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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedBusiness is looking up at Cirrus
Purdue University buys 16 SR20s for its pilot training program
By J. Mac McClellan

Cirrus Design’s SJ50 Vision is a plane they hope to build further success upon. Photo by Dave Higdon

Cirrus had a great month in June delivering 35 airplanes, the most in any month since 2007, and it is also completing delivery of 16 new SR20s to Purdue University.

The Purdue selection of the SR20 is particularly gratifying to Cirrus because the school has such a well regarded aviation program. A majority of all people to walk on the moon are Purdue graduates, and the pilot training program continues to turn out people qualified for all types of flying.

The SR20, with its advanced Garmin Perspective flat glass cockpit, represents the level of technology graduates will manage during their future flying careers.

The Cirrus also gathers a high level of data recording on every flight. Purdue plans to use this data to analyze its flight training, as well as for the engineering and maintenance departments, to study the airplane and perhaps learn how to improve on future designs.

Weathering a downturn, turning out improvements
The economic downturn has hit Cirrus as hard as any other aviation company, but over the past year it has been able to put in place many new production efficiencies.

For example, Cirrus President Brent Wouters told me they had been able to make at least 20-percent efficiency gains in making the component parts of the airplane. Assembly procedures have also been streamlined for more cost savings.

This year, Wouters said, Cirrus is on track to build about half as many airplanes as in 2008 but will be millions of dollars ahead thanks to the changes in production process and by keeping inventory under control.

Even with those remarkable gains Cirrus is just breaking even. That’s a victory in these economic conditions, but indicates how great the challenges are ahead.

Because of the slow economy, work on the jet has been slower than hoped for but there has been some progress.

Looking ahead
Rumors continue to fly that Cirrus is for sale, moving to another country, or who knows what.

He said the Cirrus labor cost is so low and workers so efficient that moving production is not in the cards.

Also, total labor to build the SR20 and SR22 is a very small part of the total cost with most costs coming from basic materials and vendor supplied items such as engines, avionics, wheels, brakes and so on.

Cirrus is excited to be the first piston single to offer Garmin’s electronic stability and protection (ESP) system that will automatically use the autopilot system to move the flight controls to recover from an abnormal attitude even when the autopilot is not engaged.

ESP will be installed in Cirrus airplanes purchased now when the system is certified next year.

Wouters told me that the company is seeking funding to continue the jet development—no secret there—so when there is a conversation with potential investors the rumors start to fly because capital markets are worldwide and Cirrus is talking to investors in many countries.

As part of its marketing efficiency Cirrus has continued its impressive display of airplanes and mockups here at Oshkosh. When it comes to efficiently making contact with thousands of prospects, Oshkosh is the place.

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