Updates on some of the more active development programs among business aircraft
Cirrus Vision SF50
In mid April, Cirrus Aircraft announced that its new owner, China Aviation Industry General Aircraft, had committed an additional $100 million-plus to fund full development of the single-turbofan Vision SF50 personal jet. First flight of a production-conforming version now is planned for mid-2013 with certification and initial customer deliveries slated for second half 2015, according to Todd Simmons, executive vice president of Cirrus sales and marketing. The aircraft is designed to serve an easy step up from the manufacturer's SR20/22 piston-engine models to the entry-level turbofan aircraft.
Vision's commodious cabin will provide seating for five adults and two children. Top speed is expected to be around 300 KTAS and max range is targeted at close to 1,000 nm. However, the aircraft will be limited to a 500 lb. payload with max fuel, and thus there will be significant range versus payload tradeoffs. Slow speed performance should be a strong suit, providing easy handling in the landing configuration and short runway requirements.
Cirrus already has spent $40-50 million on development and flight testing of a non-conforming proof-of-concept single-engine turbofan aircraft. Simmons claims that a “substantial majority” of the basic engineering work for a production aircraft has been accomplished, including expansion of the low- and high-speed boundaries of the flight envelope, stall characteristics, taming thrust/pitch coupling of the top-mounted engine on the tail cone and performance in icing conditions. Notably, production versions of the Vision will use a TKS deice system on the nose to protect the engine from airframe ice ingestion. The engine inlet will use bleed air for anti-icing and conventional deice boots will be fitted to the wings and empennage.
Company critics have asserted that the Duluth, Minn., OEM now has the funding for the Vision, but not the engineering talent to push through a production aircraft to certification. Simmons countered that the firm still has a strong core and depth on its engineering team, including Chief Engineer Paul Johnston, Aero Structures Lead Paul Brey, Executive Vice President and COO Pat Waddick and Chief Vision Engineer Dave Rathbun.