Cirrus 4-seaters outsell Cessna; AVIATION:Cirrus passes Cessna to become the largest seller of single-engine, four-seat airplanes.
BY PETER PASSI
NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
2 May 2004
© Copyright 2004, Duluth News-Tribune. All Rights Reserved.
For the first time in its history, Cirrus Design Corp. of Duluth can lay claim to selling more single-engine, four-seat airplanes than any other company on the planet.
During the past week, Cirrus grabbed those bragging rights from Cessna Aircraft Co., its Wichita, Kan.-based competitor. Data collected by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for the first quarter of 2004 showed Cirrus selling 105 four-seat airplanes – 16 more than Cessna shipped during the same period.
The two companies have been engaged in a fierce dogfight for top billing in the same aircraft category for the past couple of years. But until now, every time Cirrus made a run at Cessna, its Wichita rival managed to edge ahead.
Case in point: the final quarter of 2003, when Cirrus pushed its production to an all-time high of 162 airplanes only to see Cessna best that number by one.
The first quarter of the year is typically one of the weaker periods for airplane sales, so it’s not surprising that Cessna and Cirrus reported shipment declines in early 2004.
But this quarter, Cirrus also had to deal with some extenuating circumstances associated with retooling its production line and launching a souped-up version of its airplane, dubbed the SR22-G2.
Ultimately, Cirrus employ- ees’ hard work paid off, said John Bingham, executive vice president of marketing.
“This is a historic day for Cirrus,” he said. “I joined the company 18 months ago, and I knew coming in that one of Cirrus’ key objectives was to become the leading general aviation company in the world.”
While Bingham and his colleagues relished the news that they had overtaken Cessna, he said: “There’s a huge sense of determination to build on this. We know we’ve still got three more quarters to go.”
Bingham said he and his colleagues at Cirrus aren’t about to underestimate Cessna.
“Cessna makes a good aircraft, and they’re very well-known. They wouldn’t have survived this long if they weren’t a good competitor,” he said.
Still, looking forward, Bingham said Cirrus has reason for optimism. He noted that during the first quarter of this year, the company’s newly expanded sales staff booked a record number of orders for Cirrus airplanes – 170. Those orders should keep Cirrus’ Duluth assembly plant busy during the second quarter, Bingham predicts.
Bill King, Cirrus’ vice president of business administration, expects Cirrus will continue to build sales, largely on the back of the SR22, a beefier version of the company’s original flagship in the four-seat market, the SR20.
“If you look at the numbers, the SR22 is the most popular airplane in the aerospace market right now, bar none,” King said.
During the first quarter of 2004, Cirrus shipped 66 SR22s. Meanwhile, Cessna shipped 61 Skyhawks – its most popular four-seat airplane. During the fourth quarter of 2003, before its retooling initiative, Cirrus enjoyed an even greater edge, delivering 134 SR22s, compared with Cessna’s production of 98 Skyhawks.
Cessna also produces another less-popular four-seater, the 182 Skylane.
King said Cirrus’ airplanes benefit from a sleeker, more efficient design than Cessna’s. But at the end of the day, he said, Cirrus’ success stems from the quality of the airplane its workers build.
“It’s not as much about a great design or about brilliant administration,” he said. “It’s about the people who build these airplanes. We have the best manufacturing people in the world.”