While many other general aviation manufacturers are hopeful for even a flat year next year, Piper Aircraft is planning to increase its production by 50 percent over its 2009 production, according to CEO Kevin Gould. In his comments at the National Business Aviation Association convention Oct. 20, Gould said dealer inquiries and other indicators are giving the Vero Beach, Fla. company hope that 2010 will be a better year than 2009. In addition, Piper is adding staff to support the PiperJet development project.
The company announced that the Garmin G3000 integrated flight deck will find a home in the PiperJet, which is currently in development. Piper had previously announced that the airplane would carry a Garmin panel but indicated that it would be something more than the current generation G1000. Among other features, the G3000 includes a touch-screen flight management system interface.
Piper did not announce a new certification schedule for the single-engine jet, although at EAA AirVenture in July company officials said a new schedule would be released in October. Piper President John Becker said the schedule will be announced soon. Becker said the prototype PiperJet has flown 160 flights and 230 hours. High-speed flutter flights are complete and high-speed cruise has been validated. The slightly draggy prototype cruises at 353 knots, giving engineers confidence that production airplanes will meet the planned 360-knot cruise. Similarly, a planned range of 1,300 nm with reserves is likely.
The PiperJet’s single tail-mounted Williams International engine should not cause any unusual handling issues thanks to a new EXACT thrust nozzle developed by Williams. The Exhaust Angle Control Technology nozzle passively reacts to thrust changes, simplifying installation and eliminating the need for an active stability augmentation system.
Although Gould is optimistic about Piper’s future, he sees an old nemesis, rising product liability insurance costs, as a renewed threat to all of general aviation. Piper’s product liability premiums have doubled in the last four years, causing Gould to say that he plans to take on the issue in 2010.