Cirrus SF50 Jet Prototype Held in “Commodity Jurisdiction”

 - July 29, 2011, 8:20 AM

Cirrus president and CEO Brent Wouters revealed during the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show this week that the company’s prototype SF50 Vision jet is in “commodity jurisdiction” at Williams International. The Williams FJ33 engine that powers the Vision jet may be subject to U.S. government concerns about exporting technology to China. China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga), a subsidiary of state-owned Avic, purchased Duluth, Minn.-based Cirrus on June 28 for a reported $210 million. The purchase was subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

In a letter sent to Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), who had complained to Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner about the proposed Cirrus sale to Caiga, Wouters addressed the issue of the Williams engine in the Vision jet. Cravaack’s letter expressed “concern about China gaining access to a Williams International turbofan engine and Fadec with its acquisition of Cirrus,” according to Wouters’ letter. Wouters pointed out that the FJ33 and FJ44 engines are certified by civil authorities “and are not controlled by the U.S. government for export to China. Moreover, Cirrus’s current products do not include a gas turbine engine. While Cirrus has selected the Williams International FJ33 as the powerplant for its small personal jet aircraft…this program is in the prototype/design phase.

Consequently, Cirrus currently owns only one FJ33 engine. Even if the jet design is completed and Cirrus begins to manufacture the aircraft, Cirrus is not the engine or Fadec manufacturer, thus, Cirrus does not have access to the detailed design or production technology related to the engine or Fadec–that technology is the intellectual property of Williams International.”

Cirrus is preparing to resume development of the Vision jet, once Wouters is able to secure capital from Cirrus’s owners, and plans are under way to hire more engineers. Cirrus has sold positions on 425 Vision jets and fully refunded deposits on 90 of those aircraft. Wouters credited Cirrus jet sales director Gary Black with reselling those 90 positions to new customers, so the Vision jet order backlog remains at 425 aircraft. The purchase of Cirrus by Caiga, Wouters said, “[in the] short term means stability for Cirrus. And, second thing, it means product development–our ability to accelerate the jet.”