Cirrus Vision SF50

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Vision SF50
N124MW Cirrius SF50 c n 0009 (28664083278).jpg
Role Very light jet
National origin United States
Manufacturer Cirrus Aircraft
First flight First prototype: 3 July 2008
Conforming prototype: 24 March 2014
First production: 5 May 2016
Status In production
Produced December 2016–present
Number built 88 delivered (January 2019)[1]
Program cost $150 million[2]
Unit cost
US$2.38-2.75 million (G2, 2019)[3]

The Cirrus Vision SF50 (also known as the Vision Jet) is a single-engine very light jet aircraft designed and produced by Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, Minnesota, United States.

After receiving deposits since 2006, Cirrus unveiled a mock-up on 28 June 2007 and a prototype on 26 June 2008. It made its maiden flight on 3 July 2008. From 2009, development slowed as capital was lacking. In 2012, Cirrus's new owner CAIGA secured the project and the first conforming prototype flew on 24 March 2014 before two others, until a 28 October 2016 FAA type certificate. The first delivery was on 19 December 2016.

Powered by a Williams FJ33 turbofan, the low-wing, seven-seat Vision SF50 is pressurized and can reach 300 kn (560 km/h) or fly over 1,200 nmi (2,200 km), and can be recovered by a whole-aircraft ballistic parachute. Reviews compared its performance to high-performance single turboprop aircraft. In 2018, the Vision Jet was awarded the Collier Trophy for the "greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America" during the year 2017.

Development[edit]

The SF50 was inspired by Cirrus' first model, the pusher propeller VK-30 kit aircraft[4]

Naming[edit]

The aircraft was initially developed under the project name "The Jet" from 2006,[5] until 2008.[6] Cirrus announced the marketing name of "Vision SJ50" on 9 July 2008,[7] and in March 2009, the aircraft was redesignated the "Vision SF50".[citation needed] Since its market introduction in 2016, it is often referred to simply as the "Vision Jet".[8][9]

Early development[edit]

The jet was announced by Cirrus in June 2006 at the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association meeting.[10] At the October 2006 NBAA Convention, Cirrus detailed its single jet program to solicit US$100,000 deposits from potential customers, targeting a price below $1 million and a 2010 certification, for a 300 kn (560 km/h) cruise around 25,000 ft (7,600 m) with a Williams FJ33 and a whole-airplane parachute recovery.[11] Cirrus described it as the "slowest, lowest, and cheapest jet available."[12]

Original Vision Jet mock-up, July 2007

In early 2007, the company gave deposit holders a drawing of the aircraft in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. On 27 June, the puzzle was completed and the aircraft mock-up was unveiled the following day.[13]

It was described as a "personal jet".[14]

In September, the L-3 SmartDeck avionics were selected for the jet development.[15] On 27 December, Cirrus Design leased a former Northwest Airlines hangar of 189,000 sq ft (17,600 m2) at Duluth International Airport, to build the new jet.[16]

By 22 May 2008, the company had 400 refundable deposits of US$100,000.[6] The prototype was first shown publicly at the annual Cirrus Migration on 26 June.[17]

Initial flight tests[edit]

It was first flown on 3 July 2008 at the Duluth airport.[18][19][20] It was then flown over AirVenture Oshkosh later that month.[21]

By 3 December, the prototype had flown 120 hours and explored the whole center of gravity envelope, tested engine in-flight shut-down and restart while stall was still being tested.[22][23] The right side door was replaced by an emergency egress hatch to save weight on production aircraft. Based on test flights and computer models, the aerodynamic design was modified to increase performance and improving the engine thrust angle. The production aircraft will have a more pointed nose, larger belly section, redesigned wing-root fairing, reduced tail sweep and a larger or dual ventral fin.[22]

Payload was planned at 1,200 or 400 lb (540 or 180 kg) with full fuel, as owners should often fly long trips solo.[22] Range was targeted for 1,100 nmi (2,037 km), and maximum cruise speed for 300 kn (556 km/h).[22] An FAA type certificate was to be applied for by mid-December 2008, but EASA certification was postponed due to high fees.[22][24] Pilot training will be required in the type certificate, like the Eclipse 500.[22] Its base price was US$1 million then,[22] and its equipped price was anticipated at US$1.25 million for 2011 deliveries.[24]

An early concept mock-up of the flightdeck

On 31 March 2009, Cirrus confirmed that the Garmin G1000 avionics had been selected for the SF50 production.[25] In mid June, L-3 Communications sued Cirrus for US$18M for the cancellation of its previously selected avionics.[26]

Financing difficulties[edit]

In 2009 during the height of the Great Recession, developmental progress of the aircraft slowed exponentially.[citation needed] By June end, Cirrus co-founder and former CEO Alan Klapmeier proposed to buy the project from the company and its major shareholder Arcapita, to speed up its development and produce it with a new company, advised by Merrill Lynch.[27][28][29] On 26 July, Alan’s brother and fellow Cirrus co-founder Dale Klapmeier came out in support of his efforts and said that Alan was the only person Cirrus would consider letting take over the jet program.[30] Cirrus stated that financing the project was necessary to complete certification and commence production, either at Cirrus or with Alan Klapmeier.[31] However, on 31 July, Alan Klapmeier announced that the offer did not meet Arcapita’s or Cirrus’ expectations.[32][33] In August, Alan Klapmeier left the company.[34]

By July 2009, the 200 hours of flight tests were completed and design changes were incorporated, including an X tail, simpler and lighter flaps, and handling changes to pitch up and not down when applying thrust.[citation needed] Although some deposits were refunded, Cirrus had 400 orders and anticipated first deliveries in 2012, subject to capital funding.[31] On 2 September, Cirrus announced its price: US$1.39M for deposit holders, equipped like a Cirrus SR22 GTS, US$1.55M with a US$100,000 deposit before the end of the year, and US$1.72M after with a US$50,000 deposit.[35][36] In November, development slowed due to capital lacking after test flights, delaying deliveries to 2012.[37] Cirrus’ leased space in the ex-Northwest hangar in Duluth closed around this time, due to shrinking sales.[38]

SF50 prototype inflight, May 2010

By January 2010, the prototype had accumulated 236 hours while the certification and deliveries timeline was related to cash flow, as 428 orders were in backlog, growing by one or two per week.[39] By early June, the US$1.72M jet had 431 orders, with deposits becoming non-refundable at the beginning of that year. A conforming prototype was expected by the end of 2010, to fly by the end of 2011, and targeting a mid-2013 certification while developing the "high-risk" full-aircraft parachute.[40]

CAIGA investment[edit]

In April 2012, Cirrus's new owner CAIGA invested enough in the project to secure its development, previously estimated at $150 million.[2] In July, the prototype had flown 600 hours in almost 600 flights and the company was to build the composite construction tooling required for a conforming prototype, expected to fly in late 2013 for type certification testing.[41]

By February 2013, the company was hiring staff to produce the aircraft, priced at US$1.96M.[42] In April, the new prototype roll out was announced for 2013.[43] Certification flight testing was to start in 2014.[44] In October, three test aircraft were under construction, first deliveries were scheduled for 2015 as the order book now held 500 deposits.[45] By then, the first conforming aircraft was to fly in early 2014.[46]

By February 2014, 800 hours of test flying were completed.[47] On 24 March 2014, the first conforming prototype flew.[48] The prototype was displayed at the Oshkosh Airshow that summer.[49] Pre-orders of the $1.96 million jet were 550, and Cirrus intended to produce up to 125 per year.[50][51] The second conforming test aircraft flew in November 2014.[52] The third and final one made its first flight on 20 December 2014.[53]

In February 2015, the city of Duluth, Minnesota, committed US$6M and had asked the state to contribute US$4M to build a US$10M factory leased to Cirrus to produce the jet, to avoid manufacturing it elsewhere.[54] In April, confident the certification would be on schedule and no modifications were needed, Cirrus started production of the 550 orders.[55] In September, the Cirrus Perspective Touch glass cockpit by Garmin was finalized, featuring one primary flight display and one multi-function display, with three smaller touchscreen controllers underneath.[56]

First production Vision SF50, displayed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2016

By January 2016, certification was delayed from 2015 to the first half of 2016 due to inflight ballistic parachute testing.[57] In March, it was announced that in-flight parachute deployment tests were not required by the Federal Aviation Administration for certification.[58]

On 5 May 2016, the first production aircraft flew while certification was forecast for June.[59] Its Williams FJ33-5A engine was approved by the FAA on 6 June 2016.[60] Certification was then planned for the end of the month.[61] By July, the SF50 had over 600 orders, the four flight test aircraft had flown more than 1,700 hours while certification was delayed to the fourth quarter of the year.[62]

On 28 October, after a ten-year development process marked with technical and financial challenges, it earned its type certificate from the FAA.[63] It is the first civilian single-engine jet to be certified.[64]

Production[edit]

The first customer Vision SF50 was delivered on 19 December 2016, as Cirrus had 600 orders.[65] The ceremony was held in a new $16 million, 70,000 sq ft (6,500 m2) finishing center in Duluth, where Cirrus has more than 750 employees.[66]

By April 2017, Cirrus planned to deliver 25 to 50 aircraft that year and 75 to 125 the next year.[67] A production certificate was awarded on 2 May, to produce more with no individual inspections.[68] As 15% of its orders are intended for the European market, Cirrus received EASA certification at the May EBACE.[69] A video of the CAPS being tested inflight with a piloted SF50 prototype was published by Business Insider in May 2017.[70] By July, seven had been delivered and one per week were being produced.[71] In December 2018, Dale Klapmeier announced he will leave his CEO role in the first half of 2019.[72]

By January 2019, 88 were delivered, including 63 in 2018, while 540 orders were in backlog as Cirrus plans to increase production to 80 in 2019 and 100 in 2020.[1] By 24 February 2019, 107 aircraft were on the US Federal Aviation Administration registry.[73]

Design[edit]

Cirrus Vision SF50 with cabin door open, at the Paris Airshow in 2017
Interior showing cabin seating

The Vision SF50 is a low-wing cantilever monoplane powered by a single Williams FJ33-4A-19 turbofan, producing 1,900 lbf (8,500 N), mounted above the rear fuselage with a V-tail and retractable tricycle landing gear. It is made entirely of composite material, a first for a production jet. The enclosed cabin is 5.1 ft (1.56 m) wide and is 4.1 ft (1.24 m) high with room for seven. The cockpit, second and third row each seats two, and an extra seat slides between the second and third row. It targets a 300 kn (560 km/h) cruise.

Access to the cabin is through a clamshell door on the left hand side.[74] The SF50 is designed for 12,000 flight hours.[75]

It is the first jet to come with a whole-aircraft ballistic parachute,[64] the company's Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), deploying from the aircraft’s nose.[63][76] The SF50 is intended to be a step-up aircraft for pilots who have flown the Cirrus SR20, SR22 and other high-performance light aircraft.[76] It was developed for personal use and not for corporate or air taxi.[22]

Certified for FL280, it has urethane deicing boot and an optional lavatory, a single-piece carbon shell will contain cabin pressurization and it should fit in a usual US 40 ft (12 m) Tee hangar.[39]

The wing spar is made of pure pre-preg carbon fiber plies cured in a high-pressure, high-temperature autoclave while most other major airframe parts are made of low-pressure, low-temperature cure carbon fiber sandwich construction around honeycomb core, including hand layup of outer pre-preg carbon fiber plies. High-strength metal alloys are used for landing gear and concentrated stress areas while primary flight control surfaces and wing flaps are aluminum with mechanical Flight controls. Gear down/flaps down stall speed at MTOW is 67 kn (124 km/h) IAS, while Vso is 64 kn (119 km/h) IAS at the 5,550 lb (2,520 kg) max landing weight, so Vref is 83 kn (154 km/h) IAS or lower like an SR22. The aircraft has a 14.7:1 glide ratio, allowing to glide 75 nmi (139 km) from FL 310 to sea level.[77]

Reviews[edit]

AVweb describes the Vision Jet as both a great airplane and a significant one by how well the design resonates with the intended buyer. At FL270 and ISA +15 °C it cruises at 270 kn (500 km/h) and consumes 57 US gal/h (216 l/h).[78] At the same FL270, ISA +15 °C, the Flightglobal review reported 59 US gal/h (223 l/h) at Mach 0.46 - 287 kn (532 km/h) and in 45 US gal/h (170 l/h) at Mach 0.38 - 235 kn (435 km/h) long-range cruise.[79]

Aviation Week & Space Technology notes Cirrus has succeeded in producing the “lowest, slowest and least expensive” jet. High-lift airfoils emphasize low-speed performance over top-end speed with a turboprop-like VMO of 250 kn (463 km/h) IAS or a 0.53 MMO, and a FL280 ceiling. It reported a 68 US gal (257 l)/h - 456 lb (207 kg)/h fuel burn at its 307 kn (569 km/h) TAS maximum cruise (at 5,575 lb (2,529 kg), FL280, ISA+6 °C) and 49 US gal (185 l)/h fuel burn at 270 kn (500 km/h). Like an early 1970s Citation 500, aerodynamic drag prevents it to exceed VMO in 300–500 ft/min (1.5–2.5 m/s) descents for which it is kept at max continuous thrust unlike most current jets.[80] The publication also states that the large wraparound windshields and sloping nose provide an excellent front visibility and a spacious cabin, although the engine noise is quite prominent, requiring active noise-cancelling headphones for all occupants. Approach speeds are comparable with the best single-engine turboprops but cruise and range are below some of them. The FJ33’s FADEC lessens pilot workload, but changing thrust produces considerable pitch coupling, due to the engine's location.[80]

AIN reported 60 US gal (227 l)/h at 293 kn (543 km/h) TAS (FL280, ISA +12 °C), it can carry two people and baggage over 1,000 or 1,200 nmi (1,900 or 2,200 km) at 300 or 240 kn (560 or 440 km/h) TAS (NBAA IFR range). Upgrading from a single piston meant either a piston twin like the Beechcraft Baron or Piper Seneca; a Piper Meridian, SOCATA TBM or Pilatus PC-12 high-performance single-engine turboprops; or a very light jet. The $2.3 million typically equipped SF50 benefits from its operating simplicity and roomy cabin compared to the $2.25 million Piper M500/M600, the fast TBMs and, as of December 2017, the soon-to-be-certified Epic E1000, or the nearly $5 million larger haulers such as the PC-12 or Cessna Denali.[81]

Awards[edit]

In April 2018, the design was named the 2017 winner of the Robert J. Collier Trophy for the "greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America" in the past year. The trophy was awarded for "designing, certifying, and entering-into-service the Vision Jet — the world’s first single-engine general aviation personal jet aircraft with a whole airframe parachute system".[82] Other accolades received by the aircraft include: Flying Editors' Choice Award 2017,[83] de:Fliegermagazin Best Plane of the Year 2017,[84] Plane & Pilot Plane of the Year 2017,[85] Popular Science 100 Greatest Innovations of 2017,[86] and Flying Innovation Award 2018.[87]

Variants[edit]

G2 Vision Jet

On January 8, 2019, the improved G2 was announced, adding RVSM to reach 31,000 ft (9,400 m) and improving range to over 1,200 nmi (2,200 km), or allowing 150 lb (68 kg) more payload over 800 nmi (1,500 km).[88] It received an autothrottle, an updated flight deck, and upgrades to the aircraft cabin. The ceiling is raised to 28,000 ft (8,500 m) where cruise is increased from 304 to 311 kn (563 to 576 km/h), and its base price is raised to $2.38 million, reaching $2.75 million with options.[3]

The second generation starts from serial number 94, cabin pressurization is raised from 6.4 to 7.1 psi (0.44 to 0.49 bar) and improved insulation cuts cabin noise by 3 dB. At FL 310, ISA and 5,457 lb (2,475 kg), fuel flow is 60 US gal (230 L)/h at 309 kn (572 km/h) TAS.[77]

Operators[edit]

In July 2008, SATSair, an air taxi company 25% owned by Cirrus, ordered five Cirrus Vision SF50s, intending to add them to its fleet of Cirrus SR22 piston aircraft.[89][90] SATSair subsequently ceased operations on 24 October 2009, prior to taking delivery of any SF50s.[91] Other air taxi operators have expressed an interest in potentially using the Vision SF50 for their services, and some industry experts have suggested that the jet could in fact help revive the air taxi industry.[92][93]

Specifications (Vision SF50)[edit]

Data from Cirrus[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Capacity: six passengers
  • Length: 30 ft 11 in (9.42 m)
  • Wingspan: 38 ft 8 in (11.79 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 11 in (3.32 m)
  • Empty weight: 3,572 lb (1,620 kg)
  • Gross weight: 6,000 lb (2,722 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 2000 lb (907 kg)
  • Cabin Width×Height: 5.1×4.1 ft (1.56×1.24 m)
  • Max payload: 1,328 lb (602 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Williams FJ33-5A turbofan, 1,800 lbf (8.0 kN) thrust

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 300 kn (345 mph; 556 km/h) max cruise
  • Cruise speed: 240 kn (276 mph; 444 km/h) econ. cruise[94]
  • Stall speed: 67 kn (77 mph; 124 km/h) with flaps
  • Range: 600 nmi (690 mi; 1,111 km) with 1,200 lb (544 kg) payload at max cruise to 1,200 nmi (2,222 km; 1,381 mi) with 200 lb (91 kg) payload at econ. cruise[8]
  • Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (8,500 m)
  • Time to altitude: FL280 (28,000 ft) in 20 min, burning 214 lb (97 kg) of fuel and covering 64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi)[94]
  • Fuel consumption: 462 lb (210 kg)/h at max cruise, 315 lb (143 kg)/h at econ. cruise[94]
  • Takeoff: 2036 ft (620 m) roll, 3192 ft (973 m) over 50 ft (15 m) Obstacle
  • Landing: 1628 ft (496 m) ground roll

Avionics

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

References[edit]

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External links[edit]