Cirrus Aircraft’s ambition to be the first to market with a single-engined personal jet looks set to become a reality, as it prepares its Vision SF50 prototype for first flight next month.

The certification aircraft, C-Zero, will be used for flight performance verification. The two remaining test aircraft – C-One and C-Two – are scheduled to enter service in the second and fourth quarter, and will be used for systems verification and parachute testing, respectively.

An earlier configuration "technology demonstrator" – dubbed V1 – has accumulated around 800 flying hours and 1,000 engine runs since it was built in 2008. However, the new prototypes are more reflective of the production jet, says Cirrus executive vice-president of sales marketing Todd Simmons.

"The purpose of V1 has been to verify and validate the Vision jet design," Simmons says. "C-Zero is the summation of everything we have learned from V-1. For example, we have slightly changed the size and shape of the ruddervators, stabilisers, tail arm and the wing root junction.

"We have also made slight changes to [the] aerodynamic shape of the fuselage, [the] engine mount and its position on the aircraft, along with the interior. To the casual observer C-Zero will not look any different to V1."

The Vision has been a key focus for Cirrus since its launch more than seven years ago. Even during the economic crisis and the funding shortage that ensued, the Duluth, Minnesota-based airframer continued to work on the programme – albeit on a piecemeal basis.

The acquisition of Cirrus in 2011 by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft gave the programme new momentum.

"CAIGA has committed $100 million to bring the Vision to market," Simmons says. "We are on track to certificate and deliver the first aircraft in 2015."

The $1.96 million Vision is equipped with a Garmin G3000 cockpit and an emergency parachute system. Powered by a Williams International FJ33 turbofan, the aircraft has a range of 1,200nm (2,220km), a stall speed of 61kt and a cruise speed of 300kt (556km/h).

Cirrus has secured 550 orders for the Vision to date – each with a $100,000 deposit. "Our customers range from [Cirrus] SR22 piston single operators to owners of high performance piston twins and single-engined turboprops, all wanting to move to a jet platform," says Simmons. "Our position holders come from across the globe, so once we have secured US approval we will get to work [certificating] the aircraft in the countries where our customers are based."

Cirrus plans to offer a dedicated training programme to enable customers to secure their Vision type rating.