How Cirrus' SF50 Vision Earned the Robert J. Collier Trophy

There's good reason for Cirrus to be recognized with the Robert J Collier Trophy this year. Dave Higdon reflects on the revolutionary design and processes involved in bringing the Cirrus SF50 Vision jet to market...

Dave Higdon  |  16th April 2018
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    Dave Higdon
    Dave Higdon

    Dave Higdon was a highly respected, NBAA Gold Wing award-winning aviation journalist who covered all...

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    Cirrus Vision Private Jet


    For 115 years, aviation’s progress has been a relentless, endless process. And for a century, National Aeronautics Association’s (NAA) Robert J. Collier Trophy has recognized people, events, programs or airplanes as the latest example of that relentless pursuit of progress. This year, Cirrus Aircraft won the award, and for good reason, notes Dave Higdon...

    Some recipients were quite literally out of this world (in 2009 the International Space Station received recognition, whereas in 2012 it was the turn of the NASA/Jet Propulsion Labs' Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity team).

    More often, recipients came from among Business Aviation's standout programs. For example:

    • 1996: NAA tapped the Citation X design team as Cessna Aircraft
    • 2003: NAA recognized the Gulfstream G550, and
    • 2014: NAA recognized Gulfstream Aerospace for its groundbreaking G650 business jet

    And now the 2017 recipient, announced recently, represents a concept long pursued, routinely denigrated, yet ultimately successful: A single-engine jet…

    The Cirrus SF50 Vision

    NAA has recognized Cirrus Aircraft for designing, certifying and entering into service the world's first single-engine business jet – a goal long pursued amid little belief that such a project could succeed. NAA also cited Cirrus' inclusion of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) as standard on the SF50.

    Cirrus pioneered the airplane-with-parachute concept. It also succeeded where many others have failed in developing a single-engine jet. VisionAire, Gulfstream Aerospace, Beech Aircraft (with a single-engine jet variant of the ill-fated Starship 2000), Piper, Diamond Aircraft and at least another half dozen have attempted to bring a single-engine jet to market over the last 20 years.

    Cirrus co-founder Alan Klapmeier (now with One Aviation) pushed the Cirrus Vision from a concept into a prototype, putting the program on a solid-enough footing to survive corporate upheavals, ownership changes, a debilitating recession and the doubters within Business Aviation.

    Alan's brother, Dale, gained the ownership support to fly the SF50 across the finish line.

    Such is the way with visionaries, endowed with a relentless drive to succeed where others say they can't to concepts to life that relatively few believed in. It reflects the type of progress the Wright Brothers made in 1903. As Orville and Wilbur refused to listen, so Alan Klapmeier refused to back down.

    Now, after decades of repeated failure, the relentless pursuit of progress we see before us that met with recognition; something others said could not and would not happen has been achieved and celebrated. With other single-engine jet programs stirring, don't be surprised to see more come to succeed despite their critics.


     

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