Orders for new Cirrus jet up, but barely

That small jet being developed by Duluth-based Cirrus takes to the skies around Duluth just about every day.

Look up and you might see the Cirrus Vision Jet’s distinctive V-shaped tail, and the red over white color scheme. It’s a sleek, unique-looking aircraft designed for personal and regional business travel, and it seats five to seven people.

"It’s out flight testing, ice testing, testing the airplane’s systems," says Todd Simmons, Cirrus’ marketing director and the go-to guy for reporters. "The jet in most cases is flying daily… at altitudes of up to 28,000 feet."

During a web conference on Wednesday , Cirrus officials gave buyers, prospective buyers and anyone else interested, an update on the plane’s development. It’s undergoing engineering and extensive testing and trials before it will go into production in late 2012 with delivery in 2013. The jets’ future pilots also will go through intensive flight training before they can fly the plane, a program that will include mentors.

The time line is still on schedule, officials say.

As of Wednesday, Cirrus has 431 orders for the jets, which cost $1.72 million, up from $1.39 million last year. When you consider that in late January there were 428 orders, that doesn’t seem like much of an increase.

That’s because 20 to 25 would-be buyers have backed out this year (on top of 50 last year). But here’s the "Ya, but:" All those spots have been resold and then some, for a slight net increase, explained Simmons. The number doesn’t include Vision Jets reserved for fleets and demonstrations.

"We’re making good progress, even in difficult times in this industry," Simmons said. "The order book remains strong."

Gary Black, Cirrus’ director of jet sales, said 106 new orders for the jets have come in in the last six months. And Cirrus continues to get one to two new orders a week. These orders aren’t frivolous, they’re backed with $100,000 deposits.

Orders made after Jan 1 are even more serious. Those who back out don’t get their deposits back. But those who placed their orders before Jan. 1 can still get their deposits back.

More than 50 people have shifted their deposits toward the purchase of Cirrus’ SR-22 or SR-20 piston engine planes which cost from $440,000 to $650,000. If you’re interested, that offer that will expire June 30.