Piper Delivers First PiperSport; Offers EVS for PA-46 Series

The biggest photo op for Piper at Sun 'n Fun was the first delivery of a PiperSport light sport aircraft (LSA). Three co-owners took delivery of their new airplane, with the common thread being their high levels of flying experience. Two were former airline pilots and current Airbus simulator instructors with 20,000 and 16,000 hours respectively; and the third was a veterinarian who has been flying for 42 years. Piper expects to deliver 75 PiperSports this year, all will be built by Czech Sport Aircraft in the Czech Republic and distributed by PiperSport Distribution.

Piper President and CEO Kevin Gould also announced it now offers Forward Vision EVS-100 and EVS-600 (which fuses infrared and visible wavelengths) enhanced vision for its piston-powered PA-46 Malibu, Mirage and Matrix. The system will also be available as a retrofit. Approval for the turbine-powered Meridian awaits an EVS system certified for the Meridian's higher performance envelope (in particular, operations at its maximum approved altitude of 30,000 feet). Though advisory only (lower minimums are not authorized), the EVS system protects against "things that go bump in the day or night," said Forward Vision CEO Patrick Farrell.

Piper's new executive v-p Randy Groom outlined his reasons for joining the company, starting with the confidence that financial backer Imprimus is in for the long term. He added that in his view Piper has the ideal mix of aircraft, ranging from the PiperSport to the Meridian turboprop. He finished by saying that Piper is hiring, bringing "the best and the brightest" into the company. Sixty new hires are engineers brought in to work on the developmental PiperJet. They have completed the preliminary design review and are on target for weight, performance and cost. The next step is to build a conforming prototype.

Gould said Piper is ramping up production to more than 75 percent greater than last year, not including PiperSports. Overall, the company has hired 240 people in the past few months, and expects to announce a new European distribution plan for PiperSports within the next 60 days.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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