Piper Aircraft is patenting a new metal bonding technique that will be key to the manufacture of the PiperJet’s all-aluminum wing. According to Piper president and CEO James Bass, the intent is to eliminate the use of rivets in the production wing for the single-engine jet. Bass told AIN that the bonding technique allows for “lower labor costs and higher quality,” as well as an aerodynamically clean natural-laminar-flow wing. The parts count on the wing will be quite low–the design calls for single-piece upper and lower skins, and the internal structure components (including the main spars) are each milled from blocks of aluminum. Piper is now manufacturing the first set of metal-bonded wings for the proof-of-concept PiperJet prototype, but the upper and lower skins had to be made in two pieces and spliced together by rivets due to infrastructure constraints. That limitation will be eliminated when Piper constructs a new manufacturing facility for the jet. Piper is also patenting a nondestructive testing system for its bonded structures. Meanwhile, the main structure of the prototype is quickly coming together at Piper’s manufacturing complex in Vero Beach, Fla., with wing mate scheduled for next month. First flight of the $ 2.2 million PiperJet is slated for the middle of next year.
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