Demand for personal aviation appears to be at an all-time high, according to Cirrus Aircraft president Zean Nielsen, speaking during the company’s CX 2022 event in Knoxville, Tennessee, on January 11. Providing generalized sales and production numbers, Nielsen cited a company backlog of about 700 SR series single-engine piston aircraft and “several hundred” SF50 Vision Jets even as the company increased production in 2021 to build an aircraft every 16 hours.
In 2021, Cirrus built 548 aircraft—86 of which were Vision Jets—versus 420 in 2020. The company saw an 80 percent increase in net orders per week for SR series products and more than 117 net orders for the Vision Jet in 2021.
“The fact that 39 percent of all the new [SR] orders in 2021 were [customers] new to aviation is huge,” Nielsen said. “It means that we are expanding the size of the market. We believe the market is infinitely larger than the traditional GA market that we play in today. We just need to make it easy, affordable, and convenient to own and operate a Cirrus.”
Nielsen said the company is about three years into a 10-year goal to triple its size and has already doubled. It hired 450 new employees in 2021 and is adding another 400 employees in production, engineering, IT, and training in 2022. In addition to hiring at the headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota, Cirrus has opened two new Innovation Centers in the past year—McKinney, Texas, north of Dallas; and Chandler, Arizona, southwest of Phoenix. Both are staffed with 16 to 18 engineers with the objective to hire an additional 100 engineers across all three facilities in 2022.
“We are doubling down on innovation and growth,” said Nielsen. “We want to create a Mecca for engineers in innovation. Think of an Area 51-like environment where all the secret fun stuff takes place. That’s how serious we are about innovation.”
Nielsen and other company representatives underscored their pride in Cirrus's quest for innovation, noting the prestigious Robert J. Collier trophies bestowed on the company in 2018 for the Vision Jet and on Garmin for its Autoland system—rebranded as Safe Return in the Vision Jet—in 2021. The emphasis on safety, innovation, and customization options has drawn new customers; while 76 percent of Vision Jets delivered in 2021 went to SR owners, 16 percent were customers new to the Cirrus brand.
“We’re deliberately pacing our production to get planes out in the field but also serving our customers appropriately,” said Vision Jet product line director Matt Bergwall, who noted that the Vision Jet received more orders in 2021 than when the jet was first unveiled in 2008. “We’re seeing a shift from the early adopters to the steady demand that we’re seeing in the SR series airplane. We’re excited about [the 117 net orders in 2021] and what it’s doing to our order book.”
The 2022 G6 SR series incorporates innovations that increase the speed, comfort, utility, and aesthetics of the single-engine high-performance SR20, SR22, and SR22T piston singles. The refined design shared by all three models includes several aerodynamic features to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency such as sleeker wing and tail surfaces, redesigned wheel pants with tighter tolerances, and smoothed ice panel transition seams. The overall aerodynamic styling changes contribute to a true airspeed increase of up to 9 knots and greater fuel efficiency.
“This latest update to the G6 embodies our passion for continued innovation and commitment to design,” said Ivy McIver, director of the SR series product line. “We are excited to continue introducing more people to personal aviation and empowering their 'Cirrus Life' story.”
Other 2022 improvements to the G6 SR series include Cirrus Aircraft Spectra illuminated steps that also project the Cirrus logo under the step for increased safety and style; a redesigned baggage compartment door that unlocks with a key fob, opens past 90 degrees, and remains open for easier loading and unloading; a multi-functional device charging panel with USB-A and USB-C ports; and eight new paint schemes. The new paint schemes can also now be interchanged with a variety of all-leather interior options.
The company also announced updates to its Cirrus IQ app, which provides additional customization and information about the customer’s own aircraft. The Cirrus IQ status screen now has aircraft model designation and a navigation bar with aircraft status, inspection intervals, and warranty expiration, all updated whenever the aircraft is flown. The app tracks and logs flights, using the information to send notifications of upcoming maintenance and inspection events through its Maintenance Minder module. It also compiles trip statistics in My Trips and updates date and flight-hour limits for the Spinner-to-Tail warranty coverage.