Cirrus Sold to Chinese Company

By William Garvey william_garvey@aviationweek.com 
 Having recently acquired a U.S.-based aviation engine maker as well as a kit plane company, the Chinese are now buying Cirrus Industries, the Duluth, Minn., builder of the four-place Cirrus SR22 family of aircraft. The acquisition, announced today, is expected to close by midyear. Terms of the transaction were not released.

Cirrus President and CEO Brent Wouters said today that all manufacturing would continue in the U.S. and that there were no immediate plans by the buyer, China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd (CAIGA), to build Cirrus aircraft in China. Currently, the majority ownership of Cirrus rests with investors in Bahrain.

Under the agreement, which has been in the works for the past 20 months, CAIGA will become the full owner of the company, which employs nearly 500 workers at a plant in Grand Forks, N.D., as well as the final assembly facility in Duluth. The company delivered 264 new aircraft last year as well as 130 used models. It says its aircraft have been the best selling in their class for the past nine years.

Wouters says the acquisition will help accelerate new product development in general and a new single-engine jet in particular. The company has begun building production tooling for the jet, he says, but certification and delivery is at least three years away.

Of the nearly 5,000 Cirrus aircraft delivered in the past decade, only about 15 are based in China. That could change as a result of today’s announcement. Wouters says the Chinese recognize a need for training aircraft, and that Cirrus products could serve that purpose well. The acquisition “will allow us to open that market,” he said.

Current management will continue, he said, adding that CAIGA fully endorses his future view. “My vision is go bigger or go home,” Wouters said. “We’re going big.”

Last year the Chinese purchased Teledyne Industries Continental Engine Co. as well as rights to Epic Aircraft, a bankrupt maker of high performance kit planes.

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