(apologies to Clint Eastwood) ...and just about everyone else.
Including the late Howard "Pug" Piper, youngest son of Piper founder William T Piper, Sr.
"'W.T.' Piper who happened to produce five sons, one of whom, Howard (Pug), was to be responsible for moving a reluctant company into the modern age." (Well, back when "the modern age" was circa the early 1950's Aztec). Pug was also designer of the PA-24 Comanche, circa mid-1950's.
It's fair to say, Piper Aircraft wants to "move into the modern age" again, with a jet. (And it's got a 3000-pound-thrust-class Williams FJ-44 "Magnum" (-3AP) engine, the most power engine in the VLJ world- it'll knock your socks clean off!- oops, sorry again).
Especially if one considers the relative standings, then (mostly pre-biz jet 1968) to now (2008 anyway):
Cessna, $138M (6578 units)
Beech, $115M (1347 units)
Piper, $85M (4228 units)
Lear, $28M (41 units)
Mooney $24M (579 units)
AeroCommander $22M (435 units)
A History In the Making, by Donald M. Pattillo
General Aviation Manufacturer's Association 2008 delivery/billings:
Bombardier (including Lear) $6,228M (245 units)
Gulfstream (temp. AeroCommander) $5,512M (156 units)
Cessna $4,556M (1,300 units)
Hawker-Beech $2,468M (435 units)
Cirrus $287M (549 units)
Piper $214M (268 units)
Eclipse $207M (161 units)
Mooney $35M (65 units)
There is a temptation to lament the decline in general aviation, as a function of units and pilots produced per year, but from a dollar standpoint, things are going pretty well- using an inflation calculator, and adjusting the 1968 figures to 2008 dollars:
Cessna (1968): $853M (2008 dollars), so $4556M is a 530% increase
Hawker-Beech (1968): $711M (2008 dollars), so $2,468M is a 350% increase
Piper (1968): $525M (2008 dollars), so $214M is, well, a 60% decrease
Throw in Cirrus and Eclipse, and it was a pretty good year for GA, dollar wise. There might be some other items at play, but it seems to "stay in the game", Piper needs a jet. Cessna went into Citations big time, and Beech bought the Hawker and Mitsubishi line, as well as developed their own Premier and Horizon/4000 models.
So, what's the big deal? Seems like they've been shopping around for a place to build it (and maybe to relocate their entire operation). Supposedly, Oklahoma City OK (undisclosed amount), and Albuquerque ($70M "bid") were finalist, with Vero Beach squeezed to contribute $30-50M. Tallahassee offered $90M, and Columbus, S.C. (undisclosed amount) also made offers- but maybe there were some "sticklers" with those deals.
By the way, what did our friend Richard Aboulafia, V.P. of Analysis at the Teal Group have to say, when interviewed by the Albuquerque Tribune (2007):
"'There's a fine line between infrastructure and tax breaks and outright subsidies,' Aboulafia said. 'You have to watch that you're not giving away the store.' He called New Mexico's chances of outbidding its competitors, 'very good'. 'The New Mexican taxpayer is a remarkably generous creature,' he said."
Something to consider, Cirrus has billings (for new aircraft) 40% higher than Piper, and they are struggling financially. Eclipse had billings that were virtually equal to Piper- with only 8 months of production, and, ah, well- you know. So, can Piper pull it off? One thing which should help them is a sustaining revenue stream, from a bazillion (or so) airplanes already in service.
But still, the economy has resulted in challenges for 2009:
PalmBeachPost, February 13, 2009:
"Today, Piper is slashing staff. It laid off 450 workers during the past several months...After Tuesday's round of layoffs, which affected 300 workers, the company reported it had 650 employees...its shares (ACAS) plummet to $2.71, down from a 52-week high of about $37.86 a year ago."
(Ugh- a Friday the 13th. Note: the stock dropped to $0.58 in March)
TCPalm, June 10, 2009:
"Kevin J. Gould, Piper's Vice President of Operations, will become Piper's Chief Executive Officer, and John Becker, Piper's Vice President of Engineering, will become President of the Company."
(Outgoing CEO seemed to get good marks, new guys seem pretty capable too).
TCPalm, July 13, 2009:
"No formal public announcement has been made about Piper’s workforce but according to the company’s Web site, Piper is hiring 17 engineers. As for manufacturing, Piper’s Web site said it 'will not be seeking manufacturing candidates until further notice."
Maybe recent developments may improve the chances (do they feel lucky, well- do they? :) of continued development:
FlightGlobal, July 18, 2009:
"Imprimis, a Singapore investment firm that at the beginning of May (2009) acquired 100% of Piper from American Capital (ACAS). Imprimis has deep pockets funded by the government of Brunei, one of the world's richest countries, and sees its first aviation investment as a way to diversify its portfolio and tap into the industry's budding potential in Asia."
TCPalm, July 20, 2009:
"Piper Aircraft, Inc., will continue shutting down its local manufacturing facility for one week each month until the end of the year, according to a new report from a major aviation trade publication."
As unfortunate developments at Adam and Eclipse demonstrated, it's a tough market to crack, but those were start ups, and Cirrus -and Diamond- are by comparison, relatively new companies as well. Perhaps income from legacy product support, sales of the innovative PA-46; Matrix, Malibu, Meridian (which, ah, sure looks a lot like the PA-47 Piperjet), combined with robust financing from the new ownership will help Piper succeed- let's wish them well. The Piperjet might just "make my day" for a lot of owners!
(I hope we get some good feedback from those attending AirVenture this week).