by Dave Higdon
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.
producing 270 aircraft this year," Bob Kromer, Piper’s vice
president, sales, reported.
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
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."
expects EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certification of the
Matrix in January 2009, and believes that will further drive sales.
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
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.
[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."
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.
not abandoning the small single-engine market, we’re waiting for
the market to come to us," Kromer said.
upgrades for the entire product line may help achieve that movement.
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
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."