Originally founded as the Taylor Brothers Aircraft Manufacturing Company in September 1927 by Clarence Gilbert Taylor and Gordon A. Taylor in Rochester, New York. The company was renamed to Taylor Brothers Aircraft Corporation in April 1928, shortly before Gordon Taylor died in a plane crash on April 24, 1928. The company was enticed to move to Bradford, Pennsylvania with the promise of larger facility and investment capital from local businessmen, including an initial investment of $400 from local oilman William T. Piper. The move was completed in September, 1929.
In late 1930 the company filed for bankruptcy and William T. Piper purchased the assets of the company for $761. Reorganized as the Taylor Aircraft Company, Piper effectively took control of the firm when he assumed the position of corporate secretary-treasurer, although he retained C. G. Taylor in the role of president. Piper, often called the "Henry Ford of Aviation", firmly believed that a simple-to-operate low-cost private airplane would flourish, even in the darkest depths of the Great Depression.
In December 1935, after a series of clashes, William Piper bought out C. G. Taylor, who left the company and went on to form the Taylorcraft Aircraft Company. On March 16, 1937 a fire destroyed the Bradford factory and Piper relocated to an abandoned silk mill in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. By November, 1937, all traces of Taylors' involvement with the company were erased when it was renamed to Piper Aircraft Corporation.
Manufacture ceased in the mid 1980's when, together with other sellers of light aircraft in the USA, increasing insurance premiums made continued operation financially impossible. Upon limitation of liability provided by new legislation in the early 90's, manufacturing re-commenced in 1995. The firm was re-branded New Piper Aircraft at that time.
On July 2003, American Capital Strategies, Ltd. bought 94% of Piper's voting equity.
On 1 May 2009 American Capital Strategies sold the company to investment strategy company Imprimis, making a profit of US$31M on the sale. Piper headquarters will remain in Vero Beach and the company is expected to seek expanded markets in Asia through Imprimis, which has offices in Bangkok, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.
In June 2009 James Bass, CEO of Piper Aircraft since 2005, announced that he would step down effective 26 June 2009. He will be succeeded by VP of operations Kevin Gould. During his four years at Piper, Bass oversaw development of the PiperJet, the Meridian G1000 and the Matrix and negotiated a new business partnership with Honda. He also negotiated $32 million in incentives from the state and county that retained Piper's factory in Vero Beach, Florida.
2008/09 economic crisis
In response to the economic situation the company announced in November 2008 that it was reducing its work-week to save money while avoiding lay-offs. Piper is party to an agreement with the state of Florida that will see the company benefit from USD$32 million in incentives in exchange for increasing its work force to 1400 people plus building the PiperJet in the state.
In December 2008 the company announced that it will defer the USD$10M incentive that would have required it to hire 400 new workers by 2012 for the PiperJet project and retain 1,417 employees through 2015. The company stated that the move was precautionary. Piper spokesman Mark Miller said: "While this year has been a good one for Piper, we have taken measures to keep the company healthy and to weather any future adversity."
In February 2009 the company announced that it was laying off an additional 300 workers without notice immediately and that the 650 remaining workers would be given unpaid weeks off in April and July to reduce unsold inventory. Piper spokesman Mark Miller stated that company regrets the pain caused by the layoffs and indicated that the employees will be rehired when the economy improves. He also said: "Even the willing buyers that we have find it incredibly difficult to get financing...We can't keep a full workforce on at this point when people aren't buying planes...If market conditions continue to deteriorate, it may be necessary for the company to take additional actions." On 24 February 2009 the company announced that it would add two more weeks of unpaid furlough for its employees in May and June, bringing the total to four weeks in 2009, citing a need to reduce inventory and cut expenses.
Piper produced the Piper J-3 Cub, a two seat, 65 horsepower (48 kW) high-wing, single-engine aircraft. The Cub was the first inexpensive training aircraft produced in large numbers. Many former military examples were sold to civilian owners over the 1950-1995 period and seem certain to see many more years in recreational use. The more powerful Piper PA-18 Super Cub is popular for use as a glider tug.
The PA-28 Cherokee has been one of the company's most successful products with variants being manufactured almost every other year. Both this design and the twin-engined PA-34 Seneca are used for pilot training around the world. The PA-23 Apache was one of the first aircraft associated with the term "air taxi" although it has largely been superseded in that role by faster and more spacious designs from the competitive Beechcraft Corporation.
Beginning production in 1965, the Piper PA-32 Series raised the bar for versatility in 6 or 7 seat single-engine airplanes. Variously named the "Cherokee Six", "Lance", and "Saratoga", with both fixed and retractable gear models, and with normally aspirated, injected, and turbo-charged engines, the PA-32s are very capable and successful airplanes. They have been widely deployed in a variety of missions (small air-taxies, heavy load-haulers, personal business, etc.) all over the United States. The Saratoga-II HPs and Saratoga TCs are still manufactured and sold today.
With the streamlined and powerful single-engined PA-46 Malibu, the Piper company maintains a presence in the lighter-end of the corporate aircraft market.
Current Piper Aircraft Projects
Piper's primary competitors:
Published in July 2009.
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