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Cirrus personal jet soars in successful test flight

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When's your birthday? Cirrus-based Duluth took a step forward in getting the ultimate gift to market on Monday with the inaugural test flight for its Vision SF-50 light jet. The list price for the Vision is nearly $2 million, and Cirrus reports that 550 customers have already spent $100,000 to reserve one.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that the first version of the jet flew for the first time as Cirrus employees gathered outside the Duluth headquarters to watch it soar. The company's development of the Vision jet was stalled by the recession in 2008.

“It was like the birth of a baby,” said Todd Simmons, the company’s executive vice president of marketing and sales.

The successful test flight kicks off the beginning of an 18-month Federal Aviation Administration certification process. Flight performance and systems testing will continue, including testing the jet’s specially-designed airframe parachute system, a signature feature on Cirrus planes.

Cirrus is on track for delivery of its first jet in late 2015. MPR News explained that the Vision is a luxury personal jet intended to fill the gap between high-performance propeller planes and light business jets. The high performance single engine plane seats five adults and includes room for two children. It will fly at 345 mph and cruise up to 1,200 miles between stops.

WDIO quoted the company's chief test pilot, who noted that the single hour of fly-time followed years of work.

“It turns out it's a lot easier to fly than the prop airplanes, which are already fairly easy to fly. It's smooth, it's quiet, it's a jet, it's cool,” pilot Mike Stevens said. “You can fly higher, you can fly faster, you can fly farther and carry more stuff.”

Cirrus is the world leader in its category of small, single-engine piston planes. Production of the plane begins in Grand Forks, North Dakota, with final assembly in Duluth, where Cirrus employs about 600. About 200 employees work on the jet program, and the company has some 60 job openings for designers, engineers and others.

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