“There are a lot of exciting things happening at Piper,” said CEO Jim Bass at this year’s Sun ‘n Fun. “We’re a company in transition and a company which we think has an incredible amount of potential.”
The question on a lot of minds is whether The New Piper Aircraft Co. will build a jet. Bass didn’t exactly answer that one. He said that the company is in the final stages of developing what he called a “jet strategy,” but gave no specifics.
Piper will celebrate 70 years in business next year, he pointed out, stating that of the more than 140,000 planes it has produced, almost half are still active. “But just because you have a great past doesn’t mean that you have a future,” he said. “Our future is really what we do today.”
Piper’s 750,000-square-foot Vero Beach facility has been rebuilt since damaged by three hurricanes, he said, and the production buildings have been hardened against future hurricanes. The company is hiring – not only recruiting at airshows, but through advertising in cities such as Detroit and Wichita and even signs along the streets of Vero Beach.
Bass predicted that Piper deliveries will grow by 20% to 30% in the next year. Much of that growth is expected to be in Avidyne Entegra glass cockpit-equipped Mirage and Seminole models. Why the Seminole? Because it’s a popular multi-engine trainer and multi-engine pilots increasingly want their training in glass cockpit aircraft, he said.
However, the next-generation product strategy is “still jelling,” Bass said. “We have a lot of details to work out in terms of product specifications and development plans – right now we’re putting together the plans as well as the work force behind the plans to make it work,” he said.
But, in terms of a VLJ, all he would say is that “we are finalizing a Piper jet strategy. I do not have a specific announcement about a jet. It’s something that we’re very interested in, something that we think is integral to the future of the GA industry, but we want to make sure that when we come to market – if we come to market – we are very specific about what we want to do.”