Piper Aircraft’s move to serve the flight training market and expand its roster of high-performance M-class singles is paying off. “Obviously, the market is good,” Piper president and CEO Simon Caldecott said on Monday at EAA AirVenture 2018. “In 2011 when I took over at Piper, we decided to get back into the training market in a big way.” Caldecott joined Piper in 2009, and that year Piper delivered 14 training aircraft. This year that number will reach about 145, he said, “Ten times more than in 2009.”
For the second quarter, year-to-date revenue grew by $28.2 million to $103.7 million in 2018, up 30 percent from the same period last year. M-class sales grew 11 percent in that period, with 34 deliveries in the first six months of this year. Trainer deliveries in that period grew to 34 from 15 last year. In first-half 2017, total deliveries reached 57 airplanes, and this year that number climbed to 87.
Piper’s sales backlog now stretches to third-quarter 2019 for the Archer and Seminole models. The high demand for trainers is due to the pilot shortage, Caldecott said.
“We have seen the forecast become reality as evidenced by strong growth in our trainer products.” Earlier this year Piper took large orders from ATP Flight School and Sichuan Fan-Mei Aviation Technologies for its flight academy in China. Between the two companies, the order total reached 252 airplanes. “Existing customers have expanded their original orders to support the growing demand for pilot training,” he said. “The Increase is attributed to the looming shortage.”
Piper has upgraded most of its product line to the Garmin G1000 NXi avionics system, and in December the Seneca V twin will also receive the upgrade.
The diesel-powered Archer DX is gaining traction in locales where avgas is difficult to find or expensive. DX models are done as a post-manufacturing supplemental type certificate (STC) upgrade, but starting in January 2019, the DX engine will be installed during production as part of the Archer’s original type certificate, not as an STC.
The Seminole will be next to receive diesel power, with the Continental CD-170 available after certification in mid-2019. The engines will be counterrotating, as are the avgas-burning engines on the current Seminole. The Seminole DX will feature single-lever power controls and Garmin G1000 NXi avionics.
M-class sales remain strong, Caldecott said, thanks to a 20 percent reduction in used M-class inventory in the past year. “This is increasing residual values and helping drive sales,” he said. “We’re encouraged by economic indicators and the lowest Piper dealer network inventory [in a long time].” The M600 turboprop single is the flagship of the M-class fleet.
Piper continues with product development and last year expanded the workforce at its Vero Beach, Florida headquarters, adding more manufacturing and engineering personnel. “We want to stay ahead of the market when it comes to product development,” Caldecott said.