Piper Aircraft has expanded its presence at the annual EBACE show, in recognition of the growing importance of the European market, according to president and CEO Simon Caldecott. On Piper’s static display (SD18) are two of its M-class airplanes, an M600 turboprop single and M350 pressurized piston single, as well as a diesel-powered Archer DX single.
“The European business aviation market presents a key growth opportunity for Piper Aircraft and our dealer partners,” said Ron Gunnarson, v-p of sales, marketing, and customer support. “With our continued focus on expanding international sales and with the advent of EASA approval of single-engine turbine commercial operations, the EBACE convention is the ideal venue for Piper to showcase its M-Class products in the European market.”
First-quarter deliveries for Piper climbed significantly, up 36 percent, to 34 aircraft, compared to last year, with trainer deliveries ascending by 16 percent. Trainer orders have surged 88 percent over the past five years, and the backlog for the Archer training airplane is now into the third quarter of 2019.
“Our 2018 trainer production is sold out,” Caldecott said. “As a manufacturer of training aircraft, we’re seeing the forecast becoming reality. The pilot shortage is real.”
Sales of Piper's trainers—which include the Garmin G1000-equipped Archer (both avgas and diesel versions), Arrow complex single, and Seminole twin—are a reflection of the impact of the pilot shortage. Training organizations need new aircraft, and Piper is focusing on long-term agreements for large fleet sales. “Right now they’re looking for more aircraft at the front end,” he said. “And a lot of schools want glass cockpits because retrofitting is too expensive.”
Recent fleet orders include 152 aircraft from China’s Fanmei Aviation Technologies—100 Archer TXs, 50 Seminoles, one Seneca, and one M350; a second order for 100 Archer TXs from ATP Flight School; and a 2018 order from the University of North Dakota for 22 Archer TXs and four Seminoles, part of an earlier fleet order.
Piper (Booth C71) is certifying the G1000NXi upgrade in the M500 and M350, and this will also be available in the new diesel-powered Seminole, which will be certified in the second quarter of 2019. The Safe Flight angle-of-attack system on the M600 will be available in this year’s third quarter, and for the Archer, Arrow, and avgas Seminole in 2019.
During the first quarter, sales revenue was up 77 percent, to $41.38 million. M-class sales grew by more than 100 percent. In Europe, Piper has delivered six Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A-powered M600s, and Caldecott expects another three sales this year. UK dealer BEA is adding an M500 to its charter fleet.
With the expansion of the Continental diesel engine’s time between replacement now at 2,100 hours, diesel-powered Pipers are gaining traction in various markets. “There is demand for jet fuel-powered aircraft,” said Caldecott.
Most diesel Archer DXs are delivering to buyers in Asia and Europe, where avgas is expensive and, in Asia’s case, difficult to obtain. But there is also renewed interested in the U.S. market, he said. The diesel version of the Archer costs $65,000 more than the avgas-powered Archer. “This year we will produce three times as many as we did the first year [2014, when Piper offered the diesel option],” he said. That amounts to about 10 percent of Archer production.