Staff ReportVERO BEACH — Citing the need to ‘temporarily redirect resources’ from the PiperJet during the current economic slump, Piper Aircraft said in a letter to stakeholders it will delay rolling out the first of its much-anticipated jets until the middle of 2013.Piper had set a target date of late 2011 or early 2012, but in its letter, posted on aviation Web site www.AVweb.com, the company said the economic conditions and a change in ownership had set back the timetable for completion of its foray into the very light jet market. “Even as the PiperJet program is gaining momentum, we find it necessary to make a change to the PiperJet delivery schedule,” the letter signed by CEO Kevin Gould and President John Becker stated. “Deliveries will now begin in Q2-2013 instead of Q4-2011. Our successful efforts to engage a strategic, long-term ownership group coincided with a drastically weakened business environment. This forced us to temporarily redirect resources from the jet, but the end result is that we are today a better company with a brighter future.”
News of the delay in delivery of the PiperJet comes on the heels of CEO Gould saying he was “cautiously optimistic” about the year ahead for Piper and was expecting a 50 percent increase in orders in 2010 to 165 planes.
The company has been furloughing employees for one week each month and has said it expects to continue that until at least the new year. However, Piper does anticipate hiring 50 more engineers for the next phase of research and development for the PiperJet.
Singapore-based Imprimis, which recently purchased Piper with money from the Brunei government, has been putting cash toward development of the PiperJet, which it will market in the U.S. and in the Far East. Currently, Piper has about 200 orders for the new jet.
“This last year has been a difficult time for most everyone, including those of us in the aviation industry and our customers,” the stakeholders’ letter stated. “The recent boost from a committed, development oriented new owner, Imprimis, along with outstanding progress on the proof-of-concept aircraft flight test program, has really started to build momentum. Going forward, it is our commitment to you, our PiperJet customers, to provide you with regular updates on the progress of the program and the development of the PiperJet.”