OEMs move forward on jet singles

 - May 1, 2008, 12:03 PM

Piper Aircraft and Cirrus Design are in a dead heat on the progress of their respective single-engine jet prototypes, and the two airplanes could fly within days of each other. Last month, Piper said its PiperJet prototype would fly in mid-July, while Cirrus hinted that the first example of its jet single could take to the sky in the same time frame.

At Cirrus’s plant in Duluth, Minn., workers are finishing V1, an aerodynamically conforming– but not entirely systems conforming–Cirrus Jet prototype. Company CEO Alan Klapmeier told AIN last month at the Sun ’n’ Fun Fly-In that V1’s tail and wing have been mated to the fuselage. The all-composite, V-tail jet’s Williams FJ33-4A-19 engine has been “on and off the airplane,” he said, and the landing gear has been cycled.

In Vero Beach, Fla., Piper employees had nearly completed construction of the PiperJet proto- type, though its Williams FJ33-3AP engine had been removed to allow for about a week of static testing, which was scheduled to be completed–and the engine reinstalled–by the end of last month, said Piper v-p of sales and marketing Bob Kromer.

Both jets are expected to roll out in the next month or so, followed by a battery of ground tests that will eventually lead to first flights this summer. Neither Piper nor Cirrus would commit to saying its seven-seat jet will perform a flyby or be on static display at EAA AirVenture in late July.

The PiperJet is expected to receive FAA certification in 2010, but Cirrus has yet to announce an estimated certification date. Industry insiders believe that Cirrus might also be shooting for the 2010 time frame for FAA approval. Kromer said Piper has orders for more than 204 of the $2.2 million, 360-knot PiperJet, and Cirrus reports orders for more than 300 of its circa-$1 million, 300-knot jet.