|AirVenture attendees check out a prototype of Cirrus' Vision SJ50 personal jet, which is back in the company's development pipeline. (photo by Phil Weston)
By James Wynbrandt
Cirrus Aircraft opened its AirVenture 2012 display with a performance by country music artist (and Cirrus owner) Dierks Bentley, setting the perfect tone for the new sure-to-be-popular options and aircraft-development news the company is showcasing here.
These include updates on the Vision SJ50 personal jet program, its Perspective Global Connect satellite communications solution, the new Jump Start ownership/lease-back training program, and its revitalized Cirrus Access ownership program for prospective pilots.
The Vision SJ50 jet first flew in 2008, but development stopped as Cirrus and the general aviation industry were hammered by the economic downturn.
This April the company announced CAIGA, its new owner, has fully funded development and certification of the five-place, single-engine personal jet.
Here at AirVenture Cirrus announced fuselage tooling for Vision C-Zero, its first conforming aircraft, will be in place by the end of 2012, with first flight expected in 2014.
"After some uncertainty with the program, we have a specific schedule, we're hiring engineers and ramping up to get to the finish line," said Todd Simmons, executive vice president, sales and marketing.
The SJ50 will be assembled in Duluth using composite parts fabricated in Grand Forks.
Here at the show, Cirrus is taking $100,000 deposits on the $1.96 million jet. Cirrus says more than 525 positions are already reserved.
Cirrus is also touting its new Perspective Global Connection option, available on all models to provide access to the Iridium satellite network for communication and data transfer anywhere in the world.
Integrated into the Cirrus Perspective audio system, Perspective Global Connection allows in-flight phone calls made through headsets, as well as access to high-resolution weather-radar imagery of the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia.
The company's Jump Start program for SR20 models, introduced earlier this year, links prospective Cirrus buyers with flight schools in the Cirrus training network.
Buyers of these specially outfitted and priced SR20s can train in their aircraft and place it in the flight school's training fleet, with the income significantly mitigating the cost of ownership.
Cirrus has also reintroduced its Cirrus Access program, which makes it easy for nonpilots to buy a Cirrus and have the services of a professional pilot who acts as flight instructor, corporate pilot on personal and business flights, and aircraft manager while the owner works to earn a pilot certificate.
This also ensures that the instruction occurs in real-world flight environments, as the owner can train during the course of a business flight or while flying the family to their vacation home.
Conversely, the owner can turn over to their personal pilot all flight responsibilities on a given mission, freeing them to enjoy the comfort and utility of air transportation by Cirrus.
Also new this year, Cirrus has introduced 60/40 FlexSeating to its entire fleet, boosting occupancy to five passengers. A fold-down split in the rear seat, when stowed upright, provides room for a fifth passenger. The new seating also offers a three-position reclining feature, allowing rear seat passengers to recline to their individually preferred amount. Meanwhile, a 10-pound empty weight reduction in all 2012 models boosts useful load.
CAIGA (China Aircraft Industry General Aviation Co. Ltd.) purchased Cirrus just over a year ago.
"We're learning about each other," Simmons said of the new owners.
"The most important point with our new owners is that they share the same ideals. They want to grow aviation, and grow aviation in China, and there's a long way to go for that. Every month, week, and day we get more closely aligned."
Here at Oshkosh, Cirrus has half a dozen examples of its piston-powered models (SR20, SR22, SR22T) and two SJ50 prototypes on display (booths 183-188).