Altaire A Dated Concept

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The history of aviation is full of false starts, some of which, with the benefit of hindsight, look like mistakes. Piper's likely decision to shelve the Altaire single-engine jet won't be one of them. The sooner it ends its "review" of the project and puts a bullet in it the better.

Although the Altaire is not even off the drawing board, the concept of a single-engine business jet is dated. It was conceived in the dream days of VLJs sprouting like crocuses in spring and just like the VLJ idea itself, the notion of a practical single-engine jet as a viable business aircraft, which Piper was touting the Altaire as, is unrealistic.

I know someone who had a deposit on the original PiperJet but when the heady brew of jets and flight levels lost its intoxicating effect, he got his money back and, for a fraction of the cost, bought a Cheyenne that is all the aircraft he needs. It wasn't the money that changed his mind. It was the single engine.

Money will be an issue for plenty of people looking for a little bizjet and the fact that for about the same money you can order a new Eclipse or Mustang with two engines is bound to be a factor in their decision making.

Also, when I was at NBAA last week, I heard something that is impossible to verify but makes sense. Piper wanted certification to 35,000 feet for the Altaire to give the range and speed of a "real" business jet. In a casual conversation it came up that the FAA wasn't keen on the idea of a single-engine aircraft way up there because of everything that could go wrong if the engine quit, which is admittedly rare but not unheard of.

It could also be that even one of the world's richest men, the Sultan of Brunei, for whom the Piper acquisition was a pet project, couldn't rationalize the economics of the Altaire. Certification and development costs were sure to be in the eight-to-nine figure range and it takes a lot of sales at the tight margins necessary to sell little jets to justify the investment. That's especially true when companies like Eclipse Aerospace picked up that whole package for pennies on the dollar thanks to the unintentional generosity of the tier one investors in Eclipse.

This effectively leaves one credible horse in the single-engine jet race, the Diamond DJET. Yes, Cirrus is still flying around the proof-of-concept Vision SJ50 but its future is questionable and it's nowhere near the level of development of the Diamond jet. Diamond has the money and technical juice to get the DJET to market. Whether that's a wise thing will be determined when it actually hits the market.

To their credit, the folks at Diamond Aircraft have never pretended their DJET was anything but a personal aircraft. The fact that it is being certified to 25,000 feet will undoubtedly make that process smoother. Some of the Altaire customers will likely turn north to London, Ontario for their jet fix but I have a feeling many of them will just be happy to get their deposits back so they can start looking for an aircraft that makes sense for them, like maybe a Meridian or even an old Cheyenne.

Comments (54)

Russ, you ignore the success of a thousand PC-12 single engine turboprops, as well as PA-46 Meridian and various TBM. While they have better short-field perfomance than a simple jet will have, are many of them really used that way? And what makes sense about single-engine jets not flying to 35,000 feet? They have the same resources as multi-engines do : back-up oxygen as pressurization declines, plenty of navigation aids, a glide range of 95 nm (landing area of 28,000 square miles). In the past, ATC might have objected to slow jets mixing with fast, but with more direct routing this is not an issue. I believe the Piper jet is comparable in speed (and range and cabin comfort) to the Mustang and Phenom 100. Comments that "make sense" are verifiable, or supportable, by definition. There will someday be a fine single-engine jet, because engine and system reliability is now superb, and extra engines are expensive.

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | October 19, 2011 7:46 AM    Report this comment

It will be a disappointment if the Altaire is scuttled. And more so if the Cirrus and other single engine jets are also killed.

Right now we have 3 single engine jet concepts. There's the Cirrus, which reminds one of the old V-tail Beechcraft Bonanza but with a single jet engine on top instead of piston engine and propeller up front, with the jet exhaust blowing through the angle between the ruddervators. Then there's the Altaire, whose single engine is integrated with the vertical stabilizer like the center engine on the old McDonnel-Douglas DC-10. Finally we have the Stratos (or, the D-jet) where the single engine is in the rear of the fuselage, with its air requirements fulfilled by inlets on either side of the fuselage.

I believe it would be best for the progress of aviation if all three concepts were to reach production and enter service with flying doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and entertainment world people. Only then will we find out from experience how these concepts work out in actual service, and which concept works out best overall.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | October 19, 2011 9:18 AM    Report this comment

While I disagree with your assertion that the concept of a single-engine jet is out-dated, and like the other posters hope that Piper continues to move forward with the Altaire, I do agree that there are significant developmental challenges they face.

One of the issues that I think is critical is stall speed. The Altaire is going to face significant hurdles for passenger protection and crashworthiness. Recent off-aiport "landings" in single-engine turboprops clearly demonstrate to me that what is survivable in a Cessna 206, is not in a TBM850. More complex wing design and better lift devices needs to be included during development of this aircraft. This increases cost and more than likely will deteriotate high speed cruise performance.

I have sat in the Altaire mock up and studied the performance goals. I believe it is superior to the D-Jet on all accounts. But I am not sure I would want to dead-stick any of these aircraft (including the TBM 850, Kestrel, Epic, etc.) into the unknown at night. The stall speeds are just too high.

Posted by: John Smith | October 19, 2011 9:57 AM    Report this comment

John makes a good point about dead-stick at night. With synthetic vision, and enhanced vision (infrared), there really is no "night" anymore. I did find a spot in northern Nebraska that has no airports within 70 nm, but ten minutes on Google Earth gave me eight stretches of desolate county roads more than adequate for safe gear-down landings. Getting those emergency landing fields into the database is still an issue, but not insurmountable (in fact, there is already a web sight for collecting such info).

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | October 19, 2011 10:24 AM    Report this comment

If the airplane market made that much sense, diamond would have outsold piper and cessna in the training/ low performance market so badly the DJet could have been a vanity project and done by now. Safety and vaniity will be why it succeeds in the end. Diamond's reputation for safety with an added chute, along with the vanity of buyers, and more importantly their passengers, will sell the plane. Lack of competition will certainly help.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 19, 2011 10:57 AM    Report this comment

Russ,

While I agree that the Altaire may have limited appeal in the corporate world, I don't see that as Piper's market. Piper appears to be aiming the aircraft directly at the TBM850 and whomever is buying them. The fact that Piper has stated that a second engine is a potential future upgrade indicates to me that they understand that if they are to penetrate the corporate market that they need two engines and that this market may be phase two of the development of the Piperjet.

I also think that your analysis misses the big picture. Piper likely needs to broaden its horizons beyond its current product line if it is to be a viable company in the long run. What do they do if they kill the jet?

Posted by: Kristin Winter | October 19, 2011 11:32 AM    Report this comment

Russ what's off the mark are the economics not the concept of a single engine jet. The initial market is what Alex points out - doctors, lawyers etc. the lower end of the rich and the upper middle class. For these people the price should be in line with recip twins & single turboprops like the Meridians etc. The small turbofan engines made by Williams and P&W are all Low By Pass ratio (3) engines that are efficient at high speeds at high altitudes. If a High By Pass ratio of 10 or more were available, a single engine jet would be far more versatile and could cruise at 250 - 300 knots efficiently even at 20,000 ft. Note that planes like the Boeing 777, 787 etc. have efficient High By Pass ratio engines (9). That's what is missing - an efficient turbofan for single engine jets. A single turbofan engine has far lower in flight shut down rate than loosing BOTH recip engines on a twin so reliability is not the issue. Then let me address your Flight Levels concern - a lot of the time the flight may be 200 - 500 miles then there is little need to climb to FL 035 the single engine jet could fly this from the mid teens to 28,000. So its up to the market pull and engine innovators to come up with the engine that can begat this new class of plane and the market will gladly buy it if the economics (purchase & operating) costs are on target. OK let the conversation roll I am sure others will critique this.

Posted by: Unknown | October 19, 2011 11:36 AM    Report this comment

>What do they do if they kill the jet?

One possibility is, bring back their long-discontinued twin-turboprop line. I remember years ago they had a T-tail, high performance turboprop twin, designated the 400 something or another, that Chuck Yeager was hired to promote. What probably killed turboprop twins (except of course Beechraft's long-established line) was the improved performance of Cessna's straight-wing business jets. And the gap between turboprop and turbofan aircraft will narrow further, if geared turbofan engines work out.

Re single engine jet vs. twin: It would be of interest to compare the fuel consumption of the Altaire with a pilot and four other occupants, with a turbofan twin like the smallest version of the Cessna straight-wing jet family. Regarding safety, when we hear of crashes involving a plane like the single piston engine Bonanza, was the prop still turning when the plane hit the ground and furthermore even if it wasn't, in how many such cases did the pilot underestimate how much fuel would be needed?

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | October 19, 2011 11:44 AM    Report this comment

Jeffrey:

Synthetic Vision is great technology. But it does not solve the basic physics problem that the force of impact increases with the square of the increased speed. Therefore, a 15 knot increase from 60 to 75 knots doubles the impact force.

A recent fatal accident in a TBM 850 in severe clear VFR from 17,000 feet (with 20 airports to choose from) demonstrates this fact. The aircraft went into a farmers field straight and level but stalled prior to touchdown. The question is, if the stall happened 15-20 knots slower, would the occupant still survive?

Here is a photo of the aircraft so you can see it was level when impacting the ground.....

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/129275933.html

Posted by: John Smith | October 19, 2011 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Looks like the photo linked didn't work....Just Google N850SY. Plenty of photos to look at.....

Posted by: John Smith | October 19, 2011 12:06 PM    Report this comment

If the issue is engine reliability on a single-engine jet, I say it’s a risk each person has to weigh. As noted, there are quite a number of single-engine turboprops that would fall under the same scrutiny – and they have the added complexity of the prop with all its moving parts. I fly a Citation 551 (two engines), and an L-39 (one). I maintain both like my life depends on it. Flying across Arizona (Grand Canyon below) recently in the L-39 in solid IFR at FL200 was comfortable. Partly because of my confidence in the engine (and the ability to glide a fair distance from that altitude just in case), and partly because of the panel - dual Aspens (PFD/MFD) with XM Nexrad and Avidyne TCAS, TruTrak autopilot, etc.

I don't have the synthetic vision in the Aspens yet, but hope to soon now that it's approved – that’s a technology that’s going to change aviation in many ways. As Jeffrey Pierson noted, with the right combination of technologies, it will soon be “always daytime”. On the other hand, if you did have a single engine failure at night or solid IFR, SVT might be like the old adage for an engine failure at night – turn on the landing light - if you don’t like what you see, turn it off.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 19, 2011 12:14 PM    Report this comment

In that N850SY crash, a witness says "Then it banked and I heard a ‘thud’ when it came down". Will you agree that the photos indicate a large verticle component rather than horizontal deceleration? That is more significant than stall speed. The jets also do not have a stout propeller to plow into soft ground. Do we know why he did not make any of the 20 airports? (This may be a digression off topic?)

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | October 19, 2011 12:31 PM    Report this comment

In that N850SY crash, a witness says "Then it banked and I heard a ‘thud’ when it came down". Will you agree that the photos indicate a large verticle component (slap down) rather than horizontal deceleration? That is more significant than stall speed. The jets we are discussing also do not have a stout propeller to plow into soft ground. Do we know why he did not make any of the 20 airports? A Highway-in-the-Sky depiction with glide performance might have saved him, and it would indeed solve the physics problem of finding a nice long, hard place to land. Such depiction is not actually Synthetic Vision, but Synthetic Vision helps you avoid any mountains on your way to the valley airport.

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | October 19, 2011 12:49 PM    Report this comment

One important fact the single engine jets do not consider is Bird impact. The single engine turboprops are largely immune because the inlet is designed to eliminate ice etc. there is no direct line from the intake to the compressor on most single turboprops. A Jet engine is certified to not blow up with a bird impact but not to continue to generate thrust. Thus something as small as a single gull or crow probably would take a single engine jet out. Two engines dramatically reduce the possibility of a Bird problem as well as other possible single engines failures.

If you want to look at a Reasonably priced concept for a twin jet look at the Aerostar twin jet Prototype that flew into Oshkosh this year. Two big engines with much more power capable of taking off safely at any airport in the US great climb, climb demonstrated at 4000 Ft/min out of Boise this summer on a very hot day 350+knots at less than full power at 28,000 ft. Projected price from $1,700,000 to $2,000,000 or so depending on options such as a stretched fuselage etc.

for more information Contact Aerostar Aircraft in Idaho I saw it fly and it is a great performer. much better than the eclipse

Posted by: william Lawson | October 19, 2011 1:32 PM    Report this comment

Apart from the comments above, I am ambivalent about aircraft in the Altaire's category as I'm not sure what job they are intended to do when new or when passed through to later owners. It seems the focus is on personal or business passenger transport only, with no capability to perform other missions. They do not come with wide loading doors or strong floors or rugged landing gear in the same way a TBM or PC12 does, or the King Air for that matter. It strikes me that massive investment in a product to address a limited market with demands for highly skilled operation is flawed. I can't see the cashed up weekend warrior maintaining the personal skill to operate high and fast in complex airspace in a vanity product without devoting the bulk of personal time to maintaining proficiency. The product has to do more to attract customers with wider needs, probably operated by professional staff. One vs two engines becomes relevant only in some operations.

Posted by: Mike Allsop | October 19, 2011 4:10 PM    Report this comment

Bringing back the Cheyenne, or perhaps a twin turboprop Meridian would be an interesting move for Piper. There just might be a market for a poor man's King Air.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 19, 2011 7:32 PM    Report this comment

I'm sure the Wright Bros. heard much of the same logic; "It's an impractical idea, so quit fooling around and go back to bicycles".

Turns out there's only one real way to find out if something is going to be successful; and it doesn't involve sitting in an arm chair. Piper has tried a lot of things over the years; some good and some didn't work, but at least they were trying.

I would also guess that certification to 35,000 ft with a single engine is possible and that Piper has run the numbers to prove it.

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | October 19, 2011 7:49 PM    Report this comment

The potential customers can make their own minds up about single-engine safety - apart from bird-strikes on take-off, the calculus is the same as for all other SE aircraft.

They would buy the aircraft if it will go far, fast. As Ata (on 19 October) suggests, the Piper (with its low bypass engine) will only achieve its potential if it can cruise at will in the troposphere. The customers will not accept an artificial (FAA) limitation to below FL250.

Posted by: R L S Butler | October 20, 2011 5:24 AM    Report this comment

Cirrus & Piper's jet programs are a little too expensive for foreign owners looking for a stable self-sustained business. They literally did not sign up for this.

Diamond on the other hand is family owned & willing to take a bit of risk to achieve its goals. Also,as Russ wrote, Diamond always maintained reasonable goals compared to the competition. They chose to focus on safety, not speed or altitude.

Posted by: Nick Prudent | October 20, 2011 6:35 AM    Report this comment

To the turbo prop is a better idea issue, NO, bad pilot! LOL. We pilots and educated aviation buffs know the benefits of a prop. The non aviation world associates props with noise, turbulence, poverty, and death. BRS and Cirrus did a lot to deal with the death bit, but the rest is still there. Might as well own a Mooney as a Meridian if no one wants to join you. It's so real, it's not even foolish to consider the value of having the word "Jet" associated with your 7 figure toy. Props lose sales to yachts which are even less practical than jets.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 20, 2011 7:30 AM    Report this comment

Personally, I'd rather see development of full blown FADEC single engine turboprops, all the way down to the 4-6 seat size running something like a Rolls RR300 level, than a new crop of single engine jets. My suspicion is that the insurance companies may not like the idea of single engine jets any more than the FAA does. The argument for needing high bypass turbofans is also a good one. I think most of the light bizjet market could use engines that don't require flight at FL400 and up to be efficient.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | October 20, 2011 10:28 AM    Report this comment

Twin jet engine failure: routine single engine landing followed by engine repairs, perhaps generating revenue for the engine provider.

Single jet engine failure: likely accident, perhaps fatalities, followed by lawsuits naming engine maker and the airframe maker.

Once the liability is attached to the SEJ, the cost advantage of having one engine is lost. All the overhead at the engine maker now has to be absorbed by half the delivered units in the field, so overhaul and parts costs will rise.

The SEJs have huge engines, about the same total thrust as twin jets. Witness Cirrus SF-50 with 1900 lbs thrust versus larger, heavier, more seats Eclipse EA500 with 1800 lbs total thrust. Where's that advantage?

The SEJs are going to be altitude limited, it is hard for them to get above FL250 due to required redundancy in pressurization. FL410 is more like outer space than air space. When altitude limited, the SEJ burns more fuel per mile than the twin.

Due the annual training requirements, there's no practical advantage to an SEJ not requiring a multi rating. As a multi, twin jets don't have many of the vices piston and turboprops do, no prop to feather, little asymmetric thrust. So the multi penalties are minimal.

The SEJ is a passing fad, developed by piston companies, with piston thinking, sold to piston pilots. Once the regulatory and economic realities set in, the fad will be over.

It is a very old idea, look up the Gulfstream Peregrine from the 1980s.

Posted by: Mike Ciholas | October 20, 2011 10:59 AM    Report this comment

"The initial market is ...doctors, lawyers etc. the lower end of the rich and the upper middle class. "

In an age of steadily increasing income disparity, I'm not sure who these "upper middle class" people are going to be. The inexorable increase in costs for participating in GA at any level coupled with the over-burden of regulation will surely result in two groups of GA participants: The uber-rich and the rest of us. Even LSA's that should appeal to a far larger fraction of the GA consumers are struggling. GA pilot starts are struggling. These days the only air-cooled engine I drive is in my lawn-tractor.

The VLJ crowd will be a slim fraction of the jet-set, which itself is a slim fraction of all GA. While one jet makes a lot more money for a manufacturer than a C172 (to pick one), without the under-pinning of a robust GA environment, Piper and the others would be ill-advised to base their business model for a single engine jet on a subset of a niche group of potential buyers who may not be so well-heeled by the time the plane is certified.

And if jet owners are feeling the heated scorn from those of the lower income class today, think what it will be by 2020.

Posted by: David MacRae | October 20, 2011 11:03 AM    Report this comment

Where has innovation gone in U.S. Aerospace development? Are turbo props considered cutting edge? Certainly they are viable and useful, but are they the most efficient, fastest, least expensive and safest business travel now and in the future? I would like to point out some very successful single engine jet aircraft: F-20, T-45, F-16, AV-8, RQ-4 and the F-35; to name a few. Granted not business aircraft, however, these craft demonstrate that safe and effective single engine turbofan aircraft can and do operate globally in a variety of conditions with alterable payloads and at variable altitudes.

Posted by: Curtis Hamlin | October 20, 2011 1:22 PM    Report this comment

The posts above, make a great case for two engines rather than one for jet aircraft. But one shouldn't count jets out for single engine planes yet.

The history of turbine aviation since 1961 has seen the gap between jets and turboprops become less and less. It started in 1961, when low-bypass turbofan engines began replacing non-fan turbojets on the 707 and DC-8 jetliners. Over the years bypass ratios have increased, further narrowing the gap between turbofan and turboprop engines.

For business aviation, a significant narrowing of the gap between turboprop and jet aircraft occurred when Cessna introduced bizplanes where you had turbofans pushing on the rear, but with the airframe featuring straight rather than swept-back wings. The latter are superior if you must fly at Mach 0.8, but if you can get by with a TAS of ~375 knots or so, straight wings have the advantage.

The latest development for further reducing the gap between turbofan and turboprop aircraft, will occur if geared turbofan engines are certified for production. Here we see a ducted fan, like the turbofans we now have, but with the fan driven via reduction gears like the propeller(s) on turboprop aircraft. If this comes to pass, the cost vs. benefits of single engine jets versus single engine turboprop planes like the TBM 850, will have to be recalculated. Also, a twin geared turbofan Cessna bizjet may well give the Beechcraft King Air family some pretty good competition.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | October 20, 2011 1:53 PM    Report this comment

Most owners of biz-jets I know, technically own the airplane (in reality, making the payments on it) but they are all on management contracts (what we used to call lease-backs).

When the owner is not using the plane, it is used to move other affluent people to where they want to go, when they want to go.

The planes put more hours on flying people other than the owner.

I don't see the single engines fitting this economic model.

There are a few people that might own their jets, and use them only for themselves, but they are surely the minority. IMO only a very few people would comprise the market for the Altaire.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | October 20, 2011 5:05 PM    Report this comment

I return to my first comment : There are a thousand Pilatus PC-12, plus some hundreds each of Daher SOCATA TBM and Piper PA-46 Meridians in use. The PC-12 is substantially more expensive to buy than the proposed single turbofans. These are expensive, high-performance singles, with a heavy gearbox and propeller.

Arguments against the single fanjet concept dismiss this reality. There is safety margin added in higher altitudes, and also deleting the gearbox/propeller. Some people may want a modern jet for less than $3 million. It is not the same economic model as an $8 million twinjet. Let the market provide! There will continue to be slower stalling aircraft, or redundantly-engined aircraft, available for those who prefer them.

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | October 21, 2011 12:42 PM    Report this comment

An advantage that turbofans have over the propeller-and-gearbox configuration is this: With a propeller, where are you going to mount a single engine except on the nose? Burt Rutan devoted a lot of time to devising pusher-propeller planes (BTW anybody here remember Bruce Bohannon's Pushy Galore?), but from what I understand he became disenchanted with the idea because propellers don't like their intake air to be discombobulated in passing over the fuselage. With a turbofan, one can mount it on top in the rear (Cirrus or Altaire), or within the fuselage (Stratos or D-Jet). So J.L.P., best wishes in promoting experimentation with single-turbofan designs!

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | October 21, 2011 2:55 PM    Report this comment

Some years ago I was involved in the development of a single business jet, the Visionaire Vantage. We studied the safety issue in considerable depth and here's some some of what we found. Turboprops have a greater failure rate than turbo fans because of the gear box and propeller. Most of the in-flight failures of the jet engine we selected were because of running out of fuel. The injury and death rate was higher for twin propeller airplanes than for singles because of loss of control and/or higher stall speed. By FAA regulation the stall speed of a single engine jet was 65 kts, the same as for single propeller airplanes. In the event of an engine failure the single engine jet usually glides further than a propeller airplane. The loss of the engine in a single engine jet will result in losing cabin pressure but the bleed off time will allow descent to a safe altitude and is not nearly as dangerous as a window failure. These conclusions were based on independent analysis by safety experts and Department of Transportation data. Our overall conclusion was there is little safety difference between a single or multi-engine jet and the single jet has considerable safety advantages over single turboprops and twin propeller airplanes.

Posted by: frederick stark | October 21, 2011 5:40 PM    Report this comment

By the way, the rule for single engine stall speed was relieved by Amendment 50 in 1996. Now you can have higher stall speed if you have high-G seats (14 CFR 23.562).

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | October 21, 2011 9:48 PM    Report this comment

At the time we were developing the Vantage there were no seats that had been certified to the higher G level. Now there are and if the Vantage goes back into development (there is effort in that direction)the stall speed would be around 70 kts which is still slower than most other business jets.

Posted by: frederick stark | October 22, 2011 10:01 AM    Report this comment

@FrederickStark -- Fascinating to read your account of the Visionaire Vantage jet development. Looks like the group in Brazil who bought the drawings has gone silent (no web site). The Wikipedia article claims that the jet was redesigned in 1998 after the flying prototype revealed handling problems. Were these problems ever solved and how?

BTW, do you have a site/blog where I could read more about this?

Thanks

Posted by: Nick Prudent | October 22, 2011 1:10 PM    Report this comment

The FAA requires that the airplane can roll no more than 15 degrees upon stall. The Vantage exceeded that but the ailerons were effective and could lift the down wing. Scaled Composites, which was doing the flight testing felt that the fix would not be difficult but due to management changes within Visionaire Scaled was not given the go ahead to correct the problem. Instead there were several proposed major design changes which culminated in the Brazilian total redesign. Many of us believe that the original Vantage is a great airplane and the roll off at stall is a minor problem that can be easily fixed. That is the direction the the new company, Visionaire Jets, is going. The program is being paced by acquiring funding. I don't have a blog but there is web site, Visionaire Jets.com.

Posted by: frederick stark | October 23, 2011 3:19 AM    Report this comment

I have no objection to single engine civil jets as long as the stall speed is low enough to make them crashworthy. Arguments in support of the use of single engine jets by referencing the USAF's use of them are assinine, when all occupants are provided with ejection seats. Ditto where unnecessary systems like fly-by-wire are proposed in lightweight, stable aircraft.

Posted by: Gregory Myers | October 24, 2011 6:08 AM    Report this comment

As reluctant as I am to mention this publicly (due to some inner-reservation about a possible increase in "pilots" need someone else to bail them out when their own deficiencies become apparent...this reminds me of the old "if you can drive you can fly" program which encouraged such imcompetents as I've personally observed at training facilities...)... surely I'm not the only person to consider that the single-engine jet aircraft happens to be in the price-range that further development/improvement of the ballistic-parachute-system is a natural-fit?

Posted by: George Horn | October 24, 2011 12:10 PM    Report this comment

Harbored by the several examples I've personally witnessed at my trng-facility workplace, I fear increased numbers of incompetents who think themselves qualified to fly airplanes so long they have a "panic button" they can push to absolve themselves of personal accountability...so I hesitate to mention this, but....surely I am not the only person to consider the single-engined jet is in the price-range to justify further development of the ballistic-parachute?

Posted by: George Horn | October 24, 2011 12:17 PM    Report this comment

If single engine passenger jets were safe, the airlines would have been flying them years ago. Also, single engine military jets have one safety device a bizjet does not.....an ejection seat. Think about it.

Posted by: Jerry Knaust | October 24, 2011 12:21 PM    Report this comment

It's all moot now. Piper announced this morning an indefinite suspension of the program. They expect to lay off ~200 workers.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | October 24, 2011 1:07 PM    Report this comment

I believe DJet was supposed to get a BRS option. It can be done.

The single engine is unsafe position is generally overstated. Compared to a professionally piloted twin engine bizjet, a single engine, owner flown jet is less safe. Compared to a US airline operated 747 the bizjet is less safe. Compared to an SR22, is a DJet operated by an owner with training and good judgement unsafe? Not in my opinion.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 24, 2011 2:03 PM    Report this comment

All the dribble about single vs. twin, turboprop vs. pure jet, et al, pales in comparison with the human tragedy that struck this week in Vero Beach. Not only has the executive suite seen yet another round of musical chairs...but the keen minds in the engineering department have been dealt a blow that will reverberate well past the next product announcement at Piper. This same wind of change will sweep away plans and dreams of families who have moved to Indian River County, FL, with the hope of enjoying the sunshine and sandy beaches...which dreams now go flat and worries of future employment...moving again...paying for $3.39 gas, etc., take their place.

Ups and downs in the general aviation business are a fact of life which I first experienced in the 1981 downturn. Nothing positive can be said about these roller coaster events when the human toll is factored into the equation. The trickle-down effect of this 86-ing of the Altaire will find its way thru subcontractors, suppliers, to real estate sales in Vero Beach and Sebastian...and all the way to the local pizza parlor.

God help them now, because few others will.

Posted by: r.w. burnley | October 24, 2011 6:47 PM    Report this comment

A single engine jet -- like the D-jet enroute cruises abt 220 knots using 30 gallons of jet fuelH. A Pipistrel carbon fiber single enginge ac with the new Lycoming IO 390 (burning MOGAS and AVGAS) will cruise 200 knots and burn 10 gallons, + have 3 pax full fuel tanks (1000 nm) and baggage + investment is 1/4 of the single engine jet.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | October 26, 2011 3:17 AM    Report this comment

This is probably the single most sensible decision that Piper could have made. I've walked around the empty factory of a company that went under based on their jet development program, and it's not pretty. Dreams are great, but when those dreams have to be supported by real dollars, you need to think very hard about them. I'm sure the decision taken by the new CEO was simultaneously the hardest and the easiest one of his career.

Posted by: Michael Gordon | October 26, 2011 6:00 AM    Report this comment

@ Lars: You're right. But the Pipistrel is burning avgas, which has in Europe a gallon price of up to $ 16.60! This is three times the price of Jet A1. You have in Sweden in short time your biofuel made from wood - you really have some of it! Then JetA1 is even cheaper - unless the state is placing a undecent tax on it!

Posted by: Oscar Reinhard | October 26, 2011 6:54 AM    Report this comment

In response to Gregory Meyers' October 24 comment that "Arguments in support of the use of single engine jets by referencing the USAF's use of them are assinine, when all occupants are provided with ejection seats," I'd like to clarify my own (asinine) comments, and address Mr. Meyers'.

Ejection seats would become a factor in this discussion if in-flight engine failure (due to non-combat causes) was causing the loss of lots of F-16s, while the F-15 was essentially immune to the same cause-of-loss. (I chose the F-16 and F-15 for my comparison, because they use the same engine.) Putting aside for the moment Cirrus’ inclusion of a CAPS whole-aircraft parachute recovery system, I dryly note that the Air Force mounts ejection seats in its twin jets, too – apparently in disregard of the twins’ all-important multi-engine redundancy. I also note that the Air Force repeatedly has noted operational and financial advantages of single-engine vs multi-engine jet aircraft.

Regarding fly-by-wire systems in lightweight, stable aircraft, I can say only that as a design engineer, I specify the simplest, most reliable, least costly system for any need – provided that the system is capable of supplying the required level of performance. (Apologies to those in the audience who would note that those qualities oftentimes comprise conflicting constraints, the successful resolution of which is the essence of engineering.)

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | October 26, 2011 7:00 AM    Report this comment

Oscar - the new Pipstrel will be fully certified for car gasoline (MOGAS)and AVGAS ! For AVGAS yes we pay about 6 US dollars/gallon ex tax, and anything which is not pure pleasure flying is taxfree in all Europe. I guess for pleasure flying people will fly an ultralight with Rotax and they are all also MOGAS engines. Regarding biofuel -- yes WE can make AVGAS from wood too.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | October 26, 2011 7:05 AM    Report this comment

If pipistrel can get all that done it will sell many copies, but that won't keep people from wanting a DJet for lots of reasons. One primary reason that new owner pilots won't understand is the reluctance of many passengers to fly in a propeller plane at all.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 26, 2011 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Eric -- this is exactly why I have serial number 59 of the D-jet. (and order on the Pipistrel aircraft as well)I have been flying for 47 years and is thus not a "new owner pilot" - but see you point. My point was costs - the Piper Altaire was found not beeing able to compete with what is out there.

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | October 26, 2011 9:46 AM    Report this comment

I am jealous! Sorry for misinterpreting your post, but I thought you were implying all VLJs were a bad deal. Anyway, I always thought the Altaire was a "me too" product while the Cirrus and Diamond offered new options (and Eclipse and Cessna offered more economical bizjets rather than a new class).

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 26, 2011 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Eric - but Diamond will also have an uphill battle. Used Eclipses inclusive all latest updates and total 450 hours are sold in Europe for 1,3 milj US dollars. A bargain!

Posted by: Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil Sweden | October 26, 2011 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Single engine business aircraft are not "dated". If anything, they are cheaper to fly and maintain than having to feed and care for 2 jet engines. Cirrus and Diamond "get it". Bonanza's and Pilatus aircraft are a testament to single engine business aircraft. Too bad Piper is bailing out, I thought that they had the best chance for maneuvering through certification and production.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 1, 2011 7:34 AM    Report this comment

Interesting relevant news today : Robinson turbine helicopter filling niche between piston and bigger turbines, selling like hotcakes! This is similar to the single-engine fanjet niche... but for the discounted used twin-jet market! http://www.aopa.org/aircraft/articles/2011/111101what_goes_around.html?WT.mc_id=111104epilot&WT.mc_sect=gan

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | November 4, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment

The Eclipse is a sweet little jet, but does not climb with one engine under many conditions. As a twin, it is a sinker when heavy and hot, and one engine stops. Fly it as if single-engine!

Posted by: Jeffrey L Pierson | November 4, 2011 10:07 AM    Report this comment

Aviation is an enormously conservative industry. It reminds me very much of higher education, and is critically based on reputation and established norms: If an institution (like a new aircraft program) doesn't look, sound, feel, taste and smell like existing, well-established programs, it's considered marginal until proven over YEARS of success. We've come to accept single-engine turboprops for the simple reason that they LOOK conventional, much like single-engine piston aircraft. But a single-engine jet looks different, and the aviation community HATES different.

The first "EFIS" on a business jet was flying in 1983 on the Falcon 100, but these types of systems that make our life simple and safe today (like the G1000, G3000, Pro Line, etc...) were always rejected at first. The Falcon 100, one of the best business jets of its time, was a failure.

Innovators need to be prepared for failure, or perhaps I should say, innovators need to WORK THROUGH failure. The Altaire is a beautiful aircraft, and shame on us for being too conservative and arrogant to accept a design that LOOKS a little different.

Posted by: Jon L Albee | November 18, 2011 2:55 PM    Report this comment

Just one more quick note. All of you probably remember the Beechcraft Starship. OK, it had a silly name, looked strange, and was a real fuel drinker, but Beechcraft used this aircraft to develop its composite technology program, which it sneaked in on all of you unsuspecting pilots! Now Hawker Beechcraft makes some of the most beautiful and advanced business aircraft in the world... from composites.

Posted by: Jon L Albee | November 18, 2011 3:07 PM    Report this comment

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