NBAA 09: Piper to increase production in 2010

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Piper Aircraft is planning to increase production of its piston and turbine lines as it moves forward with development of the single-engined PiperJet.

Piper chief executive Kevin Gould says the manufacturer is "starting to see an uptick in the marketplace" and as a result is planning to increase production by 50% next year. The increase will only partially restore the cuts Piper has made over the past year to both production and headcount. Early this year the Florida-based manufacturer decided to produce only about 110 aircraft in 2009, down from 268 aircraft in 2008.

Gould says Piper could still make some "mid-course changes" to its new 2010 production plan, but "we're cautiously optimistic about the year ahead for us." He says the increase will be applied across the product line.

piperjet-rainbow 
 © PiperJet

For the PiperJet, 2010 will also be a key year for both development and sales. The PiperJet has been stuck for some time at about 200 orders but president John Becker says Piper is ramping up its sales campaign as the proof of concept aircraft continues to perform well in flight testing.

"We're just in the process of making a focused effort in terms of sales of the PiperJet. We expect to see in the months ahead an improvement in that area," Becker says.

He adds the six-seat aircraft has been flying extensively since May, with the completion of flutter testing and the validation of its 360kt (665km/h) cruise speed. The proof-of-concept aircraft, which is on static display at NBAA for the first time, has so far logged 230h and 160 flights.

"We've been able to march through the test programme and haven't run into anything that has caused us to back up," Becker says.

He adds that work to refine the thrust line with a new nozzle developed by PiperJet's engine supplier, Williams International, has resulted in a simpler design. "It's a real bright spot in the program," Becker says.

Piper has not yet committed to an in-service date for its first jet but Gould promises that a new schedule for the program will be provided shortly.