclusion in this year's list, we have decided to make it more
difficult (in our judging protocols) for a previous winner to take
the top spot in our judging criteria, so that a repeat winner truly
earns the distinction.
4+ Place S/E Certified GA (Piston) -- Piper Matrix!
Talk about a 'd'oh!" moment… when we first heard that yet
another variant of the Malibu series was coming forth from Piper,
our reaction was simple… what else could they add to this
amazing little airframe? And the answer is what we thought it
was… NOTHING. But… they sure could take a few things
away, give it a bargain price and then hit the market by
storm… and that's exactly what they did. We don't know who's
been feeding the Piper folks their wheaties, but we hope they keep
was the first to bring you news of the new Piper
Matrix -- a cabin-class, unpressurized six-seater
based on the Malibu Mirage. Designed to be an economical
alternative to the Mirage, while still offering a luxury cabin in a
high performance airplane, the 350-horsepower Matrix cruises at 215
knots, with a range of over 1,345 nautical miles when flown at its
maximum operating altitude of 25,000 feet. Down low, where
supplemental oxygen isn't necessary, the Matrix checks in at 188
knots and is good for 831 nautical miles at 12,000 feet.
In addition to offering impressive range, the Matrix also offers
a big advantage over the Mirage in usable load -- which is
considered one of the few weak points in the pressurized models.
Stripping the needed equipment to keep the cabin pressurized frees
up a 185-lb advantage for the Matrix -- enough for one additional
standard-size adult (or a really big dog…).
The aircraft sports the Avidyne Entegra integrated flight deck,
with a 10.4" PFD as standard equipment. The panel can be coupled
with the autopilot for altitude, vertical speed, and heading
without the need for an external control panel. The Matrix is the
first aircraft to offer Avidyne's new MLB700 Datalink receiver for
WSI Inflight weather. Other standard avionics include Avidyne's
exclusive Multilink two-way datalink service, EMax Electronic
Engine Instrumentation System, the CMax Jeppesen JeppView
electronic chart display and SIRIUS Satellite Radio. The TAS610
active traffic system and TX670 Tactical Weather Sensor are
available as options, as are FIKI capabilities.
Best of all, though, as nice as the Malibu series is to fly, the
matrix tops it... and for those of us who spend long hours going
from place to the next, handling qualities and the behavior of your
flying machine mean a lot. The Matrix is a great hand-flyer, VFR or
IFR an the handling at altitude is about as good as it gets... in
the 4+ seat category of piston GA birds, this is the top bird in
the game -- for now... but whatever tries to take this on had
better be damned good -- because the Matrix is hard to beat, and
for the moment, simply the best in its class.
Check Out The Piper Matrix