While 2009 was a tough year for the aviation industry, things were a bit different for Piper Aircraft. The company, flush with funds from its new owner, Imprimis, an investment company with offices in Bangkok, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam, increased production rates more than 50% last year and hired 240 people, including 60 engineers for its PiperJet.
“Our dealers are telling us they are seeing more and more activity,” said President Kevin Gould on Sun ‘n Fun’s opening day. “That’s given us the confidence to increase our production rates.”
While busy developing the PiperJet and introducing its Light Sport Aircraft, the PiperSport, Piper also spent a lot of time last year concentrating on its basic trainers, including the Archer. “It’s had a low profile the last couple of years, but it’s making a comeback,” Gould said, noting it is now available with the G500, as are the Warrior and Seminole.
International markets, particularly, are interested in the trainers, he said, noting that Piper will “probably build eight times as many trainers this year than last.”
Meanwhile the company has completed its Preliminary Design Review of the PiperJet. Next step is to finish up design details, then build the conforming jet. “We’re still on track for first deliveries in the first half of 2013,” Gould said.
On the other end of the spectrum, Piper expects about 75 LSAs will be produced in 2010. The LSA is built by Czech Aircraft Works and distributed by Piper.
In other news, Piper announced that Forward Vision Systems’ EVS-100 and EVS-600 Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) can now be installed on its Malibu, Matrix and Mirage models. In addition to offering this technology as an option on all new versions of those PA-46 models, Piper and Forward Vision are teaming up to offer STC-approved systems for Malibu, Matrix and Mirage aircraft in service worldwide.
Piper will also offer an optional system on new Piper Meridians, as well as an STC-approved system for Meridians already in service, once an EVS is certified to address the Meridian’s higher performance envelope (maximum approved altitude of 30,000 feet in particular).
“Forward Vision’s EVS virtually turns darkness into daylight, giving pilots a real-time, real-world view of what’s in front of the airplane, both on the ground and in the air,” Gould said.
EVS systems – commonly known as infrared or thermal imaging cameras – present a real-time picture outside the cockpit to offer pilots a view that penetrates haze, fog, smoke and precipitation eight to 10 times farther than the unaided human eye. It requires no programming or interpretation and permits pilots to see animals or unlit obstacles during nighttime taxi and takeoff.
In flight, pilots can use EVS to avoid clouds, fly between layers, and note detailed ground features out of the night landscape. EVS offers daytime safety advantages as well, allowing a clearer view to the pilot in reduced visibility such as smoke, haze or even thin fog. The Forward Vision EVS 100 provides pilots with an infrared 40° by 30° field of view, while the EVS 600 adds to that the ability to distinguish visible light fused to the infrared image and presenting both on the display.