Piper Aircraft’s single-engine PiperJet flew for the first time today, taking off from Piper headquarters at Vero Beach (Fla.) International Airport. It is the company’s first jet in its 71-year history and a large-cabin contender in the growing single-engine jet market. Piloted by Dave Schwartz in the left seat and Buddy Sessoms in the right seat, the PiperJet lifted off from Runway 29 at 11:11 a.m. EDT for a one-hour flight. PiperJet N360PJ was fairly heavy, according to Bob Kromer, vice president for sales and marketing, and took off at about 9,000 pounds (Piper has not yet revealed the maximum takeoff weight) after using about 2,000 feet of runway, with flaps set at 10 degrees. The test pilots took the PiperJet to 160 knots and 10,000 feet with the gear fixed in the down position.
The first PiperJet is a proof-of-concept prototype, Kromer said, but the wings were made on production tooling and the aerodynamic configuration is finalized. The prototype’s fuselage is slightly different in front of the windshield because Piper used a Meridian forward fuselage to build the first PiperJet.
Powered by a Williams International FJ44-3AP flat-rated to 2,400 pounds of thrust, the $2.199 million (2006 $) PiperJet is projected to have a top speed of 360 knots, maximum altitude of 35,000 feet and 1,300-nm range. Two other prototypes are under construction and will fly next year for aerodynamic configuration and systems testing. FAA certification, originally planned for 2010, is now scheduled for the second quarter of 2011, with customer deliveries following in the fourth quarter. “We know this is a date that we can deliver the PiperJet,” Kromer told AIN. Piper has orders for more than 200 PiperJets, 50 of which are from retail customers and the remainder from Piper dealers. “The PiperJet is our future,” Kromer said.