Execs out, jet program reviewed at Piper

October 17, 2011

Piper Aircraft announced top-level executive changes and disclosed the review of its PiperJet Altaire program in a news release appearing on the company website Oct. 17. A company official said the review could take a few weeks to complete.

Simon Caldecott, a 37-year veteran of the aviation industry and Piper’s vice president of operations since 2009, will replace Geoff Berger as chief executive officer effective immediately. Caldecott has been responsible for manufacturing operations and engineering, quality, and supply chain at Vero Beach, Fla.-based Piper. Prior to becoming the Piper CEO, Berger was a managing director at Imprimis, a Singapore-based investment firm that invested in Piper on behalf of the government of Brunei. The firm opened an office in Brunei. A Piper official said Berger left Imprimis when he became a Piper employee.

Caldecott said that Executive Vice President Randy Groom was also leaving Piper.

Caldecott assured employees and the industry that the company would promptly address questions related to the PiperJet Altaire single-engine jet program, in consideration of jet market forecasts and the company’s overall financial strategy. A company official said forecasts show the future jet market ”will not be strong.“ However, some forecasts show the aerospace market recovering by 2013. A Morgan Stanley stock analyst provided AOPA an exclusive look at the aerospace market during the recent National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas. Piper displayed a mockup of the aircraft at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., this summer during a 16-state tour. The company had assigned nearly 200 engineers and production staff to the project, and was working to complete $5.6 million in building renovations for production in Vero Beach at that time.

It is likely the building renovations will be completed. A company official said it, and most of the sophisticated new manufacturing machines purchased for the jet, can be used for existing products.

The company “continues to achieve internal financial and delivery targets for the existing turboprop and piston product lines,” he said. Those deliveries have increased as “business and training aircraft continue to outperform the marketplace in their aircraft categories.”

Caldecott credited Berger for seeing the company through “many important changes.” He praised Groom for contributions to Piper’s globalization efforts, and for leadership.

Before coming to Piper, Caldecott was a vice president at Raytheon Aircraft, and more recently, vice president of assembly operations with successor firm Hawker Beechcraft. He worked as a design engineer for British Aerospace on development of the Hawker mid-size business jet, eventually assuming responsibility for manufacturing, assembly, flight testing, and completion of Hawkers, said the Piper announcement.