For training airplane manufacturers, winning a contract to outfit a university is a big deal. When that school is the University of North Dakota and the order is for more than 100 airplanes, it can help sustain the company for years to come.
Piper Aircraft announced April 5 at the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida, that it was the successful bidder for UND’s massive fleet refresh. Piper had already outfitted the school with Seminoles, and had previously supplied the university with Cherokees, before losing the contract to Cessna a number of years ago. Over the course of the next eight years, Piper will supply UND with more than 100 aircraft, mostly single-engine Archer TX models.
As part of the deal, Piper will help to support the aircraft, market UND’s degree programs, and provide scholarships to students.
A Piper representative said UND’s contract process was very deliberate, accounting for factors ranging from aircraft price to support and marketing. At the end of the process the numbers are added up and the manufacturer with the most points wins. Piper CEO Simon Caldecott joked that, “A good heater is obviously a big part of that consideration.”
Although the initial order is for avgas-powered Archers, a UND representative said diesel-powered Archer DXs are an option. The school decided to stick with avgas initially, however, because engine replacement cost and cold-weather operations were concerns. Deliveries will begin by the end of 2016.
Piper also continued to expand its relationship with ATP Flight School, with an order for 15 more aircraft. The Archers are part of a large order from 2013 that called for 15 firm aircraft and 85 options.