Piper alters jet design, sets first delivery back one year

VERO BEACH — Officials at Piper Jet told members of the aviation media Monday they have re-designed the fuselage of the PiperJet and expect to deliver the first reconfigured jet to buyers in 2014, a year later than current projections.

Piper has also scrapped the PiperJet name and will call its new, larger offering the Altaire. The newly designed aircraft is said to have a sleeker, more rounded fuselage and will be aimed at business owners as well as the owner-operator market.

The new single-engine jet will maintain its four-passenger club seat arrangement, according to industry website Flightglobal.com, which was provided an advance look at the design. Piper officials will unveil the changes to the PiperJet at the National Business Aviation Association trade show in Atlanta on Tuesday.

“The new ownership [of Piper] came in and evaluated the program,” said Piper executive vice-president Randy Groom. “We saw the opportunity to provide more for the customer and the opportunity for platform growth. We did a restart on the program, but with the benefit of experience on configuration.”

Piper began work on the PiperJet in 2006 and has accumulated 375 flight hours to date with its old design. The company had originally secured over 200 orders for the PiperJet and now has about 160 orders for the aircraft at a price tag of $2.2 million.

The original orders will stay at that price point, but the Altaire will be sold for $2.5 million for the basic aircraft, with a “typically equipped” Altaire costing $2.6 million, Groom told Globalflight.

Groom also said Piper has 140 engineers working on the jet program and reiterated that the company expects to deliver 150 aircraft this year, which is 60 percent better than last year, but below projections of over 200 touted earlier this year.

Piper last month announced a layoff of 6 percent of its workforce due to dwindling plane deliveries.

Groom also re-iterated Singapore-based owner Imprimis’ commitment to see the jet through production at its Vero Beach facility.

“This is not a classic private equity company looking to sell in 10-plus years,” he told Globalflight. “This is the classic Asian mentality of looking long term.”

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