Piqua, OH--The 1998 New Piper Aircraft Malibu Mirage receives a boost from what is said to be the first composite propeller to see widespread use in general aviation. Developed by Hartzell (Piqua, OH), the three-bladed propeller not only provides greater performance, it also cuts noise and adds very little weight.
"The Malibu Mirage normally has a two bladed propeller, and they wanted to go to three blades to improve takeoff and climb performance," says Hartzell Vice President Mike Disbrow. A standard aluminum propeller would have added about 20 lb to the nose of the aircraft, unacceptably shifting the airplane's CG. The composite three-bladed propeller--constructed from Kevlar--adds just seven pounds.
The slight CG shift is worth it. The new 80-inch, non-feathering, constant-speed design cuts takeoff roll by 20% and distance to clear a 50ft obstacle by as much as 10%. Other benefits include reduced vibration and noise, lower inertia, enhanced durability and reliability, as well as improved maintenance.
The noise improvement results from the three bladed prop's smaller, smoother thrust pulses as compared to a two-bladed design. The pulses are also at a higher frequency, which is claimed to be less objectionable to aircraft occupants.
If there's a downside, it's cost. You can expect to pony up about $40,000 extra to be the first on your block with a composite-propped Malibu Mirage. But Disbrow puts that in perspective: "For aircraft of this class and the performance gain, it really isn't that much money."