The first of its kind to achieve FAA certification and marketed as the one of the world’s safest, most economically priced and easy to use single-engine personal jet, the Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 is taking the aviation industry by storm. The tiny, yet sufficiently powerful for its size jet was developed to transition the Cirrus Aircraft customer base from the propeller driven aircraft they had grown accustomed to into a new era that highlights the capability of the single-turbofan very light jet.
In developing the all-composite aircraft, Cirrus engineers and designers kept prospective pilots and owners in mind and turned out an aircraft that is strictly intended to deliver streamlined functionality, ease of use and comfort to the individual flying the jet above others. In doing this, they had additionally ended up creating a new niche market for their competitors to strive to deliver aircraft into, the personal jet market. The company has received more than 500 orders for the aircraft and is currently backlogged. As of 2017, Cirrus developed and delivered at least 30 of the Vision jet aircraft and plans to deliver even more this year.
The journey of the Vision Jet from inception to fruition is something of an adventure and goes back at least 10 years. The project was started in 2006 but due to a decline in the economy, it was placed in a state of suspension, not necessarily halted but slowed considerably until picking up steam again in 2012. The jump-start came from an unlikely source. China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. (CAIGA) initially merged with Cirrus in 2011, once regulations were met, the merger culminated in an acquisition. Then, flush with badly needed capital, the development process was reignited.
In 2006, the company started accepting deposits for the Cirrus Vision Jet at roughly one hundred grand apiece. In an elaborate public relations attempt to market the jets, deposit holders were given drawings of the jets in the form of jigsaw puzzles, with single pieces being sent one at a time. In June of the following year, after the final piece was delivered and the deposit holder’s puzzles were complete, the jet’s final arrangement was revealed to the public.
That same year, Cirrus secured the lease of a hangar from the Duluth International Airport to be utilized in the assemblage of the jets. The lease was later canceled due to the downturn in the economy in 2009.
Throughout the state of suspension, developers were still working toward stabilizing the aircraft and improving safety as the prototype continued to fly. The jet’s initial flight was in July 2008 at Duluth International Airport. Certification was scheduled for 2015 but unfortunately, due to setbacks in the development of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System or CAPS, certification was delayed further into 2016. The first production aircraft flew in May of that year and the Williams FJ33-5A turbofan was approved by the FAA in June. In addition, on October 28th, 2016, the Vision Jet finally achieved certification.
The Vision Jet’s individual composite pieces are developed at a Cirrus production plant in Grand Forks, ND and then assembled further at Cirrus’ Duluth manufacturing facility. Then the parts are shipped as a kit and constructed at the Cirrus owned Vision Center Campus. The newly opened Vision Center is located in Knoxville, Tennessee and is the place where fledgling Vision jet owners will be introduced to their aircraft. Besides the delivery of individual aircraft, the Vision Center features an opportunity for customers to receive factory direct training in their aircraft. Additional options include future servicing of customers aircraft ensuring they receive maintenance from the same place in which their jet was constructed via the factory service center.
Emphasizing safety and comfort over performance, the Cirrus Vision Jet design’s expressed purpose is to deliver ease of use to the pilot. The spacious seating can comfortably accommodate up to 5 passengers in three rows, with the optional removal of the third row to supplant child appropriate seating for two. Multi-zone climate control, WIFI connectivity and entertainment displays round out the experience in the cabin.
The flight deck consists of a derivation of Garmin G3000 Cirrus Perspective Touch. The Garmin G3000 is a touch screen integrated avionics systems developed for use in light turbine aircraft. Vision Jet’s avionics feature three touchscreen controllers and two fully integrated flight displays.
The Vision Jet is powered by a single top-mounted Williams FJ33-5A turbofan engine 1,800 lbf thrust. The FJ33 series of engines are often used to power VLJs. The variation used on the Vision Jet, the FJ33-5A is the most recent in the series and was certified in 2016.
Safety was a priority in the envisioning of the jet’s design from the start, hence the implementation of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System or CAPS. In the event of engine failure above 1000 feet AGL, the CAPS system will cause a parachute to propel or deploy from the nose of the aircraft. According to the Cirrus website, the CAPS system is responsible for the saving of over one hundred lives in previous Cirrus manufactured aircraft. The jet is additionally equipped with an emergency descent mode that activates should the system detect a cabin altitude that is too elevated.
The Cirrus Vision Jet has the fuel capacity to hold up to 2,000 lbs. in two wing tanks. At full capacity, the jet can achieve a 1,200nm range with a payload less than 500 lbs. Maximum cruise speed is 300 knots and the maximum operating altitude is 28,000 feet.
Pilots who have been asked to test the functionality and feel of the Vision Jet have reported that the aircraft is a pleasure to fly and it has been well received with the Cirrus customer base who have only previously flown piston engine planes and are looking to fly jets. In fact, a large number of the backlogged orders can be attributed to previous owners of Cirrus aircraft who simply love to fly the planes the aircraft manufacturer designs. In addition, not just pilots and operators are singing the jet’s praises.
Recently, the Vision Jet’s design was awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy for the “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America” for efforts in developing the world’s first single-engine personal jet aircraft featuring a whole airframe parachute system.
So, spacious and comfortable accommodation, ergonomic design to enhance the piloting experience, lightweight composite airframe, sleek and stylish appearance, not to mention that the purchase price of roughly 2 million is less than comparable turbofan aircraft making the Cirrus Vision Jet an absolute bargain especially when coupled with its numerous attributes in safety, technological advancement, and comfort.