PiperJet Program One Year Old, to Use Garmin Avionics

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It was only a year ago, at NBAA 2006, that Piper announced its entrant into the personal jet market, a growth version of its venerable Malibu/Meridian platform powered by a single Williams FJ44-3AP turbofan. This year, Piper updated attendees on the PiperJet's certification flight testing program and -- to no one's great surprise -- announced it had selected Garmin as the new jet's avionics supplier. James K. Bass, Piper Aircraft president and CEO, told showgoers his company intends to fly the first PiperJet -- a proof-of-concept platform -- during the second quarter of calendar 2008, followed by three more airframes to play specific roles in a program leading to certification and delivery in 2010, per Piper's schedule. Of those three additional airframes, the first will be used for aerodynamics flight testing, the second for systems engineering tests and the third will be a conforming article expected to receive FAA certification.

Meanwhile, and basking in the glow of having almost three years to play with until final FAA certification, Garmin Tuesday verified the configuration it intends for the PiperJet: A three-LCD-panel integrated avionics suite including a WAAS GPS, three-axis autopilot system based on the GFC 700 and Jeppesen ChartView. The company would not say how it intends to designate the new product, however, noting that a lot can change between now and when the PiperJet is FAA certificated. Too, the full list of PiperJet avionics features wasn't complete, according to Carl Wolf, Garmin's senior director, aviation marketing and sales, who hinted but would not confirm the same basic avionics package new for the PiperJet might find its way into other airframes along the way. "We want to be confident [PiperJet] customers will be happy with their avionics," Wolf told NBAA attendees. The PiperJet is slated to have a maximum cruise speed of 360 knots and a maximum operating altitude of FL350. It'll carry six, feature a 1,300-nm range and a full-fuel payload of 800 lbs.