Cirrus Shifts Focus Toward Jet Development

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Click for video of the Cirrus Vision SJ-50's first flight

Under its new CEO, Brent Wouters, Cirrus Design announced last week that future workforce cuts are likely coming to the company, but its push for development of the Cirrus Vision SJ50 very light jet would help retain some jobs. The company is aiming for FAA certification of the Vision by year-end 2011 and is targeting a $1 million price point. Cirrus is currently holding more than 400 orders for the aircraft, each backed by a $100,000 deposit. Its piston single production has fallen to 20 percent of its former 16 aircraft per week capacity, leading Wouters to characterize present demand as "awful." Cirrus is currently operating on about 655 employees in Duluth, with 150 more at Grand Forks, N.D., and a few dozen scattered elsewhere. The company has vacated 350 positions since September 2008, with 250 dismissals and 100 more officially on furlough. "We are increasing our focus on the jet, because that is going to be our future engine for growth in my estimation," Wouters told the Duluth News Tribune, adding that he did see opportunities, even now.

Cirrus is presently pursuing business opportunities in Indonesia and the Far East, where it hopes fleet deals in the works could translate into orders for up to 100 aircraft. Until then, some Cirrus employees may find themselves repositioned to work on the jet program, and many more may be happy to survive the next round of cutbacks with any sort of job at all.