OSHKOSH 2009: VIDEOS: PiperJet makes air show debut

Piper Aircraft plans to unveil in October a new schedule for the single-engine PiperJet as it begins work on three conforming aircraft.

The proof of concept aircraft, which made its air show debut at AirVenture 2009, has now logged 130 flights and 200 hours. Piper vice-president of sales Bob Kromer says the manufacturer has begun design and layout work on three conforming aircraft, all of which are expected to fly from the second half of next year.

Kromer says the first prototype, an aerodynamically conforming aircraft, is scheduled to fly in one year. Two more prototypes, a systems conforming aircraft and an aircraft that is both aerodynamically and systems conforming, will "quickly follow".

Kromer says the three conforming aircraft will need to fly about 2,000 hours to secure certification. He says Piper is now working on a new schedule for the programme and plans to provide in October a projected entry into service date.

Piper initially promised deliveries from the fourth quarter of 2011 but this is no longer realistic as the programme was slowed for several months last year and early this year due to a lack of funding. At the beginning of May Piper was sold to Asian investment firm Imprimis, which is now providing a new batch of funding for the PiperJet which will be used to re-accelerate the programme. Piper chief executive Kevin Gould says some of these funds are now being used to hire 50 engineers "beginning immediately and continuing over the next nine months".

"What drives the schedule is funding," Kromer says. "We have the money now to progress quickly."

Kromer says Piper now has just over 200 customers for its first jet and the order book has been stable despite the slow economy and the slowdown in the development programme. He says the existing customers have reacted positively to the announcement that the programme had secured new funding as part of the ownership change. With funding now secured to take the aircraft through certification Kromer adds "we expect to see an increase in orders".

Kromer says so far test flights with the proof of concept aircraft have proven Piper can meet the promised cruise speed and range. He says climbing to altitude has been better than expected at 22mins. "Those are twin engine jet numbers," he says.