On July 3, Cirrus Design Corp.´s single-engine jet, powered by a Williams International FJ33-4A-19 engine, made its first flight lasting for 45 minutes. The plane took off from Duluth International Airport (DLH) in Minnesota, near Cirrus´ headquarters. The company said that more than 460 people have placed orders for the aircraft, each paying a deposit of $ 100,000. Last Thursday, the company announced the official name of the jet (after two and half years)--the Vision SJ50, which will be certified to operate up to 25,000 feet. Friday, during an interview with Alan Klapmeier, chairman and CEO of Cirrus, he said the name of the aircraft was conceived in the nineties.
"Funny, I still have the original artwork and logos for a ‘Cirrus Safire, Eclipse and Century,´" Klapmeier laughed. "Everybody would use the names while we worked on them. The original thought on the name Vision began about 12 years ago; we didn´t have a V-tail jet then. We think the name is more appropriate today than it ever was; this airplane is about a long-term vision that we have for changing the way people think about personal transportation aircraft."
Klapmeier said that although the Vision´s seat configuration can accommodate up to seven passengers, he doesn´t want people to start dubbing it as a seven-seat jet. "I feel that´s misleading people about its capability," he said. "It seats five adults; the two (flip-up) jump seats in the back are an extra bonus for children or for various other uses."
Will the Vision end up as an air taxi?
Cirrus has never marketed the Vision as the next air taxi jet, yet the company´s four-place single-engine SR22 piston models are successfully being used in that arena. With a fleet of 26 SR22s (as of Jan. 2.), Greenville, S.C.-based SATSair LLC, a commercial FAR Part 135 charter company, has been running a point-to-point air taxi service. Why not the Vision?
Klapmeier said that because the Vision was designed for the owner-flown pilot, talking about the jet as a viable commercial air taxi option could´ve brought negative attention. "We´ve had conversations with SATSair and think they´ll use the plane for air taxi operations," he said. "We do think that the Vision will be a very, very good air taxi airplane. You see more mini-vans being used for taxicabs, too, but they weren´t designed as taxicabs. We´ll make sure that FAR Part 135 operations are in the initial certification. Cirrus´ current aircraft are certified for both commercial Part 135 air charter and personal transportation purposes."
When asked when he thought the Vision would be certified, he said, "We´d like to see the airplane reach certification by 2011ish. We hope to keep the base price at about million. We believe that the lower price will allow for higher volume; higher volume will make it more profitable for us to keep the price lower. We haven´t set a final price because the aircraft´s systems haven´t been completed."
Klapmeier said there are other unknown factors, such as inflation. "When we have a final price on the Vision we´ll announce it," he said. "We just don´t know today."