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Airplane production to resume June 1

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Floundering Piper Aircraft Corp. will resume production of its entire line of small airplanes June 1, having sold off more than half of its oversupply of new planes, the company said Friday.

Piper, which like other small aircraft makers has suffered from a severe downturn in sales since the 1970s, suspended production of eight of its nine models of small piston-driven planes in February and laid off 630 workers.

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Company President Frank Manning made the announcement that production will resume after Piper's aircraft distributors told the company that orders were sound for the next year.

'Our inventory has shrunk both in the factory and the field,' said Piper spokesman Joe Ponte.

No decision has been made regarding the number of employees who would be recalled, he said. 'Obviously some people will be added.'

Manning said Piper also has studies under way on new model designs. He said a new line may be modeled after its best selling Malibu, a sleek, fast single-engine model that sells for about $450,000.

Piper is a subsidiary of Lear Siegler in California.

The company has laid off several thousand employees as it trimmed operations. It now has 1,800 employees, down from 8,000 a few years ago.

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