Comment: Business jet market fails to pay the Piper

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The demise of Piper Aircraft's great hope for the future, the Altaire personal jet, may signal a new sensibility in the aerospace industry: just because you can afford to build something does not mean you should.

In Piper's case, the 24 October stop-work order "suspending any further development" of the six-seat Williams International-powered single jet, which presumably came down the ladder from Piper's top-tier sugar daddy, the government of Brunei - backer of Piper's backer, the Singapore-based investment company Imprimis. Thanks to a prosperous flow of natural gas and oil, Brunei is not exactly cash-strapped.

Why stop Piper's advance up into the presumably more lucrative jet set sector from its propeller-laden roots? Simple: the light side of the light-jet market is moribund, and probably will remain so for some time. As Piper has said, the outlook did not support a return on investment in the timeframe that Imprimis, or Brunei, had in mind. Whereas US airframers mortgaged to the hilt with investor cash in the past have been guilty of an if-we-build-it, they-will-come mindset - Vern Raburn and Eclipse Aviation come to mind - pragmatic Eastern investors are looking into the future and thinking, they're not coming, so we're not building.

And a sensibility of this sort could spread, given the grim outlook for any jet that offers little more than up-and-coming single-engined turboprops.