Cirrus Outlook Includes Turboprop Single; Jet Plans Solid

Former Epic Escape model could be built in Duluth.

Epic Escape

Epic Escape

Epic Escape

At the company's global sales meeting in Central Florida that is currently under way, Cirrus' Pat Waddick told Flying that the company is taking a very tentative look into production of a variant of the all-composite Epic Escape, the sleek, single-engine turboprop from former kit- and would-be certificated manufacturer Epic Aircraft of Bend, Oregon. Cirrus' parent company, CAIGA, purchased the assets of Epic out of bankruptcy last year. Cirrus Executive VP of sales and marketing Todd Simmons said that Cirrus is simply "evaluating to see if there is an opportunity" with a turboprop product, which would seem natural given Cirrus' long experience with composite construction.

The single-engine pressurized turboprop niche is today populated by few airplanes, with only the Piper Meridian coming in at less than $3 million.Simmoms stressed that any discussion of a launch was premature.

If Cirrus does wind up building out some highly evolved version of the Epic design at some time down the line, it might have some competition for customers and not just from Piper. By the time it goes to market, other entrants into that market might await, possibly including Cessna (though it has downplayed its interest in that market, calling a modified Mustang powered by a single Pratt PT-6 that flew last year pure R&D). Another possible competitor, Kestrel, is headed by Cirrus co-founder Alan Klapmeier. That company is reported to be exploring a return to the Duluth area in the near future from its current home in Brunswick, Maine. Kestrel is reportedly still in the fund raising phase and has yet to finalize the design of the airplane.

Waddick also told Flying that progress on the SF50 Vision jet program continues, with CAIGA having made a solid commitment to the program. The company, he said, is currently re-ramping for the continued design and is hiring engineers toward that end, though Waddick admitted that it will be another six months before the program has attained its previous high-water mark. While Simmons expressed pleasure with the progress of the jet program's relaunch, he said that the company has yet to announce a certification date for the aircraft.