Cirrus says ‘maybe’ to a baby turbofan

 - January 8, 2008, 10:11 AM

Cirrus Design, the Duluth, Minn. manufacturer of SR20 and SR22 piston singles, does have a jet in its future plans, but don’t expect to hear much about it before the end of this year. When (and if) you do, it may well be that the design will wind up with a single engine. “With all the new turbofan powerplants under development now [on the low end of the power spectrum],” said Cirrus director of marketing Ian Bentley, “any self-respecting airframe manufacturer would have to be considering a jet. And Cirrus is definitely a self-respecting manufacturer. But if you’re asking if we have a team of skunkworks-like engineers designing a jet, the answer is a definite ‘no.’”

Bentley added, “Cirrus has been successful with personal transportation aircraft. Anything we do in the way of a jet will center on the owner-flown market.” He added that any such personal jet would have to be pressurized and its engine would require practical fuel-burn performance at mid-level altitudes.

Another arrow in Cirrus’s quiver is the BRS whole-airplane parachute being developed for small jets. Such a system on a single-engine jet could go a long way toward addressing the risk of flying a sophisticated aircraft with only one powerplant. Whether or not insurers and FAA rulemakers would buy into the safety guarantees afforded by the parachute system is another unknown. Cirrus’s next move is to conduct a comprehensive market study–a process that could start later this year.

Bentley said, “Cirrus’ main emphasis right now is to grow through the recession and to emerge, not just as an exciting new company, but as one with some old-fashioned attributes–profits, for instance.”