AEA, Cirrus visits cap Fuller's weeklong Midwest tour
Day four of AOPA President Craig Fuller’s Midwest General Aviation Leaders tour started at the new headquarters of the Aircraft Electronics Association in Lee’s Summit, Mo., on Jan. 30. Founded 52 years ago, the organization represents the owners of avionics shops, avionics technicians, and companies that manufacture and market avionics. Last summer it moved into a new office complex four times larger than its previous digs.
According to AEA President Paula Derks, technicians from numerous countries have already taken advantage of hands-on wiring and installation courses now available in classrooms at the expanded headquarters. Derks sees offering improved and more standardized training as a key role for AEA in the future as well as the responsibility to represent the interests of her members through AEA’s Washington, D.C., office staffed by Rick Peri, vice president of government and industry affairs.
The new headquarters is located only 4 miles from Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport, which, like too many airports, has battled for its existence among concerned neighbors. Leading the charge to protect the future of the airport is Gary Fox, the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer. Fox, Airport Manager John Ohrazda, and Assistant Manager Abe Forney met Fuller at AEA headquarters to discuss Lee’s Summit Municipal and issues facing all airports. Derks has joined the airport supporters in reminding local elected officials that the reason AEA relocated where it did was because of the proximity to the airport—just one of numerous nearby companies that rely on the airport.
After a brief flight to Duluth International Airport later in the day, Fuller made the final stop on the Midwest tour taxiing up to the ramp at Cirrus Design. Cirrus founder and Chairman Alan Klapmeier recounted the company’s 30-year history for Fuller and updated him on its latest development, the announcement two weeks ago that it is about to certify an anti-icing system for flight into known icing conditions. The system should be certified in the next few weeks. Klapmeier pointed out the benefits of the system, but reminded that no airplane is capable of flying through the heaviest icing and that anti-icing and deicing systems are only capable of allowing a pilot to pass through icing conditions, not linger in them. Brent Wouters, president and COO, pointed out that pilots must take an online training course before they are authorized to use the anti-icing system.
The Cirrus factory was shut down Friday during Fuller’s tour. The production line staff works four 10-hour days a week—Monday through Thursday, according to co-founder Dale Klapmeier. Like other manufacturers, Cirrus has had some layoffs and was closed during December to reduce costs and bring inventory levels in sync with sales. However, now production is back at a stable rate of eight aircraft a week, down from the high of 16 aircraft a week in September. The decreased production rate is allowing the company to look at the way it produces aircraft and find opportunities for improvement and efficiencies, according to Dale.
“At 16 a week, we were running flat out and there was no time to look for improved processes,” he said. “We’re retooling the line to be a far stronger company when the recovery emerges.”
Across the airport in its 200,000 square foot jet development facility, engineers and production staff are progressing quickly on the Cirrus Vision single-engine jet. The prototype has about 100 flight hours on it, according to Steve Serfling, executive vice president of product development. The prototype’s panel will soon be upgraded to house a Garmin Perspective panel, similar to the one Cirrus introduced on its SR-line of piston airplanes in 2008. The flight envelope has been opened up to more than 300 knots at the top end.
Alan Klapmeier showed Fuller the loading versatility of the jet, which can carry as many as seven people as far as 600 nautical miles at a max endurance setting; 500 nm at 300 KTAS. Trading some of the 1,200 pounds of useful load for fuel instead of passengers can extend the range to as far as 1,400 nm.
Prior to the visit, Fuller’s only experience flying a Cirrus was a brief trip in AOPA’s 2009 Let’s Go Flying Sweepstakes SR22. During the Duluth visit, Fuller flew an SR22 equipped with the Cirrus Perspective panel by Garmin. The panel, based on the popular Garmin G1000 integrated cockpit, includes synthetic vision technology that displays terrain and highway-in-the-sky course guidance on the primary flight display.
After a brief intro flight in the SR22, Fuller acknowledged the power of the system. “Situational awareness has never been better in light airplanes,” he observed.
February 1, 2009