The ultimate goal, he says, is building a pipeline of trainer orders to keep a steady production flow. An important aspect of the orders is that they extend out over five years. This helps keep production steady, another important emphasis of the company. He says 2012 deliveries were as level-loaded as he’s seen in general aviation manufacturing, where airframers typically have strong fourth-quarter surge.
The sales the company has seen in the training arena so far are on plan, or maybe slightly ahead. But they are not designed to create a big scale up in production, he says. Production will be up slightly for the year, as it was up in 2012 over 2011, he says.
If anything, the orders are helping offset a sluggish market in other areas. The company is still selling its top-of-the-line M-Class aircraft, but the market is flat, he says. Beyond building up a stable order book, Piper is hoping to build long-term relationships that will mean future contracts for replenishing the same fleets five to 10 years down the road.
Deliveries in this year’s first half will not be as level-loaded, with a stronger second quarter than first. This is because Piper has a buildup of Archers as it awaits final certification of the G1000 cockpit. That is expected within weeks, while the certification of the G1000 on the Seminole is anticipated in July.
Piper in November announced the switch from the Garmin G500 cockpit to the G1000 on both the Archer and Seminole. That move came with an order for eight of the aircraft from the Florida Institute of Technology College of Aeronautics.
But unlike the CAE order – in which the G1000 was a requirement – ATP is seeking G500-equipped aircraft. The 15 on firm order will be delivered in late 2013, becoming the first single-engine Piper training aircraft in the ATP fleet. The order will help the flight school transition to a predominately Piper training fleet. It currently operates 107 Seminoles, five Diamond DA40s, 93 Cessna Skyhawks and a Citation Jet.
ATP already had placed a 30-airplane option for the Piper Seminole twin-piston. Caldecott says the Archer and Seminole have a great deal of commonality, enabling flight schools to easily transition from basic flight training into multi-engine training curriculums.
CAE, meanwhile, is using its order to refresh the training fleet of its recently acquired Oxford Aviation Academy. That order calls for 22 single-engine Archer TX trainers and 13 twin Seminoles, with deliveries to begin this spring. CAE will place 27 of the new aircraft at the Oxford center in Phoenix and the remainder in Oxford, U.K.
But Caldecott expects follow-on orders from CAE will call for the aircraft to be delivered to CAE’s other flight schools internationally.