Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft has been on a roll since it was acquired by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. in June 2011.
Buoyed by the owner’s investment, a recovering economy and the development of the new “Vision Jet,” Cirrus has hired more than 300 workers. The jet has stirred great interest in the aviation community and has drawn more than 550 orders.
Ben Kowalski, vice president of marketing, said Cirrus grew employment 10 percent over the past two years as orders increased and as it prepped for the Vision Jet rollout this year.
The company has added a 40,000-square-foot assembling building and announced in February the planned construction of a new $10 million, 60,000-square-foot facility known as a “completion center” for the Vision Jet.
“The new building is very important to helping us meet the needs we have for manufacturing Vision Jet,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Sales for 2014 of the Cirrus SR20 and SR22T were the best since 2006, with 308 planes being delivered, an increase of 12 percent over 2013. “We grew everything stably and consistently,” he said.
Cirrus is best known for its “Airframe Parachute System,” which it says has saved 104 lives. No other general aviation aircraft manufacturer in the world offers a parachute as a standard feature.
The Vision Jet, or SF50, will have the same parachute system and plenty of other attractive features for the nearly $2 million price tag. The plane will seat seven people, or five adults and two children, a larger footprint than the SR line.
The plane still needs final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is expected to come later this year. As the company grows with the Vision Jet, the majority of the jobs will remain in the Duluth area, although Cirrus also has operations in North Dakota, Kowalski said.
“We’re aiming at delivering the aircraft this year,” he said. “We’ll begin the production line this year and continue to increase production throughout 2016 and 2017. It’s really exciting. The market’s excited about the aircraft, and we’re expanding to meet that demand.”