Duluth-based aircraft manufacturer Cirrus Aircraft is on pace to unveil its long-awaited lightweight personal jet by 2015.
Nearly a year ago, Cirrus' Chinese parent company China Aviation Industry General Aircraft invested almost $100 million in the plane maker to revive its Vision jet program that had been stalled by the economic recession of 2008. Since then, the company has hired about 60 people in Duluth, boosting its Twin Ports workforce to nearly 500, with about 60 more hires still pending.
Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier said about 525 people have ordered the jet, which will sell for nearly $2 million.
"The customer interest has remained extremely strong for this airplane, this is going to be an airplane that will fit truly a new niche in the market," Klapmeier said.
The Vision jet is designed to be flown by the owner, but Klapmeier said that many customers have told him they intend to hire professional pilots.
"When somebody's traveling to a business meeting, they're often thinking about the meeting," he said. "They're thinking about where they're going, not thinking about the process of getting there."
Klapmeier says he expects the first of three test planes required by the FAA to begin flying in the first quarter of next year. It is still uncertain whether the Vision jet will include Cirrus' signature full-plane parachute.