The PiperJet made its maiden flight shortly after 11 a.m. on July 30 at the Piper Aircraft plant in Vero Beach, Fla. This is the aircraft manufacturer’s first jet in its 71-year history.
The jet took off to the cheers of company employees and flew for nearly an hour. The aircraft reached 10,000 feet and a speed of 160 KTAS with pilots Dave Schwartz and Buddy Sessoms at the controls.
The next 50 hours of testing will be devoted to proving what Piper promised to its customers, that the jet is capable of going 360 KTAS (it is redlined at 250 KIAS) and cruising at 35,000 feet. Its range is promised to be 1,300 nm. Deliveries are to start in the fourth quarter of 2011. It is priced at $2.2 million in 2006 dollars. The PiperJet will feature Garmin avionics and be certified for flight into known icing.
Two more prototypes will be completed in 2009 and enter testing toward certification. The pre-production model that flew July 30 is close enough to the actual production model to determine the actual performance numbers. However, it has the forward fuselage of a Piper Meridian, and that will be changed to a forward fuselage with smoother lines on the production version.
There are 200 committed orders for the jet. It is powered by a Williams FJ44-3AP engine rated at 3,000 pounds of thrust, but de-rated in the PiperJet to 2,400 pounds of thrust. The aircraft is expected to have a full-fuel payload of 800 pounds.
In other news, Piper official Bob Kromer said Piper is winning back Piper Seminole customers who fled to the Diamond DA42 twin-engine aircraft. Piper was selling only 25 multiengine Seminoles a year, but will now build 50 to 100, “…and hope 100 is enough,” Kromer said.
As for the smaller aircraft, Piper will continue building the Piper Archer, Arrow, and Warrior “…if the market asks.” That means they will be built only on demand and not stocked at dealers on speculation.