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Sat, Jul 28, 2007

Aero-News Endeavors To Reveal 'True' Cirrus Audience

Buyers Come From Far And Wide, But Who Are They?

by ANN Correspondent Matt Russell

Yes, yes, we know you’re thinking of Brangelina. And even at AirVenture, Cirrus set up a plasma screen to run closed-loop video of the cutesy couple canoodling in Angelina's SR22 somewhere out west.

But we wanted to know who the real Cirrus owners are. Moreover, in a time filled with poor statistics and doomsday predictions for General Aviation, we want to know how Cirrus bucks the trends. Somehow, in a time of fewer new pilots, fewer student pilots, and fewer hours flown by General Aviation with each passing year, Cirrus manages to set significant annual sales gains. The single-engine wonders from Duluth are the best selling airplanes in the world.

At AirVenture, we sat down with Tim Hurst of Marketing at Cirrus, and asked a few questions. Tim was able to confirm a suspicion at ANN... brand new pilots only occupy a small fraction of overall Cirrus clients. Since that’s the case, we deduced that the remainder of Cirrus clients must be coming from other types of airplanes.

Hurst explained many Cirrus clients have been flying other common high-performance planes for years. Others have been flying aircraft below the high-performance threshold, and choose a Cirrus product for the next step. Still others had stopped flying several years back, and choose Cirrus products for their personal returns-to-flight. Owners coming from partnerships or fractional programs are common, and many choose to retain such arrangements when moving to their first Cirrus product.

Perhaps the most enlightening fact is that a large number of Cirrus aircraft are exported each year. Hurst declined to give exact numbers, but did state Brazil is the most active export market for Cirrus.

Ernesto Maurer of Elgg, Switzerland leads a community of passionate Cirrus pilots in Europe. Three years ago, Maurer took delivery of the one-hundredth Cirrus exported to Europe. Appropriately, he received registration number N100EU.
 
Maurer chooses to use his Cirrus for pleasure, rather than business. "When I am on business," he says, "I choose to focus on business entirely, so I should not be flying. But when I am on holiday, I enjoy nothing more than taking my own plane." With $8 Avgas, European airspace restrictions, guaranteed landing fees, and an infant service network, Maurer reflects the spirit of sport aviation through his will to continue flying.

When asked about his prior flight experience, Maurer said he mainly flew Mooneys. "The interior [design] of the Cirrus is so smart, so advanced, that once you fly it you can never go back," he says. "With the Mooney, if you are able to climb into the seat you’ve already earned your medical certificate," he jokes.

Maurer agreed with ANN’s earlier observation that pilots and manufactures are now embracing luxury car experiences as standards for aircraft... and, with the industry's apparent comparison of choice. "I drive a BMW, and when you fly the Cirrus, it’s the same. My passengers think it’s the same. That’s how it should be today."

Maurer has accumulated about 500 hours in the past three years of ownership. "My favorite part is to tell my friends about the ‘chute," he says, referring to the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) on each Cirrus aircraft. "Many of them cannot believe me. They say ‘I always thought it wasn’t possible’ and then I show them the handle. They react with disbelief!" Cirrus’s Tim Hurst explains how the families and friends of Cirrus owners respond to the CAPS system. "It’s as if each pilot has chosen an excellent, passenger friendly plane to start with, and with the CAPS they are hedging their bet."

Hurst also believes the CAPS system has brought a number of pilots back from "private pilot retirement."

FMI: www.cirrusdesign.com

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