Piper to upgrade its existing line of planes

By Ian Love, Managing EditorVERO BEACH — Piper Aircraft officials made several key announcements at Airventure 2009, including upgrading some of its current fleet of planes in order to stay competitive in a general aviation market that has all but ground to a halt.The announcements came too late to avoid another round of layoffs at the Vero Beach plant, which spokesman Mark Miller said amounted to “50 to 60” employees being let go last week. Those layoffs came after workers had just come through a three-week furlough as the company struggles to calibrate its output with the number of planes it has on order. The company is banking on its PiperJet, expected to come to market as early as the latter part of 2011, to carry forward its plans of breaking into markets in Asia and, as was reported earlier in Vero Beach 32963, Piper is looking to hire some 50 engineers as the jet enters its next phase of development.But Piper is also working to gain a bigger share of the general aviation market with its existing fleet. To that end, the company announced that it was adding the Garmin G600 as the avionics suite in its trainers. The Garmin G600 serves as the “brains” of the plane. The company also said it was bringing back its popular Piper Archer with upgrades, but at a price tag of $300,000 in hopes of attracting buyers who are shying away from making big-ticket purchases. The new Archer planes will be ready for marekt in 2010.The company also announced at Airventure, billed as the biggest airshow in the world, that its popular Meridian will feature the Garmin G1000 to run those planes.

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