Last month I accepted the opportunity to attend an event at Seattle's museum of flight with the CEO of Cirrus.
From a business perspective this was a fascinating story of two brothers fresh out of college that decided to build a better plane. CEO Dale Klapmeier took us from their first headquarters to the their current project, the single engine jet. But while I listened, I gained some great insight and realized that the Cirrus is not the plane for me.
Let's back up a bit. I wanted a Cirrus because I wasn't flying my A330 enough and thought what better way than to fly a glass plane with a stick. When I looked at the price I had a bit of sticker shock with a $700,000 price tag. However, the dream did not diminish. Until I experienced an epiphany.
This plane was designed for passengers, and not for pilots. Dale said his wife was concerned because she didn't know where she was going, so they installed instruments with a map. A time to destination message and how many hours of fuel on board. Great idea. Then also they installed a rocket with a parachute. The numbers were 54 shoot deployments and 94 lives saved, to date. But the reason the Cirrus has a parachute is that it's not fully spin certified.
While we don't train spins today, I still believe that a plane should have performance to get out of one. And then there was the pride and joy button. The blue button that says: LVL. They call this the timeout switch and recommend before you deploy the parachute, press the button, give the plane to the autopilot and see it the automation can regain control (because the pilot lost it).
Well... here's the deal. I think that we need to teach pilots to fly their planes, not have a timeout bailout option. I have to ask why are pilots losing control of their plane creating a need to bail? Well... I didn't ask because I did not want to turn the questions into a challenging debate. But when I spoke to Dale afterward, he was a bit touchy about the automation issue. "Why would anyone want to fly a plane without out it?"
And then there was their jet, the Vision, that I fell in love with for a price of $2 million. Unfortunately that V-tail has a wobble. But... if you turn on the autopilot there is a dampener to minimize it. Yet another plane you must fly with the automation.
A Chinese company purchased Cirrus two years ago and they are looking forward to sales oversea that will justify building a factory in China. For now, Cirrus owned by China is built in Duluth.
During the discussion someone asked how we were going to increase the number of pilots. Dale responded without answering the question, because I don't think a $700,000 automated plane is something that will inspire a passion for aviation. For a beginning trainer, this is not it. One day I may own a Cirrus, but it will not be to fly and increase my skills. It will be for a mission of destination.
With all this said, Cirrus has a market.
This is the plane that every doctor, attorney, or CEO who have a pilots license should own, with a purpose to get from point A to B, and do not spend a lot of time focusing on flying as they are focusing on the rest of their life. The automation creates great situational awareness, and if you get in trouble, you fire your rocket and deploy the chute.
The inspiration, dedication and commitment the two young men that set out to create a plane is amazing. They proved that anything is possible. They built it, held together when times were tough and the sold the company. What greater success is that? The presentation was fascinating and I'm very glad I attended.
Is a Cirrus the plane for you?
Enjoy the Journey!