In a sign that the general aviation market may be stabilizing, Piper Aircraft said new aircraft billings in the first half of the year rose 16 percent compared with the same period last year.
And the company says next year is shaping up to be even better.
Piper delivered 38 of its M-class airplanes in the first half, including 14 turboprop Meridians and 24 examples of the piston-powered Matrix and Mirage. The Meridian’s sales resurgence was the most dramatic after Piper delivered just eight in last year’s first half.
Piper executive vice president Randy Groom credited bonus depreciation tax advantages for boosting dealer activity, saying the government program is helping the company build its order backlog into the second quarter of 2012.
Groom also said international sales remain a bright spot, especially in emerging markets like Brazil and South Africa.
The company says it is also making progress on the Altaire single-engine jet program, bringing in production tooling to the factory in Vero Beach, Florida, and adding engineering staff. A critical design review is planned for the fourth quarter, after which Piper will launch an accelerated test program. Certification of the $2.6 million (2010 dollars) Altaire is targeted for late 2014.
Piper now has around 840 employees, up from its lowest staffing level in 2009 of 562 but still well down from the peak, when it employed more than 1,200. Groom insisted Piper is far healthier today than it was two years ago, thanks to a change in company philosophy that dictates airplanes are now built to order, with very few “white tails” rolling out of the factory.