For the first time in Piper Aircraft’s 71-year history, the company has flown a homegrown jet airplane. Yesterday morning, hundreds of the aircraft manufacturer’s employees watched, and celebrated, the successful maiden flight of the PiperJet from Vero Beach (Fla.) Airport, which is also home to Piper.
Piper PA-47 PiperJet
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.
Another company has launched a bid in the crowded single-engine jet field. Stratos Aircraft of Bend, Ore., has launched the Stratos 714, which it claims will outperform single-engine jets from Cirrus Design, Diamond Aircraft, Eclipse Aviation, Piper Aircraft and even most twin-engine very light jets.
Piper Aircraft in late May made it official that it is staying put in Vero Beach, Fla. Piper will receive a $32 million incentive package from the state and Indian River County–to be paid out over three years–in exchange for making the commitment to remain and grow in the county. Meanwhile, the PiperJet prototype appears poised to make an on-schedule first flight in the next two months as static testing winds down on the airplane.
Piper Aircraft said its PiperJet prototype is making progress, with the first engine start and run expected early this month. Last month, the Vero Beach, Fla.-based aircraft manufacturer finished all static load testing on the single-engine jet proof-of-concept airframe. The prototype has since been removed from the test fixture and is now standing on its own landing gear.
Piper Aircraft today said that the PiperJet proof of concept’s Williams FJ44-3AP engine was started and tested on June 19, describing the first on-ship run and subsequent operational tests as “flawless.” After the initial engine starts and operational checks were completed, the single-engine PiperJet moved forward under its own power for the first time.
Piper Aircraft reports that its PiperJet prototype is making progress, with the first engine start and run to “occur shortly.” Earlier this month, the Vero Beach, Fla.-based aircraft manufacturer finished all static load testing on the single-engine jet proof-of-concept airframe. These tests consisted of applying normal loads (+3.8g to -1.5g) to the airframe.
Piper Aircraft has until June 30 to decide whether it will remain in Vero Beach, Fla. An April 28 Indian River County budget resolution approved $12 million to keep Piper Aircraft at its present headquarters, and the state of Florida added another $20 million.
The PiperJet prototype appears poised to make an on-schedule first flight in the next two months as static testing winds down on the airplane. As of yesterday, the jet single’s bonded metal wing and horizontal tail sections were tethered to a static test rig via a series of cables, looking much like a marionette. But those cables will be shed in about a week before the jet single is prepped for first flight.
Will Cessna’s newly announced Mustang light jet spur Piper to action? Though the company has contemplated introducing a jet for years, the official answer is still “no immediate plans for a turbofan.” But at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., last month, Piper president Chuck Suma said the Mustang “validates that segment of the market,” and could lure investors to back Piper in such a project.