March 29, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Nonpilots can buy a Piper Archer LX and become a pilot in three weeks under a new Ready, Set, Fly program using a professional training company at the Piper factory in Vero Beach, Fla. Piper Executive Vice President Randy Groom announced at Sun ‘n Fun.
Groom said the program is a direct response to an AOPA study on why some students fail to complete flight training. In particular, it addresses the poor-weather issue reported in the AOPA study by conducting the training in usually sunny Vero Beach. It also addresses an issue of poor professionalism by selecting a training company to be announced later. Finally, Groom said it answers concerns about the quality of the aircraft, reported in the study, by conducting training in the customer’s new Archer. The cost of the aircraft, with training included, is $309,900. For those who are already pilots, the $10,000 cost of the training will be subtracted from the price. “The Archer is the logical place to start, but we may do it for other aircraft,” Groom said.
The hope is that the customer will “graduate” to larger models in the Piper fleet, and perhaps even the PiperJet Altaire jet.
Groom encouraged some interesting speculation on whether the company will re-enter the light sport aircraft market. It withdrew from that market in January. Groom said he has his “eyes on a number of areas—LSAs—larger airplanes.” He did not elaborate. Later a reporter at the Piper Sun `n Fun press conference asked if the company will return to production of the Piper Cub, a model taken over by similar aircraft from American Legend and CubCrafters. “We are open and looking at a variety of options. We’re open,” Groom said.
Reporting on progress with the PiperJet Altaire, Groom said the company now has 175 engineers working on the jet. An assembly building should be ready in 2012, the same year that four conforming jets are expected to fly. All vendors are selected. Detailed design and assembly drawings are pouring from the engineers’ offices, and parts are being cut. Groom also announced an “Altaire Advance” program for discounts of $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000 for customers buying Meridian, Mirage, and Matrix models now available. They can then take the discount on the jet when it is available.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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