Piper Aircraft president Jim Bass has laid out a clear strategy for carrying the company into the next decade by expanding its line of cabin-class singles, from piston-powered models to the PiperJet. Bass said the company has no plans to adopt Cessna’s style of capturing clientele with light sport aircraft and then moving them up the product line.
Piper Aircraft confirmed today that it will bring its PiperJet prototype to the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., early next month. The aircraft manufacturer held a two-day dealer event this week at its Vero Beach, Fla. headquarters to give dealers, customers and prospective customers a sneak peek of the $2.2 million single-engine jet.
Piper Aircraft’s single-engine PiperJet prototype has logged 12 flights since its maiden jaunt from Vero Beach (Fla.) Airport on July 30.
Piper announced on July 21 that American Capital Strategies, a minority (about 2 percent) shareholder in the company since 1998, has acquired 94 percent of the Vero Beach, Fla.-based manufacturer’s voting equity. The announcement followed word on July 15 that ACS had secured Piper’s bank debt for approximately $75 million.
For the first time in Piper Aircraft’s 71-year history, the company has flown a homegrown jet airplane. Yesterday morning, hundreds of the aircraft manufacturer’s employees watched, and celebrated, the successful maiden flight of the PiperJet from Vero Beach (Fla.) Airport, which is also home to Piper.
Piper Aircraft’s single-engine PiperJet flew for the first time today, taking off from Piper headquarters at Vero Beach (Fla.) International Airport. It is the company’s first jet in its 71-year history and a large-cabin contender in the growing single-engine jet market. Piloted by Dave Schwartz in the left seat and Buddy Sessoms in the right seat, the PiperJet lifted off from Runway 29 at 11:11 a.m. EDT for a one-hour flight.
Jim Christy, vice president of Hayden, Idaho-based Aerostar Aircraft, continues his search for an investor or investors willing to put up $50 million–while not demanding the whole store– to bring the proposed turbofan-powered derivative of the Piper Aerostar 600/700 through certification and into production.
Another company has launched a bid in the crowded single-engine jet field. Stratos Aircraft of Bend, Ore., has launched the Stratos 714, which it claims will outperform single-engine jets from Cirrus Design, Diamond Aircraft, Eclipse Aviation, Piper Aircraft and even most twin-engine very light jets.
Piper Aircraft in late May made it official that it is staying put in Vero Beach, Fla. Piper will receive a $32 million incentive package from the state and Indian River County–to be paid out over three years–in exchange for making the commitment to remain and grow in the county. Meanwhile, the PiperJet prototype appears poised to make an on-schedule first flight in the next two months as static testing winds down on the airplane.
Piper Aircraft said its PiperJet prototype is making progress, with the first engine start and run expected early this month. Last month, the Vero Beach, Fla.-based aircraft manufacturer finished all static load testing on the single-engine jet proof-of-concept airframe. The prototype has since been removed from the test fixture and is now standing on its own landing gear.