Cirrus Aircraft’s Vision SF50 is entering the final stages of its nine-year certification effort, as the US airframer targets mid-2016 for validation and service entry of the world’s first single-engined personal jet.
The certification timetable has been pushed back by around six months. Cirrus attributes this delay to unavoidable hitches with the flight testing process. “It’s a brand-new aircraft,” says SF50 programme manager Matthew Bergwall. “It’s also Cirrus’s first jet, so there are bound to be a few setbacks when you are producing a high-quality product."
The Duluth, Minnesota-based airframer and producer of the SR piston-single series has been developing the Williams International FJ33-5A-powered V-tail jet since 2007. The programme was accelerated in 2011, following its acquisition by Chinese general aviation aircraft company CAIGA, which has committed $100 million to bring the SF50 to market.
“Maybe the revised certification schedule was a little too ambitious,” Bergwall concedes. “But we are on the home-run now, and will be the first to market with a certificated personal jet.”
The company's three production-conforming aircraft have completed over 1,000h of flight testing since the first example took to the sky in March 2014, and the US Federal Aviation Administration has now begun in-flight evaluation of the $1.96 million, six-seat type.
In February, Cirrus will begin in-flight deployment of the SF50’s ballistic aircraft parachute system on test aircraft C-1. Load-bearing tests have already been carried out on the parachute using weights equivalent to that of the aircraft, says Bergwall, but an in-flight deployment is necessary to secure certification.
Cirrus has firm orders for more than 550 SF50s, around 80% of which are present and former owners of the SR-series.
The company plans to deliver the first aircraft in the second half of this year. “We expect to produce 50 units within 12 months of certification and ramp up to 100 aircraft by mid-2017,” Bergwall says. He notes that around 5% of early position holders are selling their slots, “mainly as a result of a change in personal circumstances”.
The bulk of orders are for US-based owners, with around 15% destined for Europe. “We will step up our sales and marketing effort here once the SF50 has secured validation from EASA,” Bergwall adds. “We expect to receive this around six months after US approval”.
The SF50 is the only survivor of a clutch of single-engined personal jets launched in the first decade of the 2000s. Other programmes, such as the Diamond D-Jet, Eclipse 400, Piper Altaire and Stratos 714, have all been cancelled or are dormant. Diamond hinted late last year that it was unlikely to resurrect the D-Jet programme in its single-engined form.