Cirrus Vision SF50
|Role||Very light jet|
|First flight||First prototype: 3 July 2008|
Conforming prototype: 24 March 2014
First production: 5 May 2016
|Number built||39, including prototypes (March 2018)|
The Cirrus Vision SF50, also called the "Vision Jet", is a single-engine, low-wing, seven-seat, very light jet aircraft designed and produced by Cirrus Aircraft. It is the first civilian single-engine jet to achieve certification with the FAA. This makes it the smallest and least expensive certified jet currently on the market. It is also equipped with the company's Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) (which deploys from the nose of the aircraft), making it the first jet of any kind to come with a whole-aircraft ballistic parachute.
The aircraft was initially developed under the project name "The Jet", but Cirrus announced the marketing name of "Vision SJ50" on 9 July 2008. In March 2009, the aircraft was redesignated the "Vision SF50". Since its market introduction in 2016, it is often referred to simply as the "Vision Jet".
The prototype aircraft was first shown publicly at the annual Cirrus Migration on 26 June 2008 and first flown on 3 July 2008. 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.
Design and development
The Vision SF50 is made entirely of composite material (another first in the production jet industry) and is a low-wing cantilever monoplane powered by a single Williams FJ33 turbofan mounted above the rear fuselage. It has a v-tail and a retractable tricycle landing gear. The enclosed cabin is 5.1 ft (1.56 m) wide and is 4.1 ft (1.24 m) high with room for seven. Access to the cabin is through a clamshell door on the left hand side. The SF50 is designed for 12,000 flight hours.
Cirrus began taking US$100,000 deposits for the aircraft in 2006. Initially, as a public relations exercise, the company gave deposit holders a drawing of the aircraft in the form of a jigsaw puzzle, one piece at a time. In December 2006, Cirrus announced that its product will be the "slowest, lowest, and cheapest jet available." The SF50 will be powered by a single Williams FJ33-4A-19 engine, producing 1,900 pounds-force (8,500 N) of thrust and is expected to cruise at about 300 knots (560 km/h).
On 27 June 2007, the deposit holders' jigsaw puzzle was completed and the aircraft's configuration was unveiled to the public in mock-up form the following day. The SF50 will seat seven people, with the cockpit, second row and the third row each seating two. There will be a seat that can slide between the second and third row or be removed entirely. The parachute will be located in the nose.
On 27 December 2007 Cirrus Design secured a lease for the former Northwest Airlines hangar at Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minnesota, indicating that it will use the 189,000-square-foot (17,600 m2) building for construction of the new jet. The lease was canceled in 2009 during the height of the Great Recession.
On 22 May 2008, at EBACE, Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier confirmed that the company currently has 400 refundable deposits of US$100,000 for the aircraft. The jet took its first flight on 3 July 2008 at the Duluth airport.
On 3 December 2008, CEO Alan Klapmeier and Vice President for Advanced Development Mike Van Staagen provided an update on the aircraft's development. Klapmeier confirmed that the SF50 is not intended for corporate or air-taxi use, but is being developed for personal-use and that market will determine the design. Klapmeier confirmed that the prototype has flown 120 hours and that expectations have been met. Completed test flying includes proving the whole center of gravity envelope, in-flight engine shut-down and restart. He confirmed that stall testing is still being conducted.
The aircraft's aerodynamic design has been modified based on the test flights completed and the use of computer models with the aim of increasing performance. Changes include altering the engine thrust angle, which has made a large improvement. On the final production aircraft, the right side door has been eliminated to save weight. The door will be replaced by an emergency egress hatch. The production aircraft will also have a more pointed nose, larger belly section, redesigned wing-root fairing, reduced tail sweep and a larger or even dual ventral fin.
Klapmeier confirmed that the aircraft's maximum payload will be 1,200 pounds. With full fuel, it will carry 400 pounds of people and cargo. Klapmeier indicated that the trade-off between range and payload was based on customer consultations, which indicated that owners will often fly longer trips solo. Target range will be 1,100 nmi (2,037 km) at a maximum cruise speed of 300 kn (556 km/h). He also indicated that a Federal Aviation Administration type certificate application will be ready in mid-December 2008 but, due to high fees on this class of aircraft in Europe, European Aviation Safety Agency certification will not be sought immediately. Klapmeier indicated that the fees EASA charges to certify an aircraft are unreasonable. The FAA does not charge any fees to certify an aircraft. Klapmeier stated: "We're not filing because we're not paying."
Cirrus announced that pilot training requirements will be specified in the type certificate, in a similar manner to the Eclipse 500, making training a legal requirement. In December 2008, the price for the SF50 was estimated to be US$1 million (base) and US$1.25 million (equipped) when production commences.
The L-3 SmartDeck was used as the avionics package during the development phase of the SF50 but was replaced with the Garmin G1000 for the development version. As a result of this change, L-3 Avionic Systems announced in June 2009 that they are suing Cirrus for US$18M.
On 26 June 2009 it was reported by AVweb that Cirrus Design co-founder and former CEO Alan Klapmeier intended to buy the SF50 project from Cirrus Design and its major shareholder Arcapita and produce the aircraft himself under a new company. The new venture received financial advice from Merrill Lynch. Klapmeier indicated that his reason for wanting to take over the project was to increase the speed of development. Current Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters responded by saying that the company intends to proceed with the SF50 program itself, but would listen to Klapmeier's proposal.
On 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 indicated that the key factor was raising enough capital to proceed with the project, complete certification and commence production.
On 31 July 2009, Alan Klapmeier announced that his offer to buy the SF50 program had not succeeded, with the key issue 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.
In July 2009, the company announced that the test program had completed 200 hours of flight time. The aircraft incorporated some design changes, including an X tail, simpler and lighter flaps and changes to the handling so that the aircraft pitches up on power application instead of down. The company confirmed at that time that they had about 400 orders for the aircraft, although some deposit refunds have been issued. First deliveries were anticipated in 2012, subject to capital funding.
On 2 September 2009, Cirrus announced that the maximum price for purchasers who have already paid a deposit was US$1.39M. This will provide customers with an aircraft equipped to a similar standard as the current SR22 GTS model. For new customers who paid a US$100,000 deposit before the end of 2009, the price was US$1.55M. Beginning on 1 January 2010 the price will be US$1.72M, with a US$50,000 deposit, all in 2009 dollars.
In November 2009, the company announced that development of the SF50 had slowed due to inability to raise the capital needed in the post-test flying phase. Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters indicated that the lack of financing would move deliveries into 2012 or later.
In January 2010 Cirrus confirmed that the project does not have a timeline for certification or deliveries. CEO Brent Wouters stated: "It's a function of cash flow ... We will get the program done as soon as humanly possible." As of January 2010 the company had 428 position holders, with orders increasing at about one to two per week. The test aircraft had accumulated 236 hours. Also in January 2010 some parameters for the jet's design were confirmed. The aircraft will be certified for FL280. It will have a hybrid ice protection system consisting of urethane pneumatic boots. The cabin pressurization will be contained within a single-piece carbon shell. The aircraft will have an optional lavatory and will fit in a standard US-style 40 ft (12 m) Tee hangar.
In June 2010, the company announced that it expected to start building a conforming prototype by the end of 2010 and having it flying by the end of 2011. Certification at that time was forecast for the middle of 2013. The company is also proceeding with the full-aircraft parachute design, a component that company CEO Wouters described as "high-risk".
As of June 2010, Cirrus reported that they had 431 orders for the aircraft, which was priced at US$1.72M at that time. Deposits made after 1 January 2010 were made non-refundable.
The company announced in April 2012 that the SF50 project had received sufficient investment from Cirrus's new owners, China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA), and, as a result, the project would proceed. In July 2012, company CEO Dale Klapmeier confirmed that Cirrus's new Chinese owners are dedicated to the SF-50 and that the prototype had flown 600 hours in almost 600 flights. The company was proceeding to build the composite construction tooling required to create a conforming prototype for the commencement of type certification flight testing. The conforming prototype is expected to have its first flight in late 2013.
By February 2013, the company was hiring staff for the production of the aircraft. The new price at this point was US$1.96M. In April 2013 Meng Xiangkai, Chairman of CAIGA, the owner of Cirrus, announced that the newest prototype version of the SF50 would be rolled out during 2013 and that certification flight testing would commence in 2014.
In October 2013, Cirrus announced that with the new Chinese investment, three prototypes were under construction for certification flight testing during 2014. First customer deliveries were scheduled for 2015 against a paid deposit order book of 500 aircraft.
By February 2014, a total of 800 hours of test flying had been completed. On 24 March 2014, the first conforming prototype flew. The prototype was displayed at the Oshkosh Airshow that summer. Pre-orders were 550 at a price below $2 million, and Cirrus intends to produce up to 125 per year. The second conforming test aircraft flew in November 2014 and the third (and final) one made its first flight on 20 December 2014.
In February 2015, the City of Duluth had agreed to put up US$6M and had asked the state contribute the remaining US$4M to build a US$10M factory on the Duluth Airport dedicated to the production of SF50 Vision jets. The city would then try to recoup its costs for the facility from lease payments by Cirrus over time. The city is concerned that without the government support Cirrus will locate jet production elsewhere due to better incentives. This was confirmed by Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier and Duluth Mayor Don Ness, who both indicated that time is running out for the state to commit funds.
In April 2015, the first production aircraft was being assembled. The company expressed confidence that certification would proceed on schedule and without need for modifications and decided to start production against the demand for 550 customer aircraft already ordered.
In September 2015, the Cirrus Perspective Touch glass cockpit by Garmin was finalized. It will feature one primary flight display and one multi-function display, with three smaller touchscreen controllers underneath.
In January 2016, the company announced that delays had moved certification from 2015 to the first half of 2016, citing inflight ballistic parachute testing as one of their final tasks before FAA approval. In March 2016, the FAA announced that since the parachute system was not required for certification, the company did not have to conduct an in-flight parachute deployment demonstration, however, Business Insider released video in May 2017 showing the CAPS being tested inflight with a piloted SF50 prototype.
The first production aircraft flew on 5 May 2016 and at that time, certification was forecast to be completed in June 2016. The selected engine, the Williams FJ33-5A, was approved by the FAA on 6 June 2016. By July 2016, the SF50 had over 600 orders, the four flight test aircraft had flown more than 1,700 hours and certification was then planned for the fourth quarter of 2016, delayed from the previous estimate of mid-2016.
In April 2017, Cirrus stated that it plans to deliver between 25 and 50 aircraft in 2017 and between 75 and 125 in 2018. The company was awarded a production certificate on 2 May 2017, which allows aircraft production without FAA inspection of each individual aircraft and thus allows the company to produce a larger number of aircraft more quickly. As 15% of its 600 orders are intended for the European market, Cirrus received EASA certification at the May 2017 EBACE.
By July 2017, seven had been delivered and one per week were being produced.
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). 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.
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. 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.
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 soon-to-be-certified Epic E1000 or nearly $5 million larger haulers as the PC-12 or Cessna Denali.
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".
Other accolades received by the aircraft include:
- Flying Editors' Choice Award 2017
- Fliegermagazin Best Plane of the Year 2017
- Plane & Pilot Plane of the Year 2017
- Popular Science 100 Greatest Innovations of 2017
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. SATSair subsequently ceased operations on 24 October 2009, prior to taking delivery of any SF50s. Other air taxi operators have expressed an interest in potentially utilizing the Vision SF50 for their services, and some industry experts have suggested that the jet could in fact help revive this industry.
Specifications (Vision SF50)
- 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)
- Powerplant: 1 × Williams FJ33-5A turbofan, 1,800 lbf (8.0 kN) thrust
- Cruise speed: 300 kn (345 mph; 556 km/h)
- 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 speed of 300 kn
or 1,200 nmi (1,381 mi; 2,222 km) with 200 lb (91 kg) payload at economy cruise speed of 240 kn (276 mph; 444 km/h)
- Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (8,500 m)
- Time to altitude: FL280 (28,000 ft) in 20 minutes
- Garmin G3000 based Cirrus Perspective Touch
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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is it a great airplane or just a good airplane? If the measure of greatness isn’t defined by absolute speed, pure efficiency or herculean payload, but of how well the design resonates with the intended buyer, the Vision Jet is both a great airplane and a significant one. It’s great because I think SR22 owners will swoon over this thing and significant because it represents a class of its own, expanding practical (if not cheap) jet ownership downward. At a typical invoice of $2.1 million, the Vision Jet is the least expensive jet out there and on a speed vs. dollars matrix, it more than holds its own against whatever competition it has in the low-and-slow tier, and that’s basically nothing in the turbojet category.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cirrus Vision SF50.|
- Official website
- First flight photos
- Troutvetter, Chad, More On "the jet" From Cirrus Design, Avweb story October 19, 2006, accessed 11 Nov 06
- Niles, Russ, Cirrus Taking Jet Orders Avweb story October 5, 2006, accessed 11 Nov 06
- Niles, Russ, Cirrus Talks Jets... Avweb story October 27, 2005, accessed 11 Nov 06
- "Cirrus Private Release"
- "Cirrus Jet Information"
- "The Jet Information"
- Cirrus Jet Could fly in two Years
- Gallery of SF50 parts in factory
- Video of factory tour
- Matt Thurber (November 28, 2017). "Pilot Report: Cirrus Vision Jet". AIN.