Thursday, July 31, 2008

First flight of the new PiperJet

PiperJetPiper Aircraft's new prototype six-passenger single-engine turbo-fan aircraft, the PiperJet, has made its first flight. With Piper Test Pilots Dave Schwartz and Buddy Sessoms at the controls, the craft took off for the first time from Piper headquarters in Vero Beach, FL, late yesterday morning, July 30, 2008. The PiperJet is the first pure, jet-powered, turbofan design in the company’s 71-year history.

For its historic first flight, the plane remained aloft for an hour, reaching a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet and a speed of 160 KTAS as per the flight test plan. According to the manufacturer, the PiperJet is powered by a single Williams FJ44-3AP engine rated at 3,000 pounds of thrust. In the PiperJet application, the engine is de-rated to approximately 2,400 pounds of thrust.

"The FADEC control on the Williams engine greatly reduces pilot workload, allowing greater focus on controlling and navigating the PiperJet," said Schwartz. "Pushing the single power level full forward for takeoff results in a smooth but rapid buildup of thrust and acceleration."

A company news release about the PiperJet's first flight says:
With completion of first flight, the PiperJet has begun a 50 hour initial flight test program to expand the envelope and further investigate the aerodynamic configuration and basic flight performance. Piper test pilots expect to retract the landing gear on the PiperJet’s next flight, after which they will make several more flights to expand the high-speed envelope, eventually reaching 360 KTAS. Envelope expansion will also include higher operating altitudes, up to a maximum of 35,000 feet.
Deliveries of the PiperJet are anticipated to begin in 2011. According to John Becker, Piper’s Vice President of Engineering, the company plans to have the aircraft certified in the Normal Category under FAA Part 23 and applicable foreign certification standards.

"It’s designed to be flown by a single pilot and will be RVSM Certified. Moreover, its innovative design includes ample baggage space and class-setting useful load," Becker said. "The PiperJet will be certified to a maximum operating altitude of 35,000 feet, well above the weather while combining performance with the latest safety technologies and features."

Piper plans a public unveiling of the PiperJet for existing and prospective customers and the news and aviation media in late August or early September at the Piper factory in Vero Beach, FL, during which Piper test pilots will demonstrate the PiperJet’s full flight capabilities.

Meanwhile, you can have a preview with this short video of the PiperJet's first flight, and you can visit the PiperJet website for more photos, and information about the new aircraft's specifications.

[Photo Source]