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 has until June 30 to decide whether it will remain in Vero Beach, Fla. An April 28 Indian River County budget resolution approved $12 million to keep Piper Aircraft at its present headquarters, and the state of Florida added another $20 million.
Piper, which said it experienced at least a 45-percent decline in sales across the board, is preparing for another round of downsizing this month. At press time the company had not determined how many of its 1,200 workers will be let go. The company had to close for two weeks in the aftermath of September 11 and also dismissed more than 250 workers. “This doesn’t mean the company is not making the kind of investments to secure its future.
Will Cessna’s newly announced Mustang light jet spur Piper to action? Though the company has contemplated introducing a jet for years, the official answer is still “no immediate plans for a turbofan.” But at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., last month, Piper president Chuck Suma said the Mustang “validates that segment of the market,” and could lure investors to back Piper in such a project.
An April 28 Indian River County budget resolution approved $12 million to keep Piper Aircraft at its headquarters in Vero Beach, Fla., and the state of Florida added another $20 million.
Piper Aircraft laid off another 150 workers last month, not because of the slow economy, as in previous layoffs, but due solely to last year’s ADs and recall of Textron Lycoming engines, according to a company spokesman. Piper Saratogas and Mirages are among the airplanes powered by Lycoming engines. Piper also claimed the problem stopped the “step up” process wherein owners of Saratogas and Mirages move up to the Meridian turboprop.
After the PiperJet was announced at NBAA 2006, Piper was besieged with unsolicited offers by officials from more than 60 cities to move production of the single-engine jet to their communities. This spring Piper whittled down the site selection to three cities–Vero Beach, Fla., where the manufacturer is currently located; Oklahoma City; and Albuquerque, N.M.–and a decision is expected soon.
New Piper Aircraft of Vero Beach, Fla., launched a customer-service initiative known as Piper Unlimited Liaison via Standards of Excellence, or Pulse. Company president Chuck Suma said Pulse is “nothing less than the new face of Piper. This is no quick fix. It is a long-term commitment to how we think customers should be treated in general aviation.” Pulse is an eight-phase program that is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.
Piper Aircraft is appealing FAA allegations of wrongdoing that have led to a proposed civil penalty fine of $222,300. According to the FAA, a March 2001 review of the Vero Beach, Fla. manufacturer’s production records showed the company “failed to properly maintain its approved quality systems and failed to ensure its aircraft conformed to the approved type design.” No accidents or incidents are attributed to the alleged violations.
Most of the major business airplane manufacturers believe that the growing inconvenience for business travelers on the airlines as a result of increased security after September 11 bodes well for the health of the industry in the mid- and far term.