By Bill Hudson

DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — To say that Dale Klapmeier is excited about general aviation would be a gross understatement. Klapmeier is co-founder and CEO of Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft, the company that revolutionized safety in small airplanes.

“The easier an airplane is to fly, the more often you fly, the better you are as a pilot, the safer. So it’s got to be simple, intuitive, very easy to understand what’s going on,” explained Klapmeier.

To accomplish that in all Cirrus-designed airplanes, the company replaced conventional analog instruments with TV monitor screens or Primary Flight Display. The twin screens contain all instrument and navigational aids as well as a real-time XM satellite weather system.

Pilots are able to see the same weather information as they would while doing pre-flight on the ground. The ability to see continuously changing weather systems in-flight helps them avoid trouble before they’re in it.

But the initial marketing genius of Cirrus airplanes was the addition of a deployable parachute built into the fuselage of each plane. Since the first plane rolled off the assembly line in 1999, parachutes have been deployed 23 times and saved 49 lives.

“They (Cirrus) brought it into the 21st century,” said pilot and plane owner Andy Niemyer.

The former military aviator purchased his Cirrus SR 22 five years ago. Niemyer explains that the company’s mission to build a safer, easier to operate private aircraft is turning the industry around.

“They’ve made now available to the general aviation pilot like myself, the kind of technology and the kind of in-the-cockpit knowledge that the airliners have,” said Niemyer.

The company’s mission is paying off. Cirrus Aircraft is now the leading manufacturer of the four-seat airplanes. The Duluth company rolled out its 5000th plane in September.

What you won’t see on the production floor just yet is the company’s entry into jet aircraft. A five-seat model, called the “Vision,” will give current Cirrus customers another option to step up into a faster aircraft. It will become the first of its kind in the jet aircraft category geared to private owners and small businesses who desire a balance of simplicity with greater speed and range.

Klapmeier said the plane is still in the engineering phase and doesn’t expect production for another three to five years.

“When you’re designing something that is better and its better in every way, you certainly expect to take over the industry,” Klapmeier said.

Back in June, Cirrus was bought by the Chinese company, China Aviation Industry General Aircraft. CAIGA will retain production in Grand Forks and Duluth for the foreseeable future.

Comments (7)
  1. Neil says:

    The cirrus jet is a 7 SF50 vision seat aircraft. The rear two seats are meant for smaller statured people, but they are still there.

  2. Neil says:

    The cirrus SF50 vision jet is a 7 seat aircraft. The rear two seats are meant for smaller statured people, but they are still there.

  3. Slo Fred says:

    These small jets are just toys for the rich. They are all too slow to be integrated into the national transport system and will be forced to fly low, burning more fuel and cutting their range. Most of them cruise at .61 mach. The airliners are running around .77, a difference of 100 knots at a minimum. Think of an old VW microbus cruising down the left lane of the Turnpike doing 55 mph and the havoc that goes with it. The smart marketers restrict the operations to 31,000′ and compete with the turboprops, where they are not as much a problem. The other thing this article fails to report is that if you fill up all the seats you have little allowable weight remaining for fuel, cutting the range so much as to make the aircraft worthless.

    1. Taylor J says:

      wow.. did not know that.. I guess i wont be buying one anytime soon. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE