Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PiperSport: Piper’s Big Play

Race-car gorgeous. Great performance. Available now!

This January, Piper Aircraft CEO and President Kevin J. Gould stood before a crowd of pilots and media, smiled broadly and said, “In what may be the worst-kept secret in aviation, Piper Aircraft is entering what is undeniably one of the most exciting market segments in general aviation.” It’s heartening to hear a major aircraft company characterize the still-emerging LSA sector so positively. That Mr. Gould’s opening icebreaker was a repeat of what Piper media rep Mark Miller had secretly told me days earlier also was informative.

Was the hush-hush run-up to this moment, carried forth on a surging tide of waggling Netizen tongues, a masterful orchestration by Piper to ballyhoo media attention? Regardless, Piper did garner attention, in spades—and history was made, at 11 a.m. sharp, on the opening day of Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Florida.

Full Circle: Cub To PiperSport
Whatever the calculation behind Sebring’s most buzz-worthy announcement, the laser-like beam shining through the mini-drama is this: Piper is in, in big, and in right.

By now, you may know that the LSA picked by Piper is the SportCruiser, a popular LSA (#2 in 2009 U.S. sales) built in the Czech Republic by Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA). Repainted, rebadged and slated for deliveries, PiperSport didn’t garner one naysay among the scores of Sebring attendees I spoke with.

The consensus: huge, bold and wonderful for LSA. Piper’s timing couldn’t have been better: Cessna had just announced further delays—six to 10 months—in delivering its 162 Skycatcher.

Contrary to abundant rumors, Piper didn’t (wisely, concurred many) acquire a financial stake in CSA, the company that won an ugly 2009 Czech Republic court fight over control of the SportCruiser design. CSA appeared to be financially and managerially exhausted after the battle: rumors flew about lagging—or dormant—production of airframes and parts.

Yet even with all that bad grapevine juju, CSA still managed to deliver 31 airplanes to the States, in a terrible economic climate! That should tell you the potential of PiperSport to succeed big.

Labels: LSAs


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