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Sat, Aug 01, 2009

Cirrus President Says Jet Program Moving Forward

Brent Wouters Tells ANN "Nothing Has Changed"

Cirrus President Brent Wouters says Cirrus is proceeding with the Cirrus Jet project, calling it a strategic initiative for the company that is attracting investor interest and is moving forward into detailed design.

Brent Wouters

"The entire circumstance with Alan and his proposal to take over the jet has been a substantial management distraction," Wouters told ANN. "The irony is it's been a lot of public discussion" which has raised the profile of the project.

"We remain committed to it. Nothing about this has changed that," he said.

According to Wouters, Cirrus founder Alan Klapmeier approached Cirrus about buying the jet project, Cirrus did not approach him. "He asked for an opportunity to make a proposal, and played it out very publicly," Wouters said. "We were skeptical" of Klapmeier's ability to secure funding to buy the program, Wouters said. And Klapmeier "backing out" (Wouters words) is "fine with us." " I was on record as saying it was a Cirrus program, and that Cirrus had a strong commitment," he said. "Despite all the public discourse about this supposed proposal, we haven't wavered one ounce."

Wouters said he felt Cirrus had "negotiated in good faith", with Klapmeier, and had made a valid counter offer. "The gap in valuation has nothing to do with his choice," Wouters said. "We interpret this as an inability to raise sufficient funding."

Wouters told ANN the very public nature of this discussion has raised the profile of the Cirrus Jet.  "We don't have all the answers as to how we'll completely fund it.  We're selling airplanes, and that will help us continue work on the project," he said. Deposits placed for the airplane are also playing a role.  But he went on to say, basically, that there is no such thing as bad publicity. "We have received multiple inquiries as a result of this and other publicity from people who have the money and want to invest in Cirrus," he said. "...serious multiple inbound investing inquiries.  There is no doubt they have available funds.  They've expressed a strong desire.  Whether they'll invest is not certain, but they're asking."

Wouters said the jet program is on track, with the release of the final shapes of the wing and fuselage and about 200 hours on the prototype airframe. The program is now entering into what Wouters called the 'detailed design phase'. "A lot of engineers need to have their heads down at computers to design every element of every system, structure, and interior in order to certify," he said. '"There won't be many milestones that people will visibly see. That takes an enormous amount of time." Wouters said he expects some 18-21 months of detailed design work into things like icing systems, parachute systems, interior and cockpit design. All to make the airplane easy to manufacture.

The bottom line, from Wouters' perspective, is that the jet will be built, and it will be a Cirrus project. "We're executing the jet plan.  We're making great progress. We're selling airplanes. We have a business that is performing very well, and that business is funding that R&D Program," he said. "We're proceeding forward as if it hadn't happened."

FMI: www.cirrusaircraft.com

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