Signs Of Change? Piper, CitationAir Upbeat

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A "substantial" bump in sales of the Meridian turboprop helped drive an upward performance trend for Piper Aircraft in the first quarter of this year to $26 million in billings, the company said this week. The Meridian sells for more than $2 million, and Piper delivered seven in the first quarter 2011, compared to only two in the first quarter 2010. Although delivery numbers declined from 30 to 26, aircraft billings overall were up more than 40 percent over last year's first quarter, due to a higher proportion of more expensive aircraft sold. "Strenuous efforts" by the company contributed to the improvement, said Piper CEO Geoffrey Berger. CitationAir also said this week it is recalling all of its furloughed pilots. The company, based in Greenwich, Conn., had placed 85 pilots on furlough in 2009. All of those pilots have now been offered their jobs back, the company said, and 53 have already returned.

"CitationAir has made strides in the past couple of years not only to survive the recession, but to grow the business afterward," said CEO Steve O'Neill. "In doing so, CitationAir is the only company in the private jet marketplace to have offered a recall to 100 percent of its pilots after a furlough." The company now employs 334 pilots. At Piper, the company also said it is continuing to invest in development of the single-engine Altaire jet. The jet program "represents the future of the company," Berger said.