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
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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.
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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.