Cirrus introduces Generation 3

The week of Sun ‘n Fun was a busy one for Cirrus Design Corp.

The company unveiled its newest airplane, the SR-22-G3, or Generation Three, on opening day of Sun ‘n Fun. Just hours later, company executives headed to AERO 2007 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, to debut the new model there, while simultaneous launches occurred in China and Brazil throughout the week.

“We take these markets seriously,” said Alan Klapmeier, chairman and CEO.

And the company should. Last year it delivered 721 planes, with 26% of those being delivered internationally, including 300 to Europe and 100 to Brazil. So far the company has delivered just one airplane in China, but reported two orders the week of Sun ‘n Fun. “There’s going to be an aviation industry in China,” Klapmeier said. “We’re just not sure what it will look like.”

Changing the aviation industry is a mission of Cirrus. “We don’t see ourselves as manufacturers,” he said, “but rather as a group that provides personal transportation.”

Making personal transportation even better fueled the refinements that went into the G3. The latest evolution incorporates 700 design improvements and 60,000-plus engineering hours, according to Pat Waddick, senior president of engineering. “All the things we’ve learned these past seven years are integrated into this product,” he noted.

The model includes a new wing, which is 40 pounds lighter, centered around a new carbon-fiber spar. This provides an “outstanding” strength-to-weight ratio while offering greater range and fuel capacity, according to company officials. Fuel capacity rose from 81 to 92 gallons, corresponding in a 16% increase in range.

The redesigned landing gear means the plane sits higher, giving it “better ramp presence,” according to Waddick.

New wing-tip lights increase visibility, while redesigned wing root fairings reduce drag and increase climb efficiency, he added.

The turbo model, with air conditioning, is expected to be offered later this year, but only in limited quantities, company officials said.

Cirrus is producing about 16 G3s a week, while it ramps down production of the G2.

Meanwhile, development continues on the company’s jet. Information on the jet is being closely held, with company officials tantalizing customers by sending out puzzle pieces that, once put together, will reveal a photo of the jet. The first full showing is planned for the annual Cirrus migration, slated for June 29, at the company’s headquarters in Duluth, Minn.

“We’re going to show our jet deposit holders first,” Klapmeier said, noting there are about 140 deposit holders. “The jet is coming along very well. If I had my choice, we’d have it here today selling to customers. But we’re not that far along yet.”

Decisions that have been made include the powerplant, a Williams FJ-33 engine, and that the jet will have a parachute system. The jet also will be one of the “slowest, shortest range jets you can buy,” according to Klapmeier.

“We know it’s important to keep the price point low,” he said, “so low price equals low performance.”

The jet, which will be certified to just 25,000 feet, is not what people think of as a very light jet, he added. That is a deliberate move on the company’s part, who want to make jet ownership something even non-pilots can aspire to, according to Klapmeier. He envisions that many jet owners will be pilots who now own SR-22s.

But Klapmeier doesn’t want to limit the market. The company is targeting “all of the people out there who ought to be flying airplanes because they have someplace to go,” he said.

That’s why the company attends many non-aviation shows, reaching out to people who just don’t realize how aviation could change their lives.

“We have to grow this industry,” Klapmeier said.

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