Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 Cirrus SR22T: Commemorating 10 Years Of GA Innovation

Cirrus refines the SR22T with a 2011 Limited Edition

Vision Jet: What's Next?

Now that potential buyers have seen the SF50 Vision jet in action, they want to know, "What happens next?" Since teasing the public with the announcement of the Vision jet in 2008, Cirrus' development of the single-engine personal jet has been rocky. According to Cirrus CEO, Brent Wouters, Cirrus has spent about $60 million on the single-engine Vision jet so far, but will need at least another $140 million to get the jet certified. Until the last few months, when Cirrus has begun flying the SF50 at special Cirrus "events," the question remained about the future of the gorgeous V-tailed jet.

But 2011 has already been a big year for the SF50. The latest progress on the airplane is mostly design based, with many improvements outlined by Paul Brey, Cirrus' VP of Product Development. According to Brey, Cirrus' Vision jet team has been conducting an average of 2½ test flights per week on the SF50. The biggest news is that full testing is now underway with the CAPS (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System). Whereas August of last year only saw scale-parachute testing, 2011 will see the start of full-scale testing.

Extensive wing redesigns have been done, and the result is a nine-knot increase in speed. Plans are in place to increase the length of the ailerons to improve cross-wind handling and roll performance, to redesign the wingtips, and to increase the chord in the trim tab.

SF50 Chief Engineer, Dave Rathbun, outlined progress in the anti-ice area of the jet. In addition to modifying the ice-protection fluid nozzle, ice protection for the engine inlet and windscreen are being looked at and implemented. A new flap configuration is ready, and Cirrus will be doing pressurization tests of the fuselage and clam-shell doors (the flight-test aircraft doesn't have the clam-shell doors). Keen observers have seen a blue-and-red tube assembly sticking out near the SF50's nose. This
is to mount the camera to monitor in-flight ice buildup.

The big news with Cirrus, of course, is the planned sale of the company to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company (CAIGA). That deal—which is currently being approved—was partially made to infuse the Vision jet program with badly needed capital. Since 2001, Cirrus has been majority-owned by a Bahraini investment firm, Arcapita, which raises most of its capital from countries in the Gulf region. According to Wouters, the planned buyout will help speed certification of the jet, with three to six months needed to close the Chinese deal, and another three years to get the SF50 certified.

For now, Cirrus says the jet would be built at the company's main facilities in Duluth, Minn., where some 375 local workers are employed. Since the acquisition by the Chinese company, fears have grown that some of those jobs would move to China, though Cirrus Chairman Dale Klapmeier says, "That's just not going to happen."

The Chinese company is committed to the SF50, and they—as well as Klapmeier—foresee an entire line of Cirrus aircraft including a trainer, a six-seater and something to bridge the gap between the SR22 and the SF50. For now, the SF50 is moving along briskly, with some 430 deposits on the Vision jet, according to Wouters. Deposits on the Vision jet are $50,000, with a starting price for the SF50 of $1.72 million.


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