Cirrus Aircraft has seen steady improvements in China’s general aviation infrastructure, and this has helped drive sales of its airplanes in the country. There are now 100 Cirrus SR-series piston singles operating in China.
More significant, however, is that Cirrus has recently added in-country capabilities that enhance support and operation of its aircraft, elements that are critical for growth of general aviation and the company’s market share in China.
Cirrus Aircraft is owned by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga), which is part of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic). Now China-based Cirrus operators can order parts directly from Caiga instead of having to source parts from the U.S. or Europe.
Caiga also recently signed a contract with Cirrus for maintenance training to be done at the company’s Zhuhai location, with the start of training expected to take place by year-end. This eliminates the need to send Chinese technicians to the U.S. or Europe for training, not only saving money but enhancing training that can be done in the technicians’ native language. Another local move is the opening of a Cirrus-authorized service center in Shanghai.
Earlier this year, Cirrus announced its latest models—the G6 versions of the SR20 and SR22 single-engine airplanes. New features include remote keyless entry doors, a Garmin-based Perspective+ avionics suite with a new Qwerty flight management system keyboard, automatic yaw damper and improved avionics performance, plus Whelen’s Spectra wingtip lighting and other convenience elements. The SR20 G6 is fitted with a new 215-hp Lycoming IO-390 engine, which allows the aircraft to carry 150 pounds of useful load compared to earlier SR20 models.
In December, Cirrus began deliveries of its new single-engine Vision Jet. “This allows customers to continue to live the Cirrus life at jet speed,” said Adam Hahn, executive director of international sales. So far Cirrus has delivered four Visions, and the fifth will enter service later this week in Europe. “We’re scaling up production,” he said, and during 2017 the company expects to deliver 25 to 50, reaching full-rate production of 75 to 125 jets in 2018.
The Vision Jet is powered by an 1,800-pounds-thrust Williams International FJ33-5A turbofan engine. Top speed is 300 knots, and maximum altitude 28,000 feet. The cabin has seats for seven occupants (five adults and two children). Like the SR series airplanes, the Vision Jet is also equipped with a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, which can safely lower the airplane to the ground during an emergency situation.
Cirrus could deliver a Vision Jet in China in about a year and a half, but that will depend on obtaining CAAC certification, according to Jon Dauplaise, general manager for China and emerging markets. “We do have orders [for the Vision Jet] in China,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ability to fly a Cirrus in China is slowly improving. The largest operator of Cirrus airplanes in China is Catholic University’s flight training program, with 40 SR-series airplanes (also the largest single fleet of Cirrus airplanes in the world) in Luoyang.
Another Cirrus operator in China is Jinggong Jet, which offers aerial tour flights over the Great Wall of China and flight training from the airport in Badaling.
“The general aviation environment in China is changing,” said Dauplaise. “The CAAC is proactive about opening the airspace.”