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Piper and Comp Air light aircraft complete maiden flights
Piper and Comp Air light aircraft complete maiden flights

Light aircraft builders Piper Aircraft and Comp Air had important firsts this week, with their latest products completing their maiden flights.

The prototype six-passenger, single-engined PiperJet took to the air from the company´s base in Vero Beach, Florida on 30 July. Pilots Dave Schwartz and Buddy Sessoms tested basic handling of the metal aircraft, including the effects of pitch trim with power change and basic operations of the engine´s full-authority digital engine control system. The Williams FJ44-3AP-powered personal jet reached a speed of 160kt (300km/h) and an altitude of 10,000ft (3,000m) during the 1h flight with the landing gear retracted, the first in an initial 50h series of envelope expansion tests. Service entry of the $ 2.2 million PiperJet is scheduled for 2011.

Meanwhile, the six-seat Comp Air 9 kitplane made a "short and sweet" first flight lasting 15min on 27 July, says chief operating officer Bill Fedorko.

The single-engined turboprop reached 2,500ft and 170kt with president Ron Lueck at the controls. The Honeywell TPE331-powered aircraft has since been flown to 207kt and completed 15h of flight testing. However, the US Federal Aviation Administration would not sign off on a planned trip to the AirVenture show in Oshkosh.

The certificated Comp Air 9 will cost $ 1.7 million, says Fedorko, but plans to produce a kit version selling for below $ 1 million may be dropped after the FAA issued new aircraft home-build guidelines in July.

The FAA ruling means that plans for a kit version of the larger Comp Air 12 - which flew last year - have been ruled out. Comp Air has just received funding to build that $ 2,950,000 aircraft. "We will start building the configuring version," he says.

The new manufacturing facility has not been selected yet, with the existing Merritt Island, Florida facility being ruled out as it is too confined, says Fedorko.


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