Piper Aircraft has been re-energized by what it says is a long-term commitment by its new owners to make the company a "formidable competitor" in the general aviation market. At a news conference Monday at AirVenture Oshkosh, company spokesmen said Piper has finally landed an owner/investor with a long-term interest in the storied planemaker instead of a quick-turn profit. "We are fully prepared to make Piper a formidable competitor in the general aviation market," said Steve Berger, managing director of Imprimis, the Singapore-based investment company who is representing the government of Brunei as the sole investor in the deal. "We invest for the long run." He said Brunei is anxious to diversify its economy (huge oil and gas reserves make it one of the richest countries in the world) and make better use of its well-developed aviation infrastructure. Neither Berger nor Piper officials would speculate on whether those future economic initiatives would involve manufacturing aircraft in Brunei. They did stress that Vero Beach would remain company headquarters. Berger said Piper's virtual absence in Asia is what made the purchase so attractive because of the future market potential in that part of the world. The company also announced the restart of production of the Piper Archer and updated reporters on a variable vectored-thrust design on the PiperJet that will simplify handling characteristics.
Piper VP Bob Kromer said the new Archer will have a 180-horsepower engine, Garmin G600 panel with an S-TEC autopilot, and air conditioning as standard equipment for about $300,000. "We wanted to be back in that entry-level market," he said, noting that new Archer owners will likely progress to more advanced models as their flying skills (and budgets) improve. If a jet is on the horizon, Kromer said the hope is that the newly improved PiperJet will be a consideration. Engine maker Williams International recently installed an automatic variable vectored-thrust system on the aircraft. It automatically alters the thrust angle to eliminate the nose-over tendency of the tail-mounted engine when power is applied. The nozzle eliminates the need for a complicated and heavy trimmable horizontal stabilizer, which has been replaced with a fixed tail with standard elevator. Kromer said the aircraft is hitting or exceeding its speed and range targets and the program is being accelerated with the hiring of 50 more engineers dedicated to the jet.