Want to know what new plane Cirrus Aircraft is working on right now? Yeah, we are too, but they’re tight-lipped about it, if there’s even is a new aircraft in the works, but they’re happy to chat about what they’re doing right now, and it’s state-of-the-art hardware.
I spoke with Cirrus President of Customer Experience, Todd Simmons, on day three of Oshkosh 2022, and it was great to catch up and to hear his thoughts on where Cirrus stands with their growth and how their vision for all things SR and SF, many of these ideas formulated ten years ago, went into the design of the SR22 and SF50 Vision Jet.
Cirrus is often said to be the leading manufacturer of small personal transport aircraft, but its model line is small, consisting of the SR22, an all-composite single-seat six-cylinder four/five-seater with industry-leading safety systems and the SF50 Vision Jet single-engine turbojet…same on the safety systems there. The company is closing in on 9,000 aircraft sold, a figure it expects to reach in 2023. The vast majority of those sales are for the approximately $1 million SR22, which is the best-selling single in the aviation for 20 years.
But the SF50 Vision Jet, which costs around $3 million and which the company has bet its very existence on more than one occasion, has been a huge hit. In the five years since the first SF50 was handed over in early 2017, Cirrus has delivered just over 350 of the Williams FJ-33 powered composite jets, and Simmons told me the company has orders for over 400. others.
The design of both aircraft is informed by a handful of core values that Cirrus holds, and these are not the imaginary mission statement values you see from so many companies, but the ones it puts into practice, with product features that are the most innovative. in GA light history, arguably GA, period, arguably aviation, period.
This value is the investment in safety features that pilots want and which objectively improve safety. The parachute is the one safety feature everyone associates with Cirrus, and for good reason. A rocket-powered whole-aircraft parachute system has been fitted to every production Cirrus since day one, including the jet. But about 10 years ago the company realized that pilots were in many cases refusing to use the parachute in an emergency, a choice for which too many were paying the ultimate price.
Thus, Cirrus did not change his vision, but his training with a new approach to the parachute which is part of a complete program which he literally calls Cirrus Approach. It began to focus on procedures that put the parachute at the center of the pilot’s safety perspective, with take-off specific callouts for when the parachute was available and techniques specifically taught during recurrent training on how to deploy the parachute, including things like how to find the best place to deploy it. And that change in training procedures paid off, with the number of fatalities decreasing and the percentage of deployments versus forced landings/accidents increasing, i.e. more deployments, which, Simmons pointed out, means more people are returning to their families. Over 200, in fact.
Another unprecedented safety investment the company has made is the periodic training of pilots who purchase used Cirrus aircraft, called Embark, which Cirrus pays for. The investment is for safety, that goes without saying, and people a little more cynical than me might say it’s a way for the company to reduce its liability load. My answer, so what? Kudos to them anyway.
In addition to the Cirrus Airframe parachute system, the company has invested in ever more advanced safety features, many of which are associated with new products introduced by long-time partner Garmin International. The sexiest of these is unquestionably Garmin Autoland, which Cirrus has on his jet and calls “Safe Return.” Should the pilot be incapacitated, the push of a button will prompt the aircraft to fly to the nearest suitable airport, brake to a stop, and shut off the engine.
So, is there a new plane coming from Cirrus? I do not know. Simmons said the company is always looking to the future, and anyone who knows Cirrus knows that’s literally true. So even though there is no new swept wing trijet on the horizon from Cirrus, you can rest assured that Cirrus has been working all the time to improve its products to the point where its current owners want to trade in their SR22 or SF50 and move on to the next best thing, which Cirrus hopes will be the updated bird he just rolled out the hangar doors.