One year after it formed a partnership with light sport aircraft (LSA) maker Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA), Piper has terminated a licensing agreement with the Moravia-based airframer.
Piper began selling the two-seat PiperSport last April and has since sold a total of 54 of the $120,000-$140,000 aircraft, a variant of CSA's Rotax-powered SportCruiser, according to the Light Aircraft Manufacturer's association.
"After a year working with [CSA], Piper determined that it is in our company's best long-term interests to discontinue the business relationship," says Piper CEO Geoffrey Berger, adding that the PiperSport was distributed under Piper's brand but by a separate distribution network.
"Clearly, the company has a different business perspective and approach to the market than [CSA]," says Berger.
Piper says that as it built the distributor network over the past year, "it became clear that Piper's core strengths and that of [CSA] were mismatched".
The decision continues a cycle of indecision regarding Piper's commitment to the light end of the general aviation market.
Former Piper CEO James Bass, in the top job from 2004 through July 2009, had wanted to position Piper to dominate the $600,000-$2.5 million product range, topped out by the turbofan-powered PiperJet, now in development.
Bass was replaced in July 2009 after Brunei-based investment company, Imprimis, bought the company. Taking the helm was Piper veteran Kevin Gould, on whose watch Piper decided to launch a foray into the light sport arena. Cessna by contrast had developed from scratch its own light sport entrant, the Skycatcher.
Gould resigned in July last year, replaced by Berger, an investment fund manager at Imprimis.
The news could signal that Piper is again returning its focus to the higher-end of the market, though the company says it continues to support the LSA sector.
"We at Piper have a close affinity with this emerging segment of the marketplace and we have great expectations for the LSA industry," says Berger. "The LSA we were distributing is a good one and we encourage aviation enthusiasts to continue their support of this segment of the market."