PiperJet makes first flight

PiperJet POC vehicle prepares to begin taxi tests at VRB (Vero Beach FL).

On the morning of Jul 30, as Pro Pilot went to press, the prototype PiperJet launched down the runway and lifted into the sky from Piper's VRB (Vero Beach FL) factory facility.

The event marked an historic moment for the company-the first time in its 71-year history that Piper has flown a jet airplane. The aircraft which made the first flight is a proof-of-concept (POC) vehicle, according to Piper-not precisely what the company will build when the airplane goes into certification testing and production, but a reasonable facsimile that will allow Piper to get a head start on refining systems and perfecting the configuration.

Powered by a single Williams FJ44-3A turbofan, the PiperJet has the engine mounted high in the tail in a configuration the company frankly says is reminiscent of the Douglas DC10. Because the engine is not mounted along the natural thrustline of the aircraft, the PiperJet uses an automatic trim system to prevent the aircraft from experiencing pitch changes when power is added or reduced.

Piper says the system will function by adjusting the horizontal stabilizer to compensate for power changes to keep the aircraft aerodynamically balanced, and will operate without pilot input. Full authority digital engine control (FADEC) is part of the Williams engine configuration. Piper says the FADEC system is operational in the POC PiperJet.

Technicians monitor systems during initial engine runs. No photos of the first flight were available by press time.

A design goal, the company says, is to make the PiperJet one of the easiest airplanes in its class to fly. Piper began conducting engine run tests on the PiperJet in mid-June, and has been running tests ever since, leading up to first flight. Piper says initial engine runs went very well, and were followed first by low-speed taxi tests, then high-speed taxi tests in anticipation of first flight.

As currently configured, the PiperJet has nosewheel steering that employs a direct linkage through the rudder panels, without any electrical or hydraulic assist. Piper says the POC has the nosewheel rigged for 30° of left or right travel, but final configuration will be established based on the results of the POC fight test program. Based on initial testing, rudder pedal forces are light and deliver excellent response, according to Piper's test pilots. The main landing gear is a trailing link design. PiperJet is a clean-sheet design, according to the company. The airplane is intended to provide customers with the large cabin of a twin-engine jet combined with the operating economics of a single-engine design. Seating for 7 is projected, with a 4-seat club configuration in the cabin, 2 crew seats on the flightdeck and an optional belted lavatory. The PiperJet has a straight wing with winglets. Location of the engine was chosen to enhance performance. The aircraft is designed to deliver 360-kt speed, with an operational altitude of 35,000 ft. Intended range is 1300 nm, with 800 lbs of cabin payload available when loaded with full fuel. -Mike Potts



Cirrus Design Corp has announced that its single-engine personal jet, formerly known as The-Jet, will be called the Cirrus Vision SJ50. The aircraft made its first flight in early July from DLH (Intl, Duluth MN).

Eclipse Aviation has achieved flight into known icing (FIKI) status for the Eclipse 500. FAA granted FIKI certification to the Eclipse in late June, following more than 300 hours of flight testing that the company says began in Aug 2007. The Eclipse 500 is equipped with leading-edge pneumatic boots on the wings and horizontal stabilizers, electrically heated windshield and air data probes, and engine inlets heated with bleed air.

Cabin configuration for a new Embraer Lineage 1000 purchased by UAE-based Al Habtoor Group. International aircraft management firm Royal Jet managed the sale for Al Habtoor and will provide support for the aircraft. Al Habtoor is a conglomerate with interests in hotels, the automotive industry, real estate, education, insurance and publishing.

Cessna has achieved EASA certification for the Caravan turboprop equipped with the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics suite. This follows FAA certification of the G1000-equipped Caravan earlier this year. Cessna produces the 208, 208B Grand Caravan and Super Cargomaster versions.

Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) is leading a 4-year study to evaluate using second-generation biofuels in small to medium turbine aircraft engines. Second-generation biofuels are derived from nonfood sources, including algae. Objectives of the project, which is organized through the governments of Canada and India, include identifying and assessing appropriate biofuels, studying their effects on engine components, adapting engines to use the fuels, and comparing second-generation biofuels with current jet fuels and first-generation ethanol. A consortium of aerospace companies and universities are participating in the study, including P&WC, Infotech Enterprises, Canada's Laval, McGill and Ryerson Universities, the National Research Council, 2 Indian oil companies and India's Institute of Technology, Science & Petroleum. P&WC is already studying jet fuels based on shale and tar sand oil, as well as hydrogen.

Quest Aircraft has certified its single-engine Kodiak utility turboprop for parachute ops. The company says it is the first OEM to receive parachute ops type certification for a new airframe as delivered from the factory. The first jump-certified Kodiak was delivered in June to the Rhine Army Parachute Association (RAPA), which will operate the aircraft from its base in Bad Lippspringe, Germany. RAPA is a service charity of the British Army which provides jump training to both civilian and military personnel, and participates in skydiving exercises and competitions. RAPA has already used the Kodiak in competitive jumps. Modifications made by Quest to the Kodiak for jump certification include a roll-down door that can be operated from the pilot's seat, a wing-mounted camera, a 14-in photographer's step, a wind deflector for the door, jump lights, and internal and external grab rails running the length of the door.

Cessna displayed an interior mockup of its Citation Columbus large-cabin intercontinental jet at Farnborough last month. With a cabin more than 36 ft long, it is the largest aircraft Cessna has ever built. The company says it is investing $780 million in development of the Columbus, including a new facility in Wichita KS that will house engineering and final assembly operations. Cessna now has 500 people working on the program-up from 150 when it was announced earlier this year. Cessna expects to certify the Columbus in 2013 with first delivery in 2014.


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