Is the 'Vision' Fading or Getting Clearer?8:58 AM
About three summers ago, I was strolling one of the back rows at EAA Airventure, probably on my way to consume another brat off Johnsonville's "World's Largest Grill". As I walked, I noticed that walking beside me as a sort of wing man was a guy wearing that year's Cirrus Design outfit, with a big ID badge telling me it was Alan Klapmeier. So I struck up a quick conversation, told him I am in awe of the wonderful flying machines his company makes, and how someday I would own one. The conversation lasted maybe two minutes, but in that time he seemed sincere in wanting to know my thoughts on the 'SR' line of airplanes he produced. I could easily see this was a man who actually cared about what this pilot thought...not as a prospective sale, but just because he bought into that age-old concept that in almost all situations, pilots treat other pilots with mutual respect regardless of class. It's just what we do.
When you look back at the Cirrus sales numbers on the General Aviation Manufacturer's Association website for the last 10 years, it is easy to see this company knows how to build and sell airplanes. The highest year looks to be 2006 when GAMA says Cirrus sold 721 total planes. Nobody can dispute that is a success story without equal in today's GA marketplace. Yes, Cessna sells planes too, but they get to ride on 82 years of brand recognition. I believe the company the Klapmeiers founded is a bigger success simply because in 1984 when Alan and Dale started to produce the VK-30 aircraft, nobody had even heard of Cirrus. Today, it still brings a smile to this pilot's face each and every time I see one on a ramp, or hear any radio call from the hundreds of beautiful birds I share the sky with that have call signs ending in "Charlie Delta".
"Alan Klapmeier, chairman of the board at the Cirrus Aircraft, says he’s had a heavy travelling schedule for the past eight weeks, seeking investors to help him gain control of Cirrus’ SF50 Vision program. His goal is to raise enough capital to convince Cirrus’s majority investor, Kuwait’s Arcapita Ventures investment group, to sell him the Vision project and let him lead a separate company dedicated to manufacturing the SF50 Vision single-engine jet."
One has to assume that Klapmeier – who has been a catalyst behind the SF50 program – has seen some sort of writing on the Board Room walls, and didn't like what he read. That could have possibly been that Cirrus's other managers and financial backers were about to pull the plug on the Vision jet, and Klapmeier wasn't about to stand by and let the program die. So like he did when he and Dale first built Cirrus, he went out in search of a way to keep the program alive. This is really the only conclusion one can take, because why would he be seeking to start a completely new company and possibly re-name the jet “Aegis” if the program was going to be alive and well under the umbrella of Cirrus Design?