The Piper Jet…?

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Company Rebounds--Again

There's a never-say-die attitude and then there's New Piper CEO Chuck Suma. Crushed by the 9/11-spawned recession, staggered by the Lycoming engine recall and blown away by hurricanes, Suma told the Palm Beach Post in a recent interview that the company's next step is to join the increasingly crowded business jet (or would that be very light jet?) market. The remark was an aside in a detailed examination of New Piper's troubles of late, but given the numbers being tossed around by industry analysts, Suma's crystal-balling may seem strangely appropriate. Suma declined to predict just when a Piper jet might fly, but he's been busy. "This is our fourth renaissance," he told the Post. "We're trying to climb out of a deep valley. We're a stronger company because of it, but we've got lot of work ahead of us." Strong enough to enter the jet market? Not according to industry analyst Richard Aboulafia, who said it will be "nearly impossible" for Piper to enter the market at this stage. "That market is extremely uncertain and others have gotten there first," he said, "If someone wants to get there it's probably [got to] be a bigger player." Still, after all its problems in the last decade, not to mention the last six months, Piper is almost back at full production (925 of 1,000 employees) and it's clearly not afraid of a challenge.