By Paul Bertorelli, Editorial Director
Piper's version of the VLJ is still at least two years shy of deliveries, but while customers wait, the company is enticing them with step-up deals from the company's piston and turboprop offerings. "We're seeing a trend," says Bob Kromer, Piper's sales VP. "Some customers are saying I want a jet in 2012, but I want a Matrix now or I want a Meridian now." At a press demonstration of the PiperJet at Piper's Vero Beach, Fla., factory Thursday Kromer said the company has 203 firm orders for the $2.2 million single-engine jet, with first deliveries planned for 2011.
The press demo culminated a week of sales and promotional activities leading into two major shows, NBAA in Orlando and AOPA's Expo in San Jose, Calif., where the PiperJet will be on display. Reporters were treated to several flybys of PiperJet, the prototype of which is now 55 hours into a 200-hour initial test program. The PiperJet is capable of a 360-knot high cruise at 35,000 feet, but the biggest surprise is how quiet it is from the outside. During a go-around demo, we were able to converse normally with a Piper representative while the jet transitioned to climb power.
Piper CEO Jim Bass told reporters the jet is being financed with a combination of internal and investment capital and customer deposits, with the total tab expected to come to $100 million to reach certification and production approval.
When asked if Piper is worried about capital sources given the current turmoil in the financial markets, he said "if you're not worried, you don't have a pulse. It's very troubling." But, he added, Piper still sees strong demand for its increasingly higher-end aircraft, including the new Matrix, the Meridian and now the PiperJet. "We'll have to see how the deposit structure goes before we know how much outside capital is required," Bass added. In any case, Piper is gearing up its 80-acre facility in Vero Beach to begin building the jet. For more, hear this podcast with Piper's Bob Kromer.