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PiperJet Bucks Conventional Wisdom That Two "Cookers" Are Better Than One

By Elliot Borin, Air TaxiFlights.com Staff Writer - © 2009, Reproduction without permission strictly prohibited. All company and product names in this document are the property of their respective copyright and/or trademark holders.

Six or seven people reading, working or watching inflight entertainment in executive drawing room-level comfort while flying at 35,000 feet and 360Ktas in a quiet, streamlined aircraft with a range of 1300 nautical miles and a fully enclosed, solid-walled lavatory.

Single-engine PiperJetPretty decent specs for a ) a twin-engined VLJ. But hardly the level of performance, capacity or creature comforts you'd expect to find in a single-engine VLJ aircraft, right?

Single-engine VLJs fly low, slow and carry four anorexic people with luggage no bigger or heavier than an iPod, don't they?

Wrongo, wrongo, say the successors of the legendary William T. Piper at Piper Aircraft down in Very Beach, Florida.

Wrong because their single-engine PiperJet, whose prototype is currently undergoing extensive flight testing, will meet or exceed most twin-engine VLJ performance, reliability and passenger amenity standards while offering substantial operational and maintenance cost savings, quieter, more environmentally friendly operational characteristics and safer pedestrian and service truck approaches to parked aircraft during engine run up or shut down.

Can this be true?

To find the answer, we visited with Piper Aircraft's Chief Corporate Spokesperson, Mark S. Miller.

AirTaxiFlights.com: Given the state of today's economy, the first and probably most important question I can think of is how's business?

Mark Miller: Great. We have more than 200 contracted orders, which is more than we had for the Meridian at this point in its developmental cycle. And the Meridian, as you know , has been a huge success for Piper.

On the other hand, we'd obviously be incredibly misguided if we weren't watching the market closely. This is a volatile time, and we have had to take actions to ensure that we remain strong and viable. The reality is that making projections in this environment is exceedingly difficult. The best financial minds in the world can't forecast what the next year will bring.

ATF: When can customers expect to be able to wrap their fists around the throttle of their new PiperJet?

Mark Miller: We generally don't predict type certification dates because they are so many factors -- a lot of them out of our control -- that go into it. We did, however, set the start of deliveries of an all-systems-go, FIKI (flight into known icing approved), FADEC-controlled aircraft equipped with the latest state-of-the-art Gramin avionics in 2011, barring the unforeseen.

ATF: Is the aircraft which has been undergoing flight testing and making demonstration flights since July a conforming prototype?

Mark Miller: No, it's our very first proof-of-concept aircraft.

AirTaxiFlights.com: Piper not only wasn't in the first wave of manufacturers to announce a VLJ, it wasn't in the second. What factors entered into that rather lengthy decision-making process?

Mark Miller: A lot of people jumped into the VLJ market very quickly, our goal was to thoroughly understand the market before making that leap. To accomplish this we undertook some of the most extensive focus-group studies that, I think, have ever been done within general aviation, certainly within Piper Aircraft.

Over a thousand in-depth interviews were conducted and interview subjects included everybody from customers to competitors, dealers, officials of trade associations and many others from all over the world of aviation.

We asked questions about our existing product line, other general aviation aircraft and what the respondents thought we should be looking at building for the future. The study confirmed that the jet market would be a good one for us if we went in with the right product. So we went back and asked likely prospective customers what they would expect from a jet flying the Piper colors. The net result of all this research was a sort of definition of what the PiperJet has become. Rather than build a product and try to create a market for it, we let the market define itself and designed our product to serve it.

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