Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

New Piper Aircraft is examining market needs for a "family" of business jets to add to its line-up of piston and turboprop-powered aircraft. "We feel that this will be a natural progression for our Malibu Meridian customers," says Larry Bardon, New Piper's director of sales.

He says there are plans to conduct focus groups among operators and potential customers. These are to start later this year, possibly coinciding with the Farnborough air show in September.

"We will be starting with a clean piece of paper," says Bardon. Although New Piper will not disclose details of the proposed aircraft, it admits that "-it will not be similar in design, performance or price" to models offered by other manufacturers.

Bardon concedes that the company is seeking three categories of aircraft to "-fill a void" below the Cessna CitationJet and Raytheon Premier 1 business jets. "We will evaluate one aircraft at a time, depending on the results of the market research," he says.

New Piper is confident that it will be able to carve out a niche in the increasingly crowded business jet market. "There may be a limited market for the design, but we have a better understanding of what the constraints are," he adds.

Meanwhile, New Piper has selected avionics for its Meridian single turboprop business aircraft. Details of the supplier, which Piper claims is not a mainstream company, is being kept under wraps until the aircraft's roll-out, scheduled for 13 August.

New Piper has 90 orders for the Meridian, for which first deliveries are due in 2000.

Source: Flight International