Cirrus design is number two

 - August 8, 2008, 9:41 AM

The Duluth, Minn.-based manufacturer of four-place composite piston singles is number two in the marketplace for piston airplanes, but it is fast gaining ground on Cessna, the number-one piston airplane OEM. According to GAMA statistics, Cirrus Design in 2001 accounted for 11 percent of all piston airplanes built by GAMA members and Cessna about 42 percent. In 2002, Cirrus jumped to almost 28 percent while Cessna dropped to 35 percent. And now in the most recent figures from GAMA, Cirrus has about 31 percent of the market while Cessna has 37 percent.

For EAA AirVenture, Cirrus announced it is making the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra primary flight displays standard equipment on all models of its SR20 and SR22 airplanes. “PFDs have long been available in high-end corporate, commercial and military aircraft,” said Alan Klapmeier, Cirrus president and CEO. “We think all pilots deserve to fly the same advanced technology.”

Further explaining the company’s rationale for going “glass cockpit” in all its models,
Klapmeier said, “Without changing the infrastructure–building more airports and without changing air traffic control–we need to see a general assumption that personal aviation is an accepted and natural part of our country’s transportation system. Aviation needs to be for everyone. Not that everyone will use it, but that everyone knows that they might use it. Then we will see a change in the infrastructure. We need to assume we’re going to change first. We at Cirrus want to help this change along by providing products that are in the realm of possibility for more and more people. Not that they’ll all buy an airplane, but that they’ll know they could.”

Also at Oshkosh, Cirrus unveiled the Cirrus SRV, a VFR-only SR20, at a base price of $189,900, and a special-edition Centennial SR22 with high-quality leather interior and other features, for $380,000. A standard SR22 lists for $313,900.

With its 1,000th airplane on the production line in late July, Cirrus is building and delivering about 10 airplanes per week. The company has a backlog of about 140 airplanes and signed orders for 126 through the second quarter of this year (it sold a total of 242 and 150 airplanes in 2002 and 2001, respectively). It has bolstered its marketing efforts with an increase from seven salesmen to 24 regional directors, additional demonstration pilots and the opening of its customer delivery center last November.

An infusion of more than $100 million in investment capital in August 2001 allowed Cirrus to increase production from one to two airplanes per day, hire experienced managers and build the customer service center. “If we had not received approval for that investment then [one month before 9/11], we would not have received it afterward,” Klapmeier told AIN. “And without that money, we would have been out of business within a year.” He said the company is always looking at derivative models, including small jet and turboprop single designs, but for the time being Cirrus is concentrating on improving its piston singles and customer support.