In the Works: Piper Aircraft PiperJet Altaire

Aviation International News » December 2011
PiperJet Altaire
PiperJet Altaire
December 4, 2011, 12:10 AM

Shortly after Piper Aircraft posted billboards in Wichita advertising for engineers, the company suspended further development of the single-engine PiperJet Altaire, “following a review to align the company’s business goals with the light jet market outlook, investment strategies and overall economic forecasts.” The move resulted in layoffs of 150 employees and 55 contract workers.

When it was first announced, the PiperJet was priced at $2.199 million (2006 $) and certification and entry into service were planned for this year, but the price grew to $2.7 million and certification was moved to 2013. Earlier, Piper claimed orders for 200 PiperJets; in 2008, when the prototype first flew, then-v-p of sales Bob Kromer told AIN that orders for 150 of those airplanes on were from Piper dealers, and the remainder from individual buyers. Kromer also said it would take $150 million to see the program through to FAA certification, and he added, “The PiperJet is our future.”

Piper did not release any figures on how much it has spent on the Altaire program, but said it would refund customer deposits for Altaire position holders. Piper plans to preserve the intellectual property developed for the PiperJet, according to interim president and CEO Simon Caldecott. And while the company has no plans to sell the program, a spokeswoman told AIN, “[Piper] would entertain a credible offer for the aircraft program.”

Piper accepted $10.667 million in incentives and tax breaks from Florida and Indian River County, part of a $32 million incentive package in exchange for a commitment to remain and grow at its Vero Beach, Fla. headquarters. Early in the PiperJet program, Piper had made a formal quest to find a location elsewhere to build a new assembly plant for the jet. Piper employment never reached the 1,166 people needed by the end of 2009 to qualify for the second $10.557 million, and it is unknown how much of the first set of incentives Piper will be required to repay.

The demise of the PiperJet brings into question the future of single-engine jets. Only one program remains in active late-stage development, Diamond Aircraft’s D-Jet, which has resumed flight testing. The PiperJet was larger than the Cirrus Vision and D-Jet, and, with a 35,000-foot maximum altitude, was designed to operate at much higher flight levels.

The purchase of U.S. aircraft manufacturers Piper (by Brunei’s Imprimis) and Cirrus Aircraft (by China’s Caiga) does not seem to have injected vast amounts of money into their respective single-engine jet programs, and the personal jet market now seems substantially diminished since the excitement that at one time led to hundreds of orders.

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Raymond Allen
on December 5, 2011 - 6:41pm

Unfortunate, but understand their position. I have been pleased with my Cherokee cruiser, Cherokee Dakota and my Cherokee arrow. It's better to back off now instead of bankruptcy.

Ray Allen

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Gail A. Hammans
on December 5, 2011 - 8:17pm

Being a proud Piper Aircraft owner, its sad to see a company, with its long aviation history, not knowing which direction its future holds. First the Piper Sport, a great little plane with a bright future, and now the PiperJet Altaire. Did not upper management count their beans and do their homework before jumping in? No way to build confidence in a companies future customers.

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OMAR
on December 6, 2011 - 4:08am

i am very sorry to see such a giant company in this case.

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Don MacGregor
on December 6, 2011 - 1:12pm

I spent 40 years in Aircraft sales, and watched all of these folks price their selves out of the market. When I worked for a distributor the price of a fully equipped Archer II was $38,000, now partially because of Avionics, and what not we cannot buy an Archer III for well over $300,000. They try to tell you that $300,000 is equal to what the $38,000 was back in those days, not so, income is going down boys! There is no entry level Aircraft, or weekend flyer machine today, this will lead to a shortage of Pilots that might have become Jet Pilots someday. No Pilots! Who is going to buy their Jets. The few people that could buy the expensive machine's are now faced with the high cost of updating software all of the time. The single engine Jet at best had a very limited market, but all of the manufacturing outfits thought they should jump in and forget about the entry level buyer, go back to building something reasonable and Aviation will thrive again. Few companies would put their employees in a Single engine Jet!

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Carlos
on December 18, 2011 - 9:40am

I think trying to meet all of the additional requirements of operating an aircraft above 25,000 feet was what did it in........

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