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Cirrus partners with German firm on new plane

Those who dream of owning a Cirrus aircraft but lack the financial resources to buy one received some welcome news Monday. At the AirVenture air show in Oshkosh Cirrus Design Corp. announced it will work with a German company to produce a two-sea...

Those who dream of owning a Cirrus aircraft but lack the financial resources to buy one received some welcome news Monday.

At the AirVenture air show in Oshkosh Cirrus Design Corp. announced it will work with a German company to produce a two-seater about half the price of the cheapest airplane in its current line. The new Cirrus SR Sport -- SRS for short -- probably will cost about $100,000, company spokeswoman Kate Dougherty said.

Duluth-based Cirrus will partner with Fk Lightplanes of Speyer, Germany, and will base the SRS on the Fk14 Polaris, which is manufactured in Poland.

David Coleal, Cirrus' president and chief operating officer, said his staff will work with Fk over the next year to "Cirrusize" the aircraft. The SRS will feature a glass-panel cockpit, a whole-plane parachute system, composite construction and removable wings, making it easier to transport.

Coleal said he expects manufacturing operations for the new SRS to remain in Poland, at least initially, so the introduction should have no significant impact on Cirrus' operations in Duluth or Grand Forks. If there is strong enough domestic demand for the aircraft, however, Coleal said some operations could shift stateside eventually.

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Dougherty said the SRS should be ready for market by next summer.

The SRS will be registered as a light sport aircraft and will be able to cruise at about 120 knots, the upper limit for the classification.

Coleal said he is optimistic the SRS will excite the imagination of aspiring pilots and provide an affordable entry point to plane ownership.

"We hope this will allow for more people to get into general aviation," he said.

"For years, we have talked about how we, as an industry, needed to introduce more people to flying," Cirrus Chairman and CEO Alan Klapmeier said in a news release. "We believe Cirrus has been quite successful at opening the doors of aviation through our current SR product line. The SRS is yet another example of how seriously we take this responsibility, providing a high-customer-value product that is easier to fly, more comfortable and loaded with safety features, all at an extremely affordable cost."

Cirrus isn't the only company eying the light sport aircraft market.

Cessna Aircraft Corp. unveiled a mock-up of the Model 162 SkyCatcher on Sunday at a news conference marking the opening of Oshkosh's AirVenture. Its light sport aircraft will cruise at speeds of up to 118 knots and will sell for an introductory price of $109,500.

"To have companies such as Cirrus and Cessna both going into the light sport aircraft market helps validate it," Dougherty said.

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