By Todd Simmons
Todd Simmons is Executive Vice President Sales, Marketing & Customer Support for Cirrus Aircraft. He offers his perspective on the real value of personal and business aviation.
As a pilot, aircraft owner, employee at Cirrus Aircraft – and most important – father to a young son that loves to fly, I am passionate about flying and particularly general aviation. I am privileged to be able to observe and to participate in the power that the general aviation industry and Cirrus Aircraft have on people’s lives, both personally and professionally. However, the current public discourse around national legislative changes that could harm general aviation have us all concerned. That the general aviation owners, operators and employees – including Cirrus Aircraft – are the antagonists in this narrative is simply misguided. By contrast, let me share a unique perspective that illustrates both the high value jobs and the pro-growth solutions that Cirrus Aircraft and General Aviation provide.
Cirrus Aircraft is a shining example of innovation, ingenuity, and quality manufacturing of fast and efficient transportation machines. The avionics and systems aboard the fifth-generation Cirrus are more sophisticated and capable than on just about any airliner or business jet flying today. Even better, Cirrus aircraft have a unique airframe parachute system that can safely lower pilots and passengers to the ground in case of the very worst emergencies. With 65 lives saved to date because of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, called CAPS, that’s real technology making a real difference!
There are really two main issues that speak to the contributions that come from the production and use of these aircraft. The first is the immediate positive impact of Cirrus Aircraft as a manufacturer and its place in the general aviation “Eco-system”. On the first point, while I suspect that class division using aircraft owners as targets does poll well among a segment of the electorate, that rhetoric is ignorant as it relates to the real power and positive impact of general aviation on local, regional, and national economies. Cirrus Aircraft and other general aviation manufacturers employ highly skilled technicians, designers, engineers, and many other professionals at class-leading wages and class-leading salaries, exactly the kind of jobs and compensation that the U.S. needs and wants more of.
Cirrus Aircraft also contributes to a net export surplus that the U.S. enjoys in the aerospace sector, with more than 40% of Cirrus Aircraft deliveries going to over 60 countries around the world. With all of those dollars flowing back to the U.S., Cirrus Aircraft has an enormous economic benefit for the families and citizens of Duluth, MN and Grand Forks, ND; and the economic vitality of the entire Upper Midwest. I could go on with this list of well-established statistics of the positive benefit of domestic aircraft manufacturing.
Before moving on from this first point, note that this manufacturing capability comes as the aviation industry collectively invests literally billions of dollars in research and development of new aircraft products and technologies that maintain our leadership position today and for tomorrow. Our commitment to that future at Cirrus is called the Vision Jet. This new entry-level jet makes fast, efficient, economic transportation available and affordable to a wider audience than ever before. With over 500 positions reserved, it will be purchased, owned and operated by the same value creators and job providers that our piston-engine SR-Series owners are today. Our customers — entrepreneurs, innovators, small business owners, medical professionals and job creators — are actually the lifeblood of this very significant national economic enterprise.
The second point, perhaps more important, but often overlooked, is the overall value–creating impact of a typical Cirrus Aircraft owner and how he or she uniquely multiplies economic value through the use of an airplane. This impact has proven time and again to be profound as these same airplane customers noted earlier are themselves economic value creators. Real executives conducting real face-to-face business that keep their busy schedules with single engine piston aircraft like a Cirrus. It all equals real value and real productivity.
For example, a farm implement dealer in the Dakotas; a franchisee of a well-known family restaurant brand who manages his outlets up and down the east coast using a Cirrus; a car dealer in Ohio; a geologist in the Bakken oil fields; a real estate development firm in Arkansas; business owners, farmers, franchisers, consultants, attorneys, marketing agencies and more are using Cirrus aircraft and general aviation daily to further their business, reach more customers and add more employees.
The Cirrus aircraft used in these examples are absolutely critical tools of commerce and productivity that provide entrepreneurs with quick and efficient access to smaller communities, remote locations and cities and towns across America’s heartland that are served by more than 5,000 local airports. By contrast less than 10% of those communities are served by airlines. The collective value and benefit this group uniquely provides — and the multiplicative positive impact it has on so many communities across the country — creating the real prosperity we all want. They are a critical part of the drive train in the American economic engine.
I am an optimist. I do think enlightenment can find our policy makers and help grow companies like Cirrus Aircraft. If we can change the prevailing view, we can clearly see that the owners and operators are the catalysts they have proven to be in this narrative. My optimistic outlook is embodied by a recent comment from a fellow pilot and industry colleague: “What could this look like if we viewed it from the perspective of abundance instead of scarcity?” Indeed, abundance is exactly what we see when we pilots are flying and look out of the cockpit.