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Piper Aircraft ramps up efforts globally

Piper Aircraft today announced that despite the current economic downturn, strategic investment by its new owners has enabled the company  to move forward on many fronts, from expansion into new and emerging markets to accelerated development of the PiperJet and other product programs.

"The Imprimis acquisition was a major milestone for us – one that is a boon for the company and its future," said Piper Chief Executive Officer Kevin J. Gould.  "Over the years, Piper has had many owners, but few saw the strategic value of this iconic company. Now, with Imprimis and its strategic sense of what Piper can be and how it can grow, we have owners the likes of which we haven't seen since the days when Bill Piper owned the Company."

Imprimis -- a corporate finance and investment management firm that operates from its offices in Bangkok, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam – acquired Piper on May 1 with a pledge to take the company to new levels of performance.

Product Development and R&D

Prior to its acquisition by Imprimis, Piper – as has been the case with many companies – had to scale back on the scope and timing of its research and development programs.  Now, however, the company is back on track with full development of the PiperJet and other product initiatives.

Among the first actions Piper has taken in implementing its new strategic direction has been recruitment of new engineering resources to propel its product initiatives, beginning with the PiperJet.

"Development of the PiperJet, as well as other new products and innovations, is crucial to Piper's long-term growth strategy," Piper President John D. Becker said, "and Imprimis has earmarked funds to ensure that we move forward on these vital programs."

Becker said that over the next nine months, Piper will hire 50 engineers as it ramps up the PiperJet development program to ensure optimal timing for first deliveries of the company's first pure, jet-powered, turbofan design in its 72-year history. 

"We are in the process of hiring engineers at all levels – from senior to entry-level professionals – and across all engineering disciplines, including structures, systems, flight test, and manufacturing," Becker said. "The downturn understandably causes us to review optimal timing for the first deliveries of the PiperJet.  With our new ownership, the acceleration of the Piper Jet program and the economic situation, we are evaluating the most opportune time to introduce the Piper Jet into the market.

Piper announced that it was expanding into the jet market in October 2006, when it unveiled plans to build the revolutionary PiperJet, a clean-sheet design that incorporates single-engine turbofan power for optimum cost efficiency, state-of-the-art safety measures, and a strong, smooth all-metal body. Since then, the PiperJet has achieved major milestones, including first-flight in July 2008, maximum certification altitude of 35,000 feet in April 2009 and opening the full speed envelope in the last month.  These tests have confirmed that the production PiperJet should meet the associated performance goals.  

To date, Piper has approximately 204 contracted orders for the PiperJet, which is more than the company had for the highly successful Piper Meridian – its current flagship aircraft -- at this point in its development.

Piper's Plans to Expand Globally

In addition to its product inititives Piper executives also announced that the company is currently seeking proposals for the international expansion of dealer bases throughout Asia,  Pacific/Oceania, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Central America and Caribbean regions.   This expansion is in keeping with the company's new strategic growth plan.

In acquiring Piper, Imprimis cited international expansion as a top priority, particularly in Asia, where general aviation sales are set to rise beyond their current global share of 5 percent.  Piper sees significant opportunities there given the company's model mix and the steady growth analysts are predicting for sales of two-, four- and six-seat aircraft over the next five years – the result of shifting demographics and increasing demand for pilot training from training schools and flying clubs (commercial and private).

Says CEO Gould: "We have a serious game plan, and an ownership group that is committed to our long-term growth and success."

At the same time, Gould empasized that Piper continues to face the challenges brought on by the worldwide economic downturn.  Consequently, it is important to understand that adding key staff to work on product development programs or expanding the dealer network doesn't mean the same thing for the production and manufacturing workforce.

"We are focused on meeting market demand," Gould said, "and that means staffing to fill the orders we receive. We are still in uncharted territory when it comes to forecasting an end to the global economic downturn and have no clear sense of when we will see sales that can support bringing our production workforce back to levels that existed prior to the downturn. In the meantime, we are hiring to ensure that development programs are fully staffed and remain on track."

Press release issued by Piper Aircraft, Inc. on July 28, 2009

 

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