While some general aviation companies are hunkered down just trying to survive the economic downturn, Piper Aircraft is continuing to invest heavily in its product lines, especially since its new ownership by Brunei-based investment firm Imprimis. New Piper CEO Kevin Gould told an AirVenture crowd that the company’s ownership situation is comparable to when Bill Piper still owned the storied company. Unlike some previous owners, Imprimis, according to Gould, is taking a long view for its financial return and believes that it can help Piper grow in the aviation market, especially in Asia.
In recent years, Piper has essentially eliminated its debt, Gould said, remained profitable, and developed new products, such as the Matrix and the PiperJet, while forging a relationship with HondaJet and recovering from the devastating damage from three hurricanes over two years. It has also issued requests for proposal in 12 regions of the world where Piper is not represented or is underrepresented—hoping to bolster its dealer network around the globe.
Imprimis Managing Partner and Piper Chairman Stephen Berger said the investors are prepared to provide the resources necessary to make Piper a “formidable competitor.”
Among the recent product improvements Piper unveiled was the certification of the Garmin G1000 in the Piper Meridian. Piper Vice President of Sales Bob Kromer reported 10 of the single-engine turboprops have been delivered since March.
Meanwhile, the company is upgrading the panels of several other models. The Warrior, Archer, and Seminole will all get the new Garmin G600 panel. The G600 will be an option in the Seneca V. Kromer stressed that the Warrior and Seminole are seeing renewed life in the training market as flight schools are appreciating the ruggedness of the venerable designs, especially now with the prospects for being able to train students in glass cockpits.
The Archer, mostly dormant in recent years, will be brought back with not only the G600 as standard gear, but also with an S-Tec Fifty-Five X autopilot, leather interior, and air conditioning all standard for about $300,000. Kromer noted that Piper is starting production of the lighter airplanes again because the company recognizes the importance of having pilots learn to fly in a Piper and then transition up the product line.
Finally, The PA-46 Mirage and Matrix will be flying behind a new line of TopProp propellers from Hartzell. The three-blade composite propellers shave about 11 pounds off the nose of the airplane compared to first generation Hartzell props. The weight savings come from a combination of carbon fiber and Kevlar blades and a new lightweight aluminum hub. Kromer said that while the company isn’t certifying new performance numbers with the new props, pilots are seeing slight cruise and climb speed improvements.