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Piper aircraft needs more workers to build planes

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of August 26, 2021)

Piper Aircraft says the COVID-19 pandemic has left them short about 100 workers at their Vero Beach manufacturing campus, but they’re dealing with the Delta surge and still filling the orders coming in for their planes.

“We have had an increase in cases, but, so far, we’ve been able to work through it,” Piper communications director Jackie Carlon said. “There has been no impact on production.”

In fact, Piper announced last week it has received an order to produce 20 Pilot 100i single-engine trainers for flyGATEWAY Aviation Institute, a Liberty University Flight Training affiliate established in 2018 with locations in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The first 14 aircraft are scheduled for delivery in January, with the other six expected later in 2022. According to Piper, the airplanes will be spread across flyGATEWAY’s four locations to be used by the institute’s 35 flight instructors and 300-plus students enrolled in its pilot-training program.

“Liberty has a robust flight program, and it’s been diligently expanding its online learning platforms to achieve a greater reach and develop alliances with other flight schools,” Carlon said.

“The flyGATEWAY students can learn to fly at the academy and, at the same time, earn college credits and pursue their degrees.”

Priced at under $300,000, the Pilot 100i aircraft is the least-costly of the Piper trainers – a consideration that attracted flyGATEWAY, which markets itself as a flight school that makes pilot training more affordable.

“The Pilot 100i greatly increases our ability to deliver training efficiently and cost-effectively while working to cultivate an unmatched pilot pipeline to the airline industry,” flyGATEWAY board chairman Regis de Ramel said in a statement released by Piper.

As for Piper’s efforts to minimize the spread of coronavirus in the workplace, Carlon said the company’s COVID task force continues to meet regularly, vaccinations are offered on campus and cleaning crews disinfect the premises on a daily basis.

As for the shortage of workers, most of the open positions are on the factory floor, but there are also more specialized and technical positions available.
“We’re hiring,” Carlon said.