NBAA Convention News

The PiperJet begins a new era for 70-year-old maker

 - November 8, 2006, 6:20 AM

Piper Aircraft president and CEO Jim Bass yesterday unveiled the company’s next generation aircraft–the single-engine, six-seat PiperJet, an airplane priced at just under $2.2 million that adds another serious player to the market for very light jets.

A walk-through mockup is on display at Piper’s booth (No. 5785), showing nearly all components of the proposed airframe except for the landing gear. The all-metal aircraft will have a range of about 1,300 nm and cruise at 360 knots up to FL350, Piper announced. That’s 100 knots faster and 5,000 feet higher than its high-end turboprop single, the $1.895 million Meridian. By comparison, Diamond Aircraft’s $1.38 million D-Jet–which made its first takeoff in April and continued flight testing through the summer–seats four plus the pilot, is powered by a single Williams FJ33-4 turbofan engine and has about the same range as the proposed PiperJet but cruises about 45 knots slower and 10,000 feet lower.   

John Becker, Piper’s v-p of engineering, said a prototype of the PiperJet is expected to make its first flight within 18 months, though an engine has not yet been selected.

The PiperJet will be based on the Meridian airframe and will receive the type designation PA47-2400J, Becker said, adding that the jet will be able to haul about 800 pounds with full fuel, or about 250 pounds more than the Meridian.

“It’s not about being first to market but about getting it right first,” Bass said, declining to comment further on the D-Jet or Cirrus Design’s jet project, the details of which have yet to be disclosed.

Becker said Piper will seek FAA certification for operations with a single pilot, for flight into known icing, and for operations under RVSM. Bass told NBAA Convention News that Piper expects the first deliveries to begin in 2010 and has received “more than 20, but less than 100” orders for the jet to date, mainly from existing Piper owners.

Bass said Piper’s relationship with Japanese automaker Honda Motor Corp., established earlier this year to “explore opportunities in engineering and other areas within general and business aviation,” will not influence the Vero Beach, Fla. company’s choice of engine for the PiperJet. Yet at the booth immediately adjacent to Piper, Honda yesterday revealed the specifications for its twin-engine HondaJet, which features two Honda HF118 turbofans, developed in partnership with General Electric Co. Bass said the HondaJet, priced at $3.65 million, will not compete directly with the PiperJet.

Bass said Piper is considering the HF118 as well as other  engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada and Williams International. The Meridian, in service since 2000, is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A turboprop. When asked whether Piper had considered twin engines for the jet, Bass said more than 85 percent of the Piper customers he surveyed indicated they wanted a single.

Williams International v-p of business development and media relations Matt Huff confirmed that the company’s FJ44-3 turbofan is a strong contender for the PiperJet, noting that the engine already has a proven track record on the Cessna CJ3 business jet, and that the Williams FJ33 is already flying in a single-engine configuration on the Diamond D-Jet. Huff said that should Piper choose the FJ44-3, which is rated up to 3,000 pounds of thrust, “they’ve got that built-in margin [of thrust] if they need it for certification.”

The PiperJet will use a 2,400-pound-thrust engine. The HF118 is rated for 1,670 pounds, while the Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D series turbofans develop thrust in the 2,200- to 3,350-pound range. No one from Pratt & Whitney Canada could be reached for comment on the company’s prospects for powering the PiperJet.

Whichever engine is selected for the PiperJet, it will be mounted on the tail in a fashion reminiscent of the McDonnell Douglass DC-10 airliner. Becker told NBAA Convention News that Piper engineers determined the jet could achieve greater efficiency with a single tail-mounted engine versus an engine contained within the fuselage, because there would be greater airflow.