Piper has started building components for its first conforming PiperJet Altaire in the company's 75,000ft2 (6,968m2) Altaire production facility in Vero Beach, Florida.

Along with completing a static test rig and bringing in the first tooling fixtures from Hampson subsidiary Global Tooling Systems, Piper began bonding aft cabin skin sections for the all-metal, six-seat jet this summer.

UK-based Hampson is under contract to provide the assembly and bond tooling for the Williams International FJ44-33AP-powered single engine turbofan's fuselage, empennage and wing.

PiperJet Altaire
 © Piper

Tooling delivered as of early September included the aft cabin assembly drill fixture and tail cone assembly drill fixture.

The first flight of the conforming Altaire is on schedule for the latter part of 2012, said Randy Groom, Piper executive vice-president, with certification and deliveries of the $2.5 million jet set for 2014, after a flight test programme of four aircraft.

Groom said more than 200 engineers are now working on Altaire, with 80% of the detail design drawings complete, and a critical design review set for later this year.

The company launched the more spacious Altaire version of the PiperJet in October 2010.

A proof-of-concept demonstrator for the original design accumulated more than 230h and 160 flights, including an evaluation at the aircraft's planned top speed of 360kt (665km/h).

The Altaire will be built in a single line configuration in hangar 20.

Groom would not comment on the number of aircraft orders or the projected production rate, but said the production backlog currently stands at three years.

Source: Flight International