Alan Klapmeier, chairman of Cirrus Aircraft, has formed a team to raise funds to try to buy the Vision SF50 single-engine personal-very-light-jet program from Arcapita Bank, the majority owner of Cirrus. “I feel comfortable that we can do this,” said Klapmeier. “Obviously it’s a difficult time to be raising capital, but that means more focus on funding better projects.” Although Cirrus has refunded about 8 percent of Vision deposits, according to president and CEO Brent Wouters, the jet program “is absolutely still under way.” There are deposits for more than 400 Visions, he told AIN.
Klapmeier’s effort is currently operating under the name Aegis, but that may change. Until he raises the necessary funds and completes a transaction with Arcapita, the jet, he said, “is still a Cirrus program and Cirrus continues to fund it and make progress.”
If his bid is successful, Klapmeier and his team will need to build a new facility to house the Vision jet program or possibly negotiate a manufacturing agreement with Cirrus, which is highly experienced in building composite airframes. “Addressing that question will be part of a final deal,” Klapmeier said. “There are a lot of advantages to staying connected. It’s not a requirement, but it’s a benefit that needs to be considered.”
The fundamental issue that prompted Klapmeier to pursue taking over the Vision program is that if the program remains with Cirrus, further delays will be inevitable. The original funding plan was to rely on a combination of internal Cirrus money and external capital, he explained. “As situations change, the market for new aircraft [has deteriorated] and Cirrus has had to make lots of tough choices recently. The board obviously has to look at what our other options are for getting the jet done. I think all parties would agree–Cirrus, Arcapita, certainly our team–that this is really about getting the jet done.”
Commenting on Klapmeier’s announcement, Wouters reaffirmed Cirrus’s commitment to the Vision jet. There are 120 people focused on the program, he said, now working on detail design of structure, systems and tooling. “Today we’re cash-flowing it and devoting every bit of our R&D resources, both cash and otherwise, to the jet,” he said. “We’re making good progress. But we’ve always thought the program might need some outside capital, [which] would allow us to do things a little more efficiently, a little faster. Our expectation is that we will continue to do it internally and that we’ll move forward accordingly.”
Wouters acknowledged that Klapmeier “did approach the Cirrus board and express a desire to maybe acquire the program, and in an effort to make sure we were looking at every dark corner of the world for capital, we said, sure, we don’t know what will come of it, we’ll see what he can come up with. Alan has a unique capability to get people interested in this, and he’s got a proposal; we’re happy to hear it.”