Cirrus Aircraft

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This article is about the aircraft manufacturer. For other uses, see Cirrus.
Cirrus Aircraft
Type Private
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1984
Headquarters Duluth, Minnesota, United States
Key people Dale Klapmeier (Co-Founder & CEO)
Patrick Waddick (President & COO)
Todd Simmons (Executive Vice President & CCO)
Don McIsaac (Executive Vice President & CFO)
Judi Eltgroth (Senior Vice President, HR)[1]
Products Light aircraft
Owners China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA)
Employees 700[2]
Parent Aviation Industry Corporation of China, which is owed by the Government of the People's Republic of China .
Website www.cirrusaircraft.com

The Cirrus Aircraft Corporation (originally Cirrus Design) is an aircraft manufacturer that was founded in 1984 by Alan and Dale Klapmeier to produce the VK-30 kit aircraft. The company headquarters is located in Duluth, Minnesota, United States.

Cirrus is owned by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA), itself majority owned by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), which is in turn wholly owned by the Government of the People's Republic of China.[3][4]

The company markets several versions of its three certificated models, the SR20, SR22 and SR22T. It was planning to market a light-sport aircraft, the Cirrus SR Sport, but suspended the project in 2009 due to costs and lack of market demand. This has since been cancelled.

The Cirrus Vision SF50 single-engine jet is currently under development.[5]

Manufacturing facilities[edit]

Cirrus Aircraft has its headquarters and main manufacturing facility in Duluth, Minnesota. An additional manufacturing facility is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Grand Forks facility is owned by the city of Grand Forks and leased to the company.[6]

On 27 December 2007 the company secured a lease for former Northwest Airlines hangar at Duluth International Airport. It will use the 189,000-square-foot (17,600 m2) building for construction of its new Cirrus Jet.[7]

Management[edit]

Co-founder Alan Klapmeier served as President and CEO from 1984 until February 2009.

On 18 December 2008 the company announced that Chief Operating Officer Brent Wouters would be appointed President and CEO effective 1 February 2009. Alan Klapmeier continued as Chairman of the board with Dale Klapmeier as Vice-Chairman.[8]

On 1 August 2009 Cirrus Aircraft CEO Brent Wouters announced that Alan Klapmeier's contract as Chairman of the Board would not be renewed when it expired at the end of that month.[9]

On 1 September 2011 the company announced that Co-Founder Dale Klapmeier has been named Chief Executive Officer. Brent Wouters, previously President and Chief Executive Officer, is no longer with the company.[10][11]

On 12 March 2013 Patrick Waddick was named President, adding this to his Chief Operating Officer (COO) position.[12]

History[edit]

1980s[edit]

Cirrus Aircraft's founders, brothers Alan and Dale Klapmeier, along with spouses Jeff and Sally Viken, started developing the Cirrus VK-30 as a homebuilt aircraft in the basement of the Klapmeiers' parents' barn in rural Baraboo, Wisconsin.[13] The first flight of the VK-30 was on 11 February 1988 and kit deliveries commenced shortly thereafter.[14]

1990s[edit]

Cirrus Aircraft designed the ST-50 under contract to IsrAviation. The aircraft was configured like the Cirrus VK-30, but was powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-135, in place of the piston engine used in the VK-30. The prototype was first flown on December 7, 1994, by Norman E. Howell.[15] That same year, the Klapmeier brothers moved the company from southern Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota.[16]

By the middle of the decade the company had discontinued the VK-30 and began development of the Cirrus SR20 which was type certified in October, 1998.[17] This was followed by customer deliveries of the SR20 beginning in July, 1999.

2000[edit]

In June, the company received an FAA Production Certificate for its SR20 aircraft.[18]

In November, Cirrus received a type certificate for its next model, the SR22.[17]

2001[edit]

In August 2001, Cirrus sold 58% of the company for $100 million to Crescent Capital, the US arm of the First Islamic Investment Bank of Bahrain (now called Arcapita) [19][20][21][22]

2004[edit]

in June, Cirrus received type certification from EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).[23]

Cirrus SR20 landing

2006[edit]

In 2006 Cirrus acquired a 25-percent stake in SATSair, a 2004 start-up air taxi operator that flew 26 Cirrus SR22s. SATSair ceased operations on 24 October 2009.[24]

2007[edit]

In December 2007 Arcapita stated that it was looking to sell its share of the company. Cirrus Aircraft indicated at the time of the announcement that this was expected as Arcapita was considered a medium-term investor.[7]

2008[edit]

In September 2008 the global sale slump in piston-engined aircraft impacted the company and they laid off 100 workers or 8% of their workforce. This included 79 people at the main plant in Duluth, Minnesota and 29 employees at the composite construction plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota. After this round of lay-offs Cirrus had 1,230 employees remaining. Company COO Brent Wouters stated that the lay-offs were due to "not selling as many airplanes as we'd hoped to this year."[25]

Company CEO Alan Klapmeier announced in October 2008 that due to the economic situation and resulting lack of demand for Cirrus aircraft, the company was moving to a three-day work week. He reported that sales were down 10% over the same period in the previous year. Compared to the industry average in that same period sales were down 16%. Klapmeier also indicated that introduction of the Cirrus SRS would be delayed until 2009, due to lack of demand in the light-sport aircraft market sector, but that the Cirrus Vision SF50 jet would not be delayed.[26][27]

Cirrus eliminated 208 employee positions in the fall of 2008 and cut aircraft production from 14 to 12 aircraft per week in response to the economic situation. In November 2008, the company announced that it would lay-off about 500 production employees for one month to allow for reductions in excess stock of aircraft produced.[28][29]

2009[edit]

Cirrus started recalling its workers on 5 January 2009 after the month-long shutdown. The furloughed workers were called back slowly over the month, to ramp up to production to eight aircraft per week, compared to a company capacity of 16 aircraft per week. The company indicated at that time that it would retain the ability to reduce its workforce quickly as the economic situation and sales numbers dictate.[30]

On 9 January 2009 Cirrus announced that it would lay off 50 administrative employees and extend the lay off period for 100 of the 500 employees laid off over Christmas 2008. Company spokesman Bill King stated that the cuts were necessary or else the company would not survive the current economic crisis.[31]

Cirrus Vision SF50 single engine very light jet

In early February 2009, the company's new CEO, Brent Wouters, indicated that the future of the company would likely hinge on the Cirrus Vision SF50 jet design as production of the piston single-engine SR-series had fallen to 20% of its 2008 rate of 16 aircraft per week. Wouters characterized demand for new aircraft as "awful" and added, "We are increasing our focus on the jet, because that is going to be our future engine for growth in my estimation."[32]

In April 2009 the company announced that it was suspending the Cirrus SRS light sport aircraft project. They cited economic conditions, that the aircraft required development, an expanded flight-training strategy and that the LSA rules were expected to change over time to allow LSAs with a broader mission profile.[33]

On 29 April 2009 the company announced that it was increasing production from the previous 3-4 aircraft per week back to 6 aircraft per week. The change was accomplished without recalling any laid-off workers. The company stated: "We continue to see very encouraging trends in sales activities and interest from sales prospects domestically and around the world. Clearly, this is an upward move and is indicative of a stronger bias toward growth in aircraft orders. Though we remain in a very challenging environment, our hope is that this new rate is the first step and initial indicator of what will become a more substantial trend into the second half of the year and beyond."[34]

On 1 June 2009 the company announced it was recalling 50 workers and boosting production to 8 aircraft per week.[32][35]

The company stated:

On 26 June 2009 it was reported by AvWeb that Cirrus Aircraft co-founder and former CEO Alan Klapmeier intended to buy the SF50 project from Cirrus Aircraft and its major shareholder Arcapita and produce the aircraft under a new company. The new venture had been receiving financial advice from Merrill Lynch. Klapmeier indicated that his reason for wanting to take over the project was to speed up development and get the aircraft on the market sooner.[36][37] Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters indicated that while the company intended to proceed with the SF50 program itself, he would listen to Klapmeier's proposal.[38] On Monday 27 July 2009 Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters and co-founder Dale Klapmeier stated at a press conference that they would find a way to produce the SF50, either at Cirrus or through selling it to Alan Klapmeier. They both said that the key factor was raising enough capital to proceed with the project, complete certification and commence production.[39] On Friday 31 July 2009 Alan Klapmeier announced that his offer to buy the SF50 program had not succeeded, with the key issue having been the program selling price, as well as other points and that the negotiations were at an end. Wouters responded saying further talks were possible, but that Cirrus would continue to develop the SF50 in house.[40][41]

In late August 2009 Cirrus announced that it was laying off 85 employees, mostly office workers. Todd Simmons, Vice President of Marketing stated: "These are challenging days for Cirrus, but the decision made is in the best interest in the entire company. Our outlook is still positive. We are making forward progress within the industry."[42]

In November 2009 the company laid off an additional 58 workers, or 10% of the remaining payroll. The company indicated that they had failed to achieve some "institutional sales of aircraft" and that meant the lay-offs were expected and also emphasized that it does not indicate deeper problems with the company. As of 11 November 2009 the company had about 550 production workers employed.[43]

2010[edit]

In March 2010 Cirrus went to court in an attempt to get an order to prevent former supplier L-3 Communications from telling other Cirrus suppliers that Cirrus was heading into bankruptcy and from discouraging companies from doing business with Cirrus. On 1 April 2010 Cirrus applied for a "voluntary dismissal" of the case against L3, before L3 had filed a response. L3 has been engaged in a lawsuit against Cirrus for non-payment of US$18.7M in development costs for flat panel electronics, with Cirrus countering that L3 did not abide by the contract terms.[44][45]

In June 2010 the company began paying back-rent owed to the city of Grand Forks. Cirrus had stopped paying its rent 16 months earlier. It also owed the City of Duluth back rent, which the city has indicated they would forgive in exchange for job creation.[46]

2011[edit]

In February 2011, Cirrus was sold for US$210M to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA), a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation, which is wholly owned by the Government of the People's Republic of China.[47][48][49] The announcement of the sale was met with mixed responses. The Duluth News-Tribune labelled it "a sinking feeling of impending loss", while Russ Niles of AvWeb said "Chinese participation in the aviation industry isn't necessarily a bad thing and the folks in Duluth and Grand Forks could have suffered a worse fate. In the absence of a sale, bankruptcy was a real possibility for Cirrus and it might have been hard for a trustee to justify operating the business with the numbers it was showing. As for where it leaves current Cirrus owners and those thinking of buying one, the sale is probably a positive thing."[50]

In mid-March 2011 aviation industry analyst Brian Foley indicated that he was trying to organize a group of US investors to make a counter-offer to the Chinese buy-out to keep Cirrus as a US-owned company. Foley stated that he had seen an "overwhelming response" from the US aviation community, indicating that Americans want Cirrus "to be owned and operated on American soil, period."[51] Foley's counter-offer did not materialize.

In late March 2011 freshman Minnesota congressman Chip Cravaack urged the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to exercise "extreme caution" over allowing the sale of Cirrus to the Chinese government, indicating that he was concerned that company technology would be used for Chinese military programs. Cirrus spokesman Todd Simmons responded to the congressman's remarks with surprise, responding that, "the CAIGA transaction is an investment in Duluth and our local communities."[52] On 30 March 2011, at Sun 'n Fun, company co-founder Dale Klapmeier provided reassurances that Chinese ownership will not result in production being moved out of the USA. Klapmeier also expressed disappointment in the political issues raised, particularly by Cravaack. Klapmeier explained, "His concerns are unfounded," detailing that Cirrus does not have any unique technology that could be employed in military applications.[53] The late 18-term Minnesota Congressman, Jim Oberstar, also came out in support of Cirrus and the acquisition, saying Cravaack is "undermining" the situation, and that "we have nothing to fear from an investment such as this by the Chinese."[54][55]

The sale was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and was approved, as Cirrus has no national security-sensitive trade secrets.[56] The sale to CAIGA was completed as a merger of the two companies on 28 June 2011.[57][58]

In July 2011 CAIGA President Xiangkai Meng and Duluth Mayor Don Ness signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that the jobs at Cirrus Aircraft would remain in Duluth and not be moved to China. Ness said "Verbal assurances are wonderful, but a written assurance, signed by the president of CAIGA, certainly carries much more weight."[59]

Following the company's merger with CAIGA in July 2011 company CEO Brent Wouters indicated that Cirrus will move quickly to expand its line of aircraft, including bringing the Cirrus Vision SF50 jet to market. Wouters said "We need to expand our product line -- bigger, smaller, faster airplanes, a much broader range, and very quickly. And we need more penetration in the top 10 foreign markets. And we must go forward quickly on both avenues."[60]

2012[edit]

On the first anniversary of Chinese government ownership, company CEO Dale Klapmeier indicated that the company is financially in a much better position and is moving forward with certifying the SF-50 Vision jet.[3]

2013[edit]

In March the company was granted a loan for US$950,000 from the City of Grand Forks, North Dakota to purchase an autoclave for composite production at the company's Grand Forks facility. The loan was originally turned down by the city, questioning whether the company would ever repay it. The loan was later allowed and an apology issued.[61]

In July 2013 the company's President and COO Pat Waddick indicated that the ongoing Chinese government investment would allow them to continue to develop new models of aircraft with innovative powerplants. CEO Dale Klapmeier stated that the company would be establishing aircraft manufacturing facilities in China.[62]

In 2013 the company delivered 276 new aircraft. This was a 10 percent increase in the number of deliveries over 2012 and the company's best year since 2008. In 2013 the SR22 and SR22T were the highest selling four-to-five-seat fixed wing aircraft in the world and had been for eleven years in a row.[63]

2014[edit]

On March 25 2014 the company's first conforming Vision SF50 flew.[64] Cirrus also indicated that they are continuing to hire engineers, technicians and designers for the jet program.[65]

Products[edit]

2003 model Cirrus SR22
Interior of Cirrus SR22

SR aircraft series[edit]

Cirrus SR (Single Reciprocating) Series aircraft are designed around composite technologies with Cirrus Perspective by Garmin digital flight displays and modern avionics as standard equipment. The aircraft are all electric - no vacuum systems are used. Redundancy is provided by dual batteries and alternators. The SR22 is also available with TKS anti-icing equipment which enables flight into known icing conditions.[66] The SR22 was the first aircraft to come equipped with 'airbag seatbelts', two airbags installed in the shoulder harnesses of both the pilot and co-pilots' seat belts.[67][68]

The aircraft incorporate other unusual design elements. All Cirrus aircraft use a mechanical side yoke instead of the traditional yoke or stick flight controls. The aircraft also use a single power lever that adjusts both throttle and propeller RPM via a mechanical cam actuated throttle and propeller control system. Construction is dominated by the use of composite materials, although traditional aluminum is used for flight control surfaces.

The Cirrus SR22T is powered by a Continental TSIO-550-K turbocharged engine. Turbocharging allows the engine to maintain maximum power at higher altitudes while increasing the maximum operating altitude to 25,000'.

Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS)[edit]

NASA photo series showing the CAPS deployment in action.

The Cirrus SR series (SRV, SR20 and SR22) aircraft are equipped with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), developed by Ballistic Recovery Systems, a ballistic parachute deployed from the back of the aircraft. In many emergencies, it allows the entire airplane to descend safely and has been credited with saving 95 lives.[69] Cirrus was the first manufacturer to receive FAA certification for production aircraft with ballistic parachute systems, and remains the only aviation company to implement the device as a standard equipment on all its models.[70] It was accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration as an equivalent level of safety and complete spin testing was not required.[17] CAPS was first tested in 1998 by late Air National Guard F-16 pilot and Chief Cirrus test pilot, Scott D. Anderson.[71]

List of Cirrus Aircraft[edit]

Aircraft Type Club[edit]

The Cirrus line of aircraft are supported by an aircraft type club, the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association.

References[edit]

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  15. ^ Aerofiles: Aircraft Ca to Ci Retrieved 24 July 2011
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  17. ^ a b c Federal Aviation Administration. "Type Certification Data Sheet A00009CH". Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
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External links[edit]