July 4, 2011
By Thomas B Haines
In an exclusive AOPA Live interview, Cirrus Aircraft CEO Brent Wouters talks about what his company’s merger with a Chinese firm means for the aircraft manufacturer, vendors, jet position holders, Cirrus owners, and jobs in America. Wouters, never short of words or opinions, recounts why the U.S. investment community shies away from investing in aviation companies and why countries like China are snapping them up.
After months of rumors, Cirrus announced in February that a deal was complete for the company to be merged with China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) Co. Ltd. The deal was scrutinized by federal authorities before it was signed and completed on June 24.
According to Wouters, the merger, which he calls “an inflection point” for the company, erases nearly all of Cirrus’ debt, and with additional investment from CAIGA, the long stagnant single-engine VisionJet program can begin to move forward more rapidly. He predicts the project still needs $100 million and three years to complete, although with the additional funding, certification may be achieved sooner. Regardless, new hiring will begin soon to ramp up the development project.
In the wide-ranging interview, Wouters hints at other new development projects for the company and enhancements to the current product line. He also offers his observations on the contentious departure of Cirrus founder Alan Klapmeier and why Wouters believes there is no longer a place for Klapmeier in the company.
Did Cirrus do the right thing in accepting the Chinese investment? Share your comments in this Reporting Points blog.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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