Three Reasons to Upgrade From Twin Piston to Turbine

If you operate your high performance piston twin for business and are looking at a follow on aircraft, I recommend that you seriously consider the advantages of a single engine turbine airplane.

Please note that I am specifically referring to business use. If you fly for pleasure then you fly what pleases you.  The reasons for selecting a pleasure aircraft can, and should be, based upon emotion. (Provided that you can afford the emotions of course!). Business use aircraft are tools first, fun tools, but tools. They must meet the needs of the business. 

The first reason is performance. No questions there. The turbine engine gives you far superior performance at altitude. Step into a turbine airplane and you get pressurized comfort. Yes, you can get your piston twin up to 14,000, 15,000 feet or even higher. But that pressure altitude has you breathing oxygen through a tube. That and the altitude itself are far more fatiguing than a cabin altitude of 6,000 or 8,000 feet.

Turbine aircraft can also get you to higher altitudes than pistons. The mid 20s are easily reached by most modern turbine airplanes, be they singles or twins. The ride is often much smoother than in the teens and you have many more options open for the avoidance of poor weather, be it convective activity or even icing conditions. 

Turbine speeds beat piston speeds.  You get 50 knots to 150 knots advantage due to the added power of a turbine engine. High speed cruise in a modern piston twin is 170 to 200 knots true. With a turbine single or light twin you can see 250 to 320 knots true. All these performance attributes in favor of the turbine airplane add up to increased productivity. Get there sooner, get there less tired, and get home sooner. That means a better use of business time.

Turbine aircraft are also more reliable. The engines themselves tend to be far more reliable than high-powered piston engines. "Dependable engines" is more than marketing lingo. Turbine singles have an excellent safety record and personally, I'd prefer a turbine single at night, IFR, than a piston twin. Give me two turbine engines and we are all set!  

Turbine engines, if maintained properly, have far longer intervals between overhauls than piston engines. High powered pistons tend to have 1,700 to 2,000 hour overhaul intervals whereas turbine overhaul intervals start at 3,500 to 4,000 hours. Again, for a business, the airplane must be productive. Waiting for an overhaul to be done is not productive. The longer overhaul intervals combined with the speed advantage of a turbine means the turbine engine is on wing for 2.5 to three times the number of miles as the piston engine.

Lastly is operating cost. Wait! We all know that turbine engines both consume more fuel and cost a lot more than piston engines to overhaul. First thing is to adjust that for the speed and overhaul interval of the turbine. As a comparison, the Baron G58 has a maximum payload of 1,195 lbs and cruise at up to 200 knots. A close competitor is a Piper Meridian with a maximum payload of 1,173 lbs and a max cruise of about 257 knots. At high speed cruise the Baron has a specific range of 1.053 NM/lb fuel whereas the Meridian has a specific range of 1.066 NM/lb fuel. So in this comparison, the cost per NM for fuel slightly favors the Meridian. Add to that the lower cost per gallon on Jet-A versus 100LL.

Yes, the overhaul of a turbine engine far exceeds the cost of the piston on a cost per hour (or per mile) basis. The Baron's two engines run about $66,000 for an overhaul at 1,700 hours ($39/hour) while the Meridian's PT6A overhaul is about $150,000 every 3,600 hours ($42/hour). On a per NM basis the Meridian actually comes out ahead due to its speed advantage (about 2%)

.Piper Merdian PA46-500T Beechcraft Baron G58

Selling price (List) of the new Baron G58 is $1.35 million while the Meridian sells for $2.1 million new. Current used price for a 2004 Baron is about $590,000 (44% of its new price). The 2004 Meridian sells for about $1 million 48% of new). Selling price new and used are lower for the Baron. But as a percentage of new, the turbine airplane tends to have a smaller loss in value. So that is where the "advantage" favors the piston twin. However, it is up to you, the buyer, to determine whether the value of the turbine airplane in terms of productivity and performance is worth the additional acquisition cost. 

A turbine airplane, especially a single, is worthy competitor to the piston twin and under close inspection, offers many advantages but at a less than anticipated expense.

Understanding this will open a huge debate, I would really llike to hear your view point (agree or disagree) but give us reasons not a vote!