The new Cirrus Jet

I sat in a mock-up of the new Cirrus Jet today alongside Alan Klapmeier, the company’s co-founder, who was visiting Hanscom Field (KBED). The interior reflects some truly brilliant design. The seats slide back and forth on long tracks, allowing a lot of flexibility. People could swap seats with the pilots without knocking the thrust lever. The visibility is fantastic, certainly the best of any civilian jet.  The panel is two medium-sized screens, a row of switches, and three small multi-function screens. By refraining from putting in the three or four big screens of a modern business jet, Cirrus has left room for windows.

This promises to be the least expensive of the very light jets, but for a lot of families possibly the most useful. The plane holds two people in front and realistically should be flyable by one parent. That leaves room for a second adult in the front, two sullen teenagers in the middle, and a parent with two younger kids in the back row of three seats (two of which are undersized).

If three adults want to sit in the back and have a conversation, the rearmost seat can slide forward so that it is just behind the two middle seats. This leaves a lot of shoulder room, but the three people are still close enough to talk. If someone wanted to sleep across the three middle seats, the rearmost seat can be pulled up even with the middle two.

Cirrus does not seem to be suffering from the Collapse of 2008 as badly as other airplane manufacturers. My theory is that this is due to their introducing a lot of new features recently, such as a Garmin-based instrument panel and a certified-for-flight-into-known-icing anti-ice system. A 2005 Cirrus is not a perfect substitute for a 2009 Cirrus, as would be the case with many other small aircraft.

Klapmeier is an interesting guy to talk with, very knowledgeable about engineering and certification testing. He is also candid, like you’d expect a company founder to be, rather than evading questions and parroting marketingspeak or legalspeak.

I’m pretty happy with the Cirrus SR20 that I fly regularly, but it isn’t revolutionary. If the Cirrus Vision jet can be delivered at anywhere near the originally promised price ($1 million 2006 dollars) it will certainly be a revolution in family jet transportation.


  1. Joshua Levinson

    June 17, 2009 @ 8:13 am


    I saw a mock up of the Vision at NBAA last year, though maybe they’ve since updated it. I was impressed with the space inside, but I was skeptical of its utility on just one engine.

    With your example, 3 adults and 4 children. That’s ~850 to 950 pounds in protoplasm alone, plus a few bags, and extra weight for any options. According to Wikipedia [citation needed], it will have a 1200 lb useful load. Would you ever fly 7 people anywhere with under 200 lbs of fuel on board?

    I’ve run some very rough numbers, and it seems like at best economy cruise, 210 knots, 200 pounds of fuel will be about 1.5 hours endurance. Add in taxi, takeoff, and climb, plus 45 minutes for IFR reserves, and you’ll be getting there faster in a Dodge Caravan. Is there really a reason that it should have one more seat than a Mustang or Phenom 100?

  2. Tony

    June 17, 2009 @ 11:32 am


    I think another big question will be the cost to maintain the aircraft. I have a friend who has a TBM 700, and I can tell you the cost of maintenance of a turboprop aircraft is at least 10 times the cost of a Bonanza. You cannot even imagine how much a new window costs in a pressurized aircraft – two of them and you could buy a factory new Piston engine!

  3. JB

    June 17, 2009 @ 11:40 pm


    I think that the useful load is actually estimated at 2200 lbs, with up to 1800 lbs in fuel (max fuel payload 400 lbs). This obviously paints quite a different picture from the one you suggest. Although I doubt too many owners will be piling a 7 person family into the plane, it seems that with 1000 lbs of bags and people this jet should be a good machine for a 500nm trip in less than 2.5 hours. For a longer 800 or 900 nm trip it would be good for 2 adults.
    It’s an exciting prospect.

  4. philg

    June 18, 2009 @ 11:38 am


    Joshua: I’m not sure what the final payload/range graph will look like, but around the Northeast a jet that could fly for 1.5 hours would be surprisingly useful. Nothing says that a turbojet engine compels a pilot to fly in awful weather, glued to the instruments and hugging the autopilot. What’s wrong with using a single-engine jet like this to take the family to the beach on Martha’s Vineyard or Montauk for the day? These are 30-minute flights and a one-hour reserve should be adequate. If the weather is miserable, the mission is scrapped altogether since nobody wants to sit on the beach in the rain. It isn’t a business meeting that can’t be missed!

    People drive SUVs that are overengineered for the job to getting to the 7-11 and it only costs them $50,000 extra compared to a Tata Nano and maybe $5000 per year in extra gas and insurance. Driving an overengineered plane, though, might cost an extra $2 million and $100,000 per year.

    The Cirrus jet seems like the right amount of engineering and capability for the moderately experienced pilot taking a family out in reasonably good weather.

  5. Jonathan

    June 18, 2009 @ 1:36 pm


    I’m skeptical of any “revolution” that requires a million dollars per person. How many individuals are there with a millions dollars to spare on the family truckster? With the banking and hedge fund collapse, their ranks are getting smaller and smaller.

    Anyway, as wealth concentrates, you may find that a million dollar plane is too expensive for the middle class, and too small for the upper class. If you looked at a histogram of “How much aircraft would a person like” denominated in dollars, you would probably find it’s grossly bimodal. I wouldn’t be surprised if $1M was in between the modes. In other words, how many people who can afford to spend $1M on a plane wouldn’t also be able (and willing) to spend $3M to get a much roomier and high performance plane from a company that actually knows how to build them (e.g. Cessna Mustang). The idea of a bargain $1M jet just strikes me as odd. It’s got to be a small crowd that will spend $1M but really couldn’t afford $3M.

    Finally, given the poor safety performance of the SR20 (wherein the company learned that a parachute is no replacement for actually correctly engineering an airplane) I’d be very reluctant to buy their first jet. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong, however. The success of Cirrus really surprised me, because as far as I could tell, the Cirrus SR20 was basically a terrible airplane with a parachute.

  6. philg

    June 18, 2009 @ 2:00 pm


    Jonathan: I didn’t mean that the Cirrus Jet would revolutionize the world transportation system, but it will certainly revolutionize the $1-2 million portion of the aircraft market (perhaps 1000 small planes sell new or trade used at that level every year). Given that the jet can be split 2 or 3 ways, the plane is definitely not out of reach of the average U.S. medical doctor.

    As for the SR20 being a terrible airplane. I would agree with you. It is terribly uncomfortable. It has terrible climate control. It is terribly noisy. It is the worst four-seat single-engine plane out there for $300,000 or less… except for all of the other four-seat single-engine planes out there for $300,000 or less (which is why Cirrus is the sales leader in this category).

  7. Jonathan

    June 18, 2009 @ 4:18 pm



    ok, i see your point on the fractional ownership. $1M is reasonable for a small partnership. (though we’ll see if doctors can afford them after obama is done with healthcare!)

    regarding the SR20 being the worst except for all the others, you missed one very important feature: safety. i think cirrus is the sales leader solely because of a major fallacy in thinking among purchasers: the idea that the “control inputs” required to deploy the parachute (which you’ll be doing for the first time when you need it) are any easier to remember or execute in a terrifying situation than, say, the correct control inputs to break an incipient spin or extricate yourself from a terrain situation. the sr20’s poor initial safety record backs this up.

    while i’m certainly no expert, my feeling from reading NTSB reports (i used to follow the cirrus quite closely back when i was considering buying one) is that they really didn’t design a very safe airplane and instead put all their faith in the parachute. for a “high performance” airplane it’s grossly underpowered (to wit, the angel fire crash in NM) and i’d be willing to bet the wing is very unforgiving in the stall and prone to spins (which seem to potential explain many of the early cirrus crashes). all small airplanes are uncomfortable and noisy, but at least a 172 doesn’t falsely lure you into thinking it’s safe. (which is why, ironically, it’s safer than an SR20.)

  8. philg

    June 18, 2009 @ 10:13 pm


    Jon: The statistical safety differences between the 172 and the SR20 aren’t huge. At the most they were 2:1, which is not uncommon anyway between higher wing loading comparatively fast airplanes and the 172. The insurance on the SR20 is not significantly more than for a 172 with the same hull value and I think it is reasonable to assume that the insurance companies are keeping their eyes on the stats.

    Can a plane with anemic climb hot-and-high performance at gross weight be safe? The original C172 shipped with a 145 horsepower engine (today’s 172 has 180 horsepower, admittedly for a higher gross weight). The Cirrus POH is accurate and they put most of the performance numbers into the Avidyne MFD. All that a Cirrus pilot needs to be safe is to read the POH.

    The SR20 is not as idiot-proof as the 172 and is not as good a trainer. But it is safe when flown with some attention to airspeed and it is tough to find an airplane with comparable range and speed that is any safer statistically. A Bonanza has a higher accident rate than a 172 and nobody faults the Bonanza, maybe because it was priced at 2X the 172. The fact that the SR20 and 172 are similarly priced doesn’t mean that they should be compared. The 172 can’t do the missions that an SR20 can do. It doesn’t have the range, the speed, the passenger comfort in turbulence, etc. I will fly my SR20 in 30-knot gusts with a passenger on board. I would never have done that with the Diamond Star DA40 (similar wing loading to the C172 and similar excellent safety record) because the turbulence would have intolerable for them and horrific for me. I will fly the Cirrus in that kind of weather and so does everyone else, which is probably one reason more Cirruses get into trouble!

  9. Andy

    June 19, 2009 @ 7:46 pm


    With the sum total of all the costs, i.e. training, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and of course the cost of the aircraft itself, wouldn’t it be much cheaper for a wealthy family or group to simply charter a small jet rather than owing one?
    It is sorta like buying an expensive RV. For what they cost, you can stay in a lot of very nice hotel rooms for a long time.

  10. philg

    June 19, 2009 @ 11:26 pm


    Andy: Light jet charter costs about $2500 per hour in most parts of the country. If the owner were going away for a three-day weekend, the jet would most likely have to be ferried back to its base, effectively doubling the number of hours flown compared to the owner-pilot keeping the plane with him or her. For the person who flies just a few trips per year, charter might be cheaper. For the family that flies regularly, owning is much cheaper. A typical pair of doctors might use their jet for 300 hours per year. Considering the ferrying and repositioning inherent in charter, balanced against the faster speed of a standard light jet, this might equate to 325 hours of charter. At $2500 per hour, that’s $825,000 every year in charter expense.

  11. Barry O.

    June 21, 2009 @ 11:26 pm



    If I may ask, where are the numbers/projections that you’re relating to us coming from in regards to the projections of VLJ usage by a family?
    To me it seems that these estimations are very high for families to use a private jet, especially if they do not use the plane for a company/business use.
    At our local FBO I polled two pilots who fly private jets (capable of carrying 5-6 passengers) for local industry and neither of these guys felt that anyone other than the super rich would fly hundreds of hours per year in any of the new VLJ’s that are supposed to be available in the next gew years.

  12. philg

    June 22, 2009 @ 12:18 am


    Barry: I did not say that the average U.S. medical doctor needs or wants to fly 150 hours per year. Only that the average U.S. medical doctor who purchases a 1/2 share of a Cirrus Jet will need or want to fly 150 hours per year. Cirrus only needs to sell about 300 jets per year to have a fantastic success on its hands.

    Most of my doctor friends who own airplanes fly more than 150 hours per year (otherwise they wouldn’t own a plane). This is in turboprops that, before the Collapse of 2008, sold for $1-2 million. The faster and more comfortable the airplane, the more hours per year you’ll fly, according to a friend who has owned everything from a Baron to a Citation Jet.

    Where do the flying doctors fly? They go to Florida or the Caribbean once or twice/year, to conferences once or twice/year (often as far away as California), to vacation houses or island hospitals regularly, to Europe every couple of years. Two trips to California = 40 hours, two to Florida = 20 hours, then you’ve got the 2-hour round-trips that they do every week or so for miscellaneous reasons and you’re up to 150 hours/year. These guys are not that old, have never worked as commercial pilots, and have 6000 hours in their log book. Had they chartered those 6000 hours instead of flown them, they’d have spent $15 million instead of perhaps $3.6 million to fly the Cirrus Jet for 6000 hours (including capital expense, fuel, engine overhauls, hangar, insurance, etc.).

    Of the 800,000 active U.S. physicians, most will presumably find that a Lexus or BMW supplemented by the occasional JetBlue ticket meets their transportation needs. A Radiologist could earn $500,000 per year without ever leaving his or her house (just read scans that are sent via the Internet) and need not incur the expense of an automobile. However, a physician who serves hospitals in multiple states, a physician who speaks at conferences regularly, or a physician who simply enjoys aviation and travel can easily afford to purchase a Cirrus Jet and operate it.

    I could probably prove to myself that no doctor would ever purchase an airplane because he or she could travel via Toyota Camry and Delta Airlines at a lower cost. Yet if I visit nearly any of America’s 12,000 general aviation airports, I will find at least one expensive airplane owned by a doctor. Either something is wrong with my proof or all of these doctors are stupid. (Given that I wasn’t smart enough to go to med school and become a Radiologist, I’m reluctant to cast the first stone.)

  13. Barry O.

    June 22, 2009 @ 4:17 am


    One follow up, if I may:
    How do you know the average doctor who buys a one-half share of a Cirrus VLJ will want to fly 150 hours per year?
    Also, your friend’s assertion that the faster and more comfortable the plane, the more the owner will fly is suspect, since if that were the case, our current private jets would rack up more hours per year, on average, than any other aircraft, save trainers.
    Or am I to assume he meant faster, more comfortable and most importantly, more affordable?
    I hope the new VLJ’s are a big hit for the manufacturer’s sake, but to me the obvious thing for your doctor friends to do would be to simply charter one of rather than purchase it.

  14. philg

    June 22, 2009 @ 12:51 pm


    Barry: Current private jets, despite their brutally high operating costs, do fly many more hours per year than piston aircraft. says that non-fractional jets (i.e., ones owned wholly by an individual or company) fly an average of 400 hours per year. The industry standard for a fractionally owned plane is 1200 hours per year. A piston owner, by contrast, may fly only 75 or 100 hours per year.

    I’m impressed that you’ve proved to yourself that nobody will buy this airplane, but Cirrus somehow seems to have collected more than 400 deposits already. The significant risk now is whether they can certify it and deliver it at the promised price. The risk that nobody will buy it would require a further worldwide economic collapse.

  15. Jon

    June 25, 2009 @ 3:56 pm



    I know you have a few Mustangs and Phenoms on order and are therefore probably not in the market for a personal jet but; What did you think of the airplane from your personal perspective?

    If you had no airplanes on order would you consider the Cirrus Jet for your own use?

    Further, if you did would you seek out a partner or go it alone?

  16. philg

    June 25, 2009 @ 10:40 pm


    Jon: A Phenom 100 is in a different category in terms of being able to tackle weather (climbs to 41,000′ instead of 25,000′) and be acceptable to a charter customer.

    Would I buy a Cirrus Jet for personal use? It would depend on the mission. If I had friends or relatives that I wanted to visit on a regular basis who were 600 miles away in a city not easily reached by airline from Boston, the Cirrus Jet would be great. If I had a vacation house that I wanted to go every couple of weekends, the Cirrus Jet would be nice. For casual trips around the Northeast, the SR20 is perhaps good enough. If the weather isn’t good enough to fly the SR20 I usually don’t want to go anyway (no point in being at the beach in the rain).

    Would I have a partner? I’d probably have two partners in a plane as expensive as the Cirrus Jet, particularly given the cost of hangar and insurance (for some bizarre reason, the cost of insurance does not go up when you add partners at similar experience levels).

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