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Piper Shelves Single-Engine Altaire Jet Program

By J. Mac McClellan, Director of Publications, EAA 747337

Piper
As expected, Piper has suspended development the single-engine jet Altaire program. Piper photo

October 24, 2011 – To almost nobody’s surprise, Piper announced on Monday that has indefinitely suspended development of its single-engine jet Altaire. Just last week Piper announced that it was reviewing the jet program in light of continuing slow sales for all light jets.

New Piper Interim President and CEO Simon Caldecott, who was just appointed to the position last week, said that the Altaire program was meeting its design goals for performance and that development was on schedule, but market conditions made it unlikely that costs to certify and produce the airplane could be recovered. He blamed slumping light jet sales for all manufacturers, and also forecasts for a weak recovery in sales over the coming years.

Caldecott said the company would not reveal how much had been invested in the jet program over the past several years. The airplane was redesigned in the past two years from the original PiperJet with a much larger fuselage and cabin to create the Altaire. Piper will return the deposits people have made on the Altaire or apply the deposit to another Piper aircraft.

Just a few weeks ago Piper was holding recruiting meetings in Wichita seeking to hire engineers and others to work on the jet program. Now Caldecott said suspension of the Altaire program will “have serious consequences for many talented Piper employees.” The news release did not say how many layoffs are expected immediately, but it did say the company will “progressively lay off approximately 150 employees as the program ramps down.” However, the positions of 55 contract personnel will be “quickly” eliminated.

In an effort to use its human talent and manufacturing capacity Piper is launching two new programs to perform third-party work for others in aerospace. The first program is called Design by Piper and offers proprietary engineering and design functions. The other effort is called Precision by Piper and offers to use newly installed manufacturing capabilities to build parts and components.

Caldecott also said that Piper will use some of its engineering talent to make improvements to its existing line of piston and turboprop airplanes. He did not say that the company will be announcing any new models at this time.

Of the three prominent single-engine jet development programs, both Piper and Cirrus have placed their efforts in suspension. The Diamond D-Jet recently resumed test flying on a limited scale after the company received a new infusion of cash, but there are no “firm” certification and delivery dates set by Diamond.

Piper’s news release tried to sound upbeat by pointing out that sales of Piper aircraft have been growing over the past several quarters, and that internal financial goals are being met. Piper is owned by the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Brunei.

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