Cirrus

Cirrus Aircraft

What It Is: A division of China Aviation Industry General Aviation (CAIGA), Cirrus Aircraft manufactures single-engine SR20 series pistons and Vision Jet SF50 turbines. Since 2005, no airframer has delivered more piston aircraft than Cirrus.

How It Grew: In 1984 brothers and experimental aircraft enthusiasts Alan and Dale Klapmeier founded Cirrus Design Corporation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, to develop a composite kit aircraft, the VK-10. A fatal midair collision that Alan survived the following year inspired nascent development of an aircraft parachute recovery system. The VK-30 debuted in 1987 at the EAA Fly-In Convention (now AirVenture Oshkosh), and deliveries began the following year, but with sales slow the brothers began developing an aircraft that could be certified.

In 1994 Cirrus relocated to Duluth, Minnesota, and introduced the SR20, a composite four-place model incorporating certified innovations including sidestick flight controls and the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. The SR20 was certified in 1998, and deliveries commenced in 1999, with certification and deliveries of the higher-end SR22 following in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Also in 2001, Arcapita, an investment arm of the First Islamic Bank of Bahrain, bought a majority stake in Cirrus for about $100 million.

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The founder of a highly successful casino- and video-game company is also a private pilot who uses her Cirrus Vision Jet to help build the business.

Cirrus delivered the first “glass cockpit” general-aviation aircraft in 2003 and, two years later, introduced a single-engine personal jet, dubbed the Cirrus Vision SF50 when it first flew in 2008. But the Great Recession that capped the decade triggered layoffs and program cutbacks. In 2009, chairman and former CEO Alan Klapmeier left the company, which was rebranded that year as Cirrus Aircraft.

China’s government-owned CAIGA purchased Cirrus for $210 million in 2011, with vice chairman Dale Klapmeier named CEO. Vision Jet deliveries commenced in 2016, and the company’s Vision Center Campus for the jet opened in Knoxville, Tennessee, the next year, with Cirrus’s new turbine taking the 2018 Collier Trophy (an annual award administered by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association). In 2019, as it celebrated the 20th anniversary of the SR series, Cirrus announced the follow-on Vision Jet SF50 G2 and opened a factory service facility in Dallas.

What It Offers:

Aircraft. SR-20 (single, reciprocating) and SR22; Vision Jet SF50 (single, turbofan) and SF50 G2.

Training. Cirrus Approach online and in-person training for Cirrus pilots.

Maintenance. Factory service centers in Duluth, Minnesota; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Dallas.

Recent news: In June, cofounder Dale Klapmeier stepped down as CEO and was succeeded by Zean Nielsen.


FAST FACTS:

Founded: 1984

HQ: Duluth, Minnesota

Employees: About 1,400

Aircraft sales (2018): 380 SR series; 63 SF50s  

CEO: Zean Nielsen

Website: cirrusaircraft.com

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