Piper Aircraft executives, sensing their single-engine PiperJet was aimed primarily at the owner-flown market, have changed nearly every facet of the design to make it more attractive to the business market. It is now named the PiperJet Altaire.
While the engine remains on the vertical stabilizer above the fuselage, there is clearly room beneath the horizontal stabilizers where Piper engineers could replace it with two fuselage-mounted engines if there is a follow-on model. Owners who had the older design on order will receive the newer design instead, and for the same price.
Piper officials said there was an increase in the program cost to make the changes, but did not give the amount. Structural testing of the aircraft begins in 2011, with the first flight planned for 2012. Deliveries could come as early as the end of 2013.
Results of the PiperJet flight program now nearing its end after 375 flight hours include a target performance of 1,300 nautical miles (or 1,200 nm with an 800-pound payload) at a maximum cruise speed of 360 knots.
The current PiperJet proof of concept aircraft uses a stretched Malibu PA-46 fuselage, but that was not scalable for “…future PiperJet models,” according to a Piper presentation. “It is a great cross section for the Malibu/Meridian, but our jet customers wanted more,” the presentation states. While the old design is a rounded rectangle, the new 61.5-inch diameter fuselage is circular and allows a 12.5-inch recessed aisle for a near stand-up cabin. The cabin is now nine inches taller and four inches wider. The wing is mounted beneath the aircraft to avoid spar intrusions passing through the cabin.
A three-foot-wide cabin door allows use of the jet for air ambulance missions. Other changes include a larger wing; a rounded nosecone; a slimmer, longer engine nacelle; a shorter vertical tail placed farther aft; and a streamlined belly fairing to blend the wing into the fuselage. The aircraft has two 20-cubic-foot baggage compartments, one in the nose and one in the aft pressurized cabin. Additional baggage sites in the cabin bring the total available space to 60 cubic feet.
The aircraft uses a Garmin G3000 avionics system with a touch-screen controlled glass cockpit. There are three displays with two touchscreens. The aircraft also uses the Garmin GFC 700 autopilot.
The cabin will include passenger-available, dual-zone environmental controls. If the rear of the aircraft is too warm or too cool, passengers will be able to adjust temperature controls.
While the PiperJet Altaire has slightly less baggage space than the Cessna Mustang or the Embraer Phenom 100, it beats those competitors in several categories based on information Piper provided. The pressurized cabin volume of 260 cubic feet is greater than that of a Mustang, but less than that of a Phenom 100 (282 cubic feet). The company claims an average of 20 percent less per-hour operating cost than comparable aircraft. Piper claims a per-hour operating cost of $727.36, compared to $867.16 for the Mustang and $972.88 for the Phenom, using numbers provided by Conklin and DeDecker.