Cirrus Aircraft Co. had one of the larger exhibits at this summer’s AirVenture. While the Vision Jet and the SR20 and SR22 series aircraft were all prominently displayed, noticeably absent was Alan Klapmeier.
In June, Klapmeier, who co-founded the company in 1984 with his brother Dale, shocked many in the aviation industry when he made a bid to buy the Vision Jet program and develop it separately from Cirrus. Klapmeier estimated it would take $60 million to bring the jet to production. Despite months of meetings with potential investors, as well as the Cirrus board, negations fell through July 31.
Klapmeier was reluctant to share the details of the latest development, saying, “We have been working on an agreement with Arcapita, the majority owner of Cirrus, to purchase the Vision Jet program and try and accelerate it. Where we are at today is that we are not going to be able to come to an agreement.”
Brent Wouters, Cirrus’ president and CEO, confirmed that negotiations for acquisition of the Jet had been terminated by Klapmeier.
“I’ve always viewed the jet program as a Cirrus program,” he said. “I said rather clearly that these deals are hard to come by and very difficult to put together.
“We have been continuing the program and making progress and we will continue to do just that,” he added. “All I can do is focus on the program on a day-to-day basis and move it forward.”
At a press conference on AirVenture’s opening day, Wouters reported that the company was “focusing all its resources” on the jet. “We’re zeroed in on getting it done,” he said.
The jet is now heading into a detailed design phase, Wouters said, adding its continued development is “capital dependent.”
While he would like to see first deliveries by 2012 – the initial date set when the jet was introduced – he acknowledged that without an “extensive capital” infusion, that deadline would be “difficult to hit.”
“If we had the external capital it would speed up the process of doing the testing, building the tooling and going through the FAA certification process,” Wouters said. “It will still get done, but at a slower rate.”
That’s one reason the Cirrus board was willing to discuss Klapmeier’s bid. If he would have been able to raise the capital to “peel” the jet program away from Cirrus, it would have been a “win-win” for the company, its shareholders and the more than 400 customers who have placed orders for the jet, according to Dale Klapmeier, who added that the company would not consider selling the jet program to anyone other than his brother.
Cirrus officials were determined to retain some ownership in the jet, always looking at it as a step-up product for its SR20 and SR22 customers, Wouters added.
Alan Klapmeier noted that his term as chairman of Cirrus expires in August (the Cirrus board opted not to renew his contract). He admits it is hard to think about not being part of the company he co-founded with his brother 25 years ago.
Leaving his role at Cirrus doesn’t mean that he will be leaving aviation.
“I obviously love general aviation and think that there is a lot of value here,” he said.
Meanwhile, the company hasn’t ignored its successful SR20 and SR22 models. At the show, it unveiled a program that allows customers to personalize their airplanes.
Dubbed Xi, the program allows customers to work with the company’s senior designers to personalize paint and graphics schemes, seat patterns and materials, instrument panel finishes and more.
For more information: CirrusAircraft.com.