Ron Gunnarson, Piper Aircraft vice president of sales and marketing, said his company has continued to grow in a “pull market.”
“It’s probably the strongest market that many of us have ever seen, including those of us that have been here for 33 or more years,” said Gunnarson at a Monday press conference at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
But Gunnarson said it’s not pulling as hard as it was a year ago during an economic situation that was unsustainable.
“It was collapsing our traditional supply chain and pulling on the resources of every major OEM and supplier,” he said, noting that the market is leveling. “It’s a good place to be right now, a year after what is probably the peak.
“In 2022 we delivered 236 aircraft. That was about 14 percent higher than we did in 2021. That increase was realized in both primary segments: We’ve got the trainer class and the M class.”
Gunnarson added that this year the dealer networks report being sold out of 2023 inventory and projected that Piper is on track to deliver about 270 aircraft by end of year in spite of market pressures such as inflation and supply chain issues that continue to plague OEMs and suppliers.
Because of those pressures, Piper Aircraft is pushing the envelope in terms of innovation and development of its brand. In addition to its announcement earlier this year that all M600s would sport the latest capabilities offered by Garmin for G3000-equipped aircraft, Gunnarson unveiled the company’s newly formed manufacturing enterprise at the press briefing in Oshkosh.
The new manufacturing enterprise would seem to be a natural one.
“We are probably the most vertically integrated OEM in the industry,” Gunnarson said. “If it’s not an engine, avionics, or a tire, it’s probably made in the four walls of Piper Aircraft. It’s what we know best.”
According to Gunnarson, over the last four years nearly $30 million has been invested in facility and equipment upgrades for the company, including robotic riveting, state-of-the-art 3D printing, laser cutting, and more. He said these investments are key to improved product quality, employee well-being, enterprise productivity, long-term value for the company, and the ability to diversify in a challenging industry.
Gunnarson said the new business enterprise, Piper Industrial Manufacturing Co. (PIMCO), “…will leverage and capitalize on these recent production improvements and investments. We are also adapting our own existing quality management system and pursuing AS-9100 certification.”
The Garmin capabilities for G3000-equipped airplanes include synthetic vision (SVT) enhancements, like 3D Safe Taxi, taxiway routing, cabin briefer, and GWX 8000 StormOptix weather radar with lightning and hail prediction.
“Also those same new M600s will include a news suite of connected aircraft management capabilities leveraging Garmin’s new PlaneSync technology,” said Gunnarson.
This technology includes remote access to an aircraft through a 4G or Wi-Fi connection.
“It automatically logs flight and engine data and uploads it to the cloud…after you’re out of the clouds on the ground,” he said.
Remote aircraft status can show an owner where an aircraft is and check fuel and oil levels, systems, battery, and more. “Piper will be the first to market with this…full functionality of the Garmin PlaneSync system,” Gunnarson said.
“[The] FAA just granted Piper ODA authorization,” said Gunnarson, adding that the engineering team expects to have it certified within a few weeks. “There will be no-charge kits available for M600s serial numbers 198 and up—we’re delivering serial number 260 this week.”
The company is also developing a kit for M600s with serial numbers 81 through 197, and is predicting year-end availability for those kits.
Gunnarson also highlighted the growth of Piper’s Global Flight School Alliance and three new fleet customers in India, with a total of 47 training aircraft fleet deliveries projected for 2024 and 2025.