My wife and I just got back from Duluth last night. We went up for the weekend specifically to tour the factory yesterday. We stayed at The Fitgers Inn which was very nice ($85/night even though they quoted me $150 for one night and $99 for the other night). Drove out to the airport on Sunday just to see the place and make sure we had our directions right for our 8:00 AM appointment. No one around the factory on Sunday afternoon but there were at least 15 planes sitting on the ramp. All but 2 were 22’s.
On Monday we arrived at 7:55 AM. The place was hopping. They had a record SIX deliveries scheduled for that day and it was a little chaotic. It didn’t help any that the girl who had arranged our tour had called in sick and they seemed to know nothing about our scheduled tour. Despite the apparent surprise and a record delivery day, they found me an instructor and we went for a Demo flight in an SR20 (my choice. I didn’t want to experience a 22 knowing I had just passed up a good deal to convert.) We flew about 45 minutes and the plane responded to my rusty hand very well. We came back to DLH and did 2 touch and go’s and then a full stop. One the second T & G a 737 was waiting our arrival at the departure end. On the third landing, 2 F16’s were holding waiting for us to land and roll out before they were cleared for the active (that was very satisfying). I am sure as they accelerated down the runway 50 ft AGL with the afterburner lit followed by essentially a vertical climb they had forgotten about having to wait on the Cirrus sliding down the glidepath at 80 kts indicated.
After the Demo flight we checked out the interior of a 22 with Avidyne and Sandel both of which are on my option list.
Following that we went on a tour with Allison. Had she not been available, Ian Bentley had already offered to do the tour personally. The shop was wall-to-wall airplanes. Not counting the unmated fuselage halves which had just arrived from Grand Forks, there were at least 45-50 fuselages on the assembly line including 4 in the oven. Plus there would have been at least 3 in Hibbing for paint. All of the painted planes were 22’s with the vast majority of the next 20 slated to be 20’s. All of the interior color combinations were pleasing and I still don’t have a first choice. Even the new fabric is very tasteful and rich-looking.
If there is any question about lightning-protection mesh in the composite, it is clearly visible in the molded fuselage halves as they come from Grand Forks. Once the grey stuff goes on you can’t see it.
After the tour, Ian spent probably another 45 minutes with us even though I am sure he had other things he could be doing. Some of the things he told us are:
–Another Customer Update is forthcoming any day.
–Production will most likely switch to larger batches of 20’s and 22’s exclusively to improve on the inefficiencies of continually switching between the two. The batches could be up to two months long.
–Because of the above schedules, SR20’s scheduled at the very end of the year could actually come early. In the very near future they will ask SR20 holders scheduled for the rest of this year if they want their plane ASAP with vacuum pumps or want to delay until the beginning of 2003 to get a Version 2.x. This will allow them to tweak the production schedule.
–SR20 Version 2.0 will start with the first SR20 built after 12/31/02. (This is in contradiction to what I posted a few weeks ago where I had been told the change would happen in July). Hopefully this means 1/02/03.
–He seemed surprised there had been so little discussion on the board about the Version 2.0 even though Cirrus officials don’t follow the discussions:)
–Production is at a solid 9 planes per week (that was easy to believe with the number of planes I saw on the floor.)
–He expressed his dismay at the fatal accident rate and emphasized the need for safe flying. He stated that the fleet time is about 85,000 hours.
–He recommended the Hawthorne Suites for delivery even in the winter. More good restaurants without having to get in the car to drive, and not that much more expensive than staying near the airport.
From the time we left Cirrus at noon, waited 5 hours for our flight to MSP, hurried to our flight for MEM, then ran to our flight for GSP, then flew home (arriving after 11:30 PM) I had read all of Jim Fallows’ book on Airline Hell. Today I went back to the airport to pick up the suitcase that couldn’t get through MEM as fast as we did.