Piper lays off more employees

Staff ReportVERO BEACH — With the general aviation market still in a tailspin, Piper Aircraft laid off more staff last week and though there has been no official word from the Vero Beach-based company, one laid off employee estimated the number to be as high as 150.

Should that number prove to be accurate it would leave about 500 people still working at the factory. The employee, who asked that his name not be used, said the layoffs began last Tuesday, but the bulk of them came on Friday when he lost his job. He said the layoffs included all parts of the company and required the restructuring of some departments. “I heard it went all up and down the food chain,” he said.

Piper has maintained it was doing everything it could to keep employees on the job, but that the number of workers would ultimately be decided by the amount of planes the company needed to build. This latest round of layoffs came just days after workers had completed a three-week company-wide furlough.

The former employee said he was told at the time of the layoff that plane orders were down and there simply wasn’t enough work. He estimated the company built about 200 planes in 2008. He was told at the start of the year they expected orders to be in the 140 to 150 range.  On Friday, he was told the company had only 91 orders for the year and he estimated that about half of those had already been built.

The latest round of layoffs is the first since new owner Imprimis bought the company in May and Kevin Gould took over as CEO on June 26. At the time he took over Gould told our sister publication Vero Beach 32963 he did not anticipate more layoffs if market conditions stayed in their current state.

One bright spot for the company is the company remains on track to build its new PiperJet and is hiring engineers for that project. Company officials were in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for an airshow where they were expected to unveil the PiperJet to the public for the first time.

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