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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 6 August 1, 2008     

Piper touts brand revival
By James Wynbrandt

Photo by Dave Higdon

While the first flight of its PiperJet was the lead story from the Piper Aircraft Inc. camp, the Vero Beach-based company reported a big upswing in its business during a press conference on Wednesday.

"We’re producing 270 aircraft this year," Bob Kromer, Piper’s vice president, sales, reported.

The majority of the aircraft are variants of the company’s top-end cabin class single-engine PA-46, a fleet that has grown from the pressurized Mirage to include the unpressurized Matrix and the turboprop Meridian, "the queen of the fleet," as Kromer described it. One-hundred-one of the PA-46 orders are for the Matrix.

"It’s a perfect step up for guys flying high-performance four-place aircraft today—Cirrus, Cessna’s Columbia, Bonanzas," Kromer said, explaining the Matrix’s appeal. "Cabin class airplanes are fun to fly."

Piper expects EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certification of the Matrix in January 2009, and believes that will further drive sales.

"The European market is poised to embrace the Matrix," Kromer said. "It’s approved for FIKA (Flight Into Known Icing). FIKI is a huge option in the United States, and it will be bigger internationally."

Twenty-one Mirages and 53 Meridians will also roll off the assembly line by the end of the year. Sales of twin-engine Seneca V (27) and Seminole (24) have also been strong. The Seminole, a former staple of training school flight lines, had experienced a sales slump, and Kromer noted the company is particularly pleased with its comeback.

"The [Diamond Aircraft] DA42 Twin Star had kicked our buttocks," Kromer said, "and now customers and schools are coming back to the Seminole. The Seminole represents reliability, ruggedness and proven engine technology," he continued, in an allusion to the publicized problems Diamond experienced due to the bankruptcy of Thielert, which supplied diesel engines used in the Twin Star. "We think we’re going to do 100 [Seminoles] next year."

Orders for aircraft in its small cabin single fleet—the Saratoga TC (12), Arrow (1), Archer (7) and Warrior (24)—complete the production schedule for the year.

"We’re not abandoning the small single-engine market, we’re waiting for the market to come to us," Kromer said.

Planned upgrades for the entire product line may help achieve that movement.

"We’re looking at products and enhancements and improvements," said Kromer. "I can’t be specific, but you’ll see announcements starting first of next year of enhanced capabilities, starting at the top of the models and working down."

Also, on the day the PiperJet had its maiden flight, Kromer said the alliance with Honda to sell the HondaJet through Piper’s dealer network, announced at AirVenture two years ago, has been dissolved. "The deal with HondaJet is off," Kromer said. "We have moved our own way. Like two ships in the night, we’ve passed and have moved on in separate directions."

According to the news Piper reported, that direction is upward.

"We made a comeback. We were down and out five years ago; we weren’t even on the shopping list of buyers five years ago; we resurrected the business. We changed internally. Now we’ve turned our focus to an outstanding sales and marketing team and a great solid dealer organization around the world to resurrect this brand."

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