Where will Piper land next?
Asked if he has his house on the market as Piper grapples with the decision on whether to stay in Vero Beach, Fla., or move the entire company to Albuquerque, N.M., or Oklahoma City, Piper Aircraft president and CEO Jim Bass said, “No, I don’t,” and added, “We have no agenda or plan to leave Vero Beach. We have to see if it’s in Piper’s long-term best interest to move.”
Meanwhile, development of the PiperJet continues, and Piper announced that it has selected Garmin International’s G1000 avionics suite for the single-engine jet. Piper did evaluate systems offered by other manufacturers, but Garmin proved to offer “the best in technology, reliability and features,” said Bass.
Selection of the G1000 system had nothing to do with creating a family of G1000-equipped airplanes, he added. “Every decision is made on an individual basis for the airplane. We don’t subscribe to the philosophy of putting one system in all [of our airplanes]. We don’t think there’s a substantial learning curve for pilots moving from one system to another.”
The PiperJet and other product decisions are made based on the “category-killer” philosophy, Bass said. Each airplane is a standalone decision, “and each airplane has a slightly different mission,” he said. “We have a slightly different mission,” he said. “We have different performance and price points from other manufacturers. [The PiperJet] is high and fast,” he said, in comparison with other single-engine jets that Bass characterizes as “low and slow.” Maximum altitude of the PiperJet is 35,000 feet, while many other single-engine jets will fly only to 25,000 feet. The PiperJet’s 36-inch-wide door also sets it apart, allowing operators to carry larger loads like stretchers for medical flights. The PiperJet also offers an optional lavatory.
Piper is getting nearer to completing the first proof-of-concept prototype PiperJet. Wind-tunnel testing is completed, Bass said, “and we’re now into detailed production development design.” The $2.19 million, 360-knot PiperJet is scheduled for FAA certification and first deliveries in 2010. While Piper has orders for 186 PiperJets, delivering that many airplanes could be a challenge because of supplier delays. All manufacturers are so busy making so many airplanes that even suppliers of large components are having trouble keeping up with demand, according to Bass.