September 22, 2011
By Julie Summers Walker
New Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier announced Sept. 22 that his brother and Cirrus co-founder Alan Klapmeier, who is busy with his own company, Kestrel, will not be returning to the company.
Dale spoke to reporters during AOPA Aviation Summit just days after the company released that he was assuming the reins of the company he and his brother Alan started 25 years ago from previous CEO Brent Wouters. Todd Simmons, executive vice president of sales and marketing of Cirrus Aircraft, said news from the company is not unusual for one that manufactures the “best-selling four-place aircraft in the world.”
Although Dale spoke, it was the unusual—for an aviation manufacturer press conference—row of young children in the front row that drew attention, especially as the youngest at just 7 months chortled and sang at the top of his young lungs. The children are the sons and daughter of Joe and Connie Whisenhunt of Little Rock, Ark., who are the owners of the 5,000th delivered Cirrus aircraft. Nine-year-old son Joey and his 7-year-old brother Zeke had traveled with their father to Cirrus headquarters in Duluth to help with the aircraft’s paint scheme.
Whisenhunt is a real estate investor in Arkansas who began flying in 2009 and has now owned five Cirrus aircraft. He bought the Perspective because his wife said he needed “the safest aircraft you can buy.”
In other news, Cirrus Chief Operating Officer Pat Waddick discussed progress on the Cirrus Vision Jet, indicating that it is “fantastic to fly” and that the company is “tweaking” details on the jet. “We understand fully that it takes a minimum of three to three-and-a-half years to validate a project.” Currently tests on the parachute system are taking place in Arizona.
“I am the new CEO at Cirrus,” Dale stated. “And as such I have decided that the CEO needs to fly the Vision Jet on a weekly basis,” he added with a smile.
“Alan and I started this business because we love airplanes and because we want to get more people in aviation—we wanted it to be an enormous club. We did this to change the word, have fun, and make a little money,” he said.
It takes more than a little money to run an aircraft manufacturer, he added, saying that he is excited by the acquisition of Cirrus by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. “I am very impressed with this company; they want to see the industry grow. They want to see aviation in every corner of the world.”
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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