I flew on the cheapest private jet in the world and it's truly a game changer
- The Cirrus Vision Jet is a small, single-engine, carbon fibre private jet.
- At R25 million, it's the most affordable private jet in the world and costs roughly half as much as its closest rivals.
- The Vision has room for up to five adults.
- It has a range of 1,800km while cruising at 555km/h and 8,500m.
For most of us, jet ownership is something that is more fantasy than reality. After all, few have millions to burn on a private jet.
However, Cirrus is trying to bring that dream closer to reality for more people with the new Vision Jet.
At around R25 million, it's the most affordable private jet on sale today. In fact, it's roughly half the price of its closest jet-powered competitors.
Cirrus Aircraft was founded as Cirrus design in the mid-1980s and is a company best known for its small, single-engine prop planes. For the Duluth, Minnesota-based planemaker, the Vision Jet represents the next chapter in its history.
According to Matt Bergwall, the director of the Vision Jet product line, it will not only attract new customers to Cirrus but also allow it to retain its existing customers when they decide to step up to a jet.
The Vision Jet has been in the works for more than a decade. The prototype made its first flight in 2008, but the financial crisis delayed the plane's development. In fact, the Vision Jet didn't enter production until December 2016.
A couple of weeks ago, Business Insider got the chance to experience the Vision Jet in person. To do so, we made our way to Morristown Airport in New Jersey where Bergwall and the Vision Jet awaited.
Morristown Airport is also where we got the chance to check out the HondaJet last year.
Here's a closer look at the Cirrus Vision Jet, the cheapest private jet in the world.
Here it is! The Cirrus Vision Jet waiting for us on the tarmac in Morristown.
It's just over 9m long and 3.3m tall with an 11.7m wingspan. Its main competitors include...
The HondaJet and the Cessna Citation Mustang. However, both cost roughly twice as much.
The jet is assembled at the Cirrus factory in Duluth, Minnesota.
Immediately, you notice just how different it looks from everything else around it. And the fact that it's bigger than it looks in the photographs. The Vision Jet's most distinct features are the V-tail and...
...Its single Williams International FJ33-5A turbofan engine. The jet nozzle is angled slightly upward. As a result, it doesn't blast the rear fuselage with hot exhaust.
As with all Cirrus aircraft, it's designed with an emergency parachute system called CAPS. In the Vision Jet, the parachute is located in the nose.
Here's the parachute in action during a test flight.
The Vision Jet's fuselage is actually made of carbon fibre instead of aluminium. Carbon fibre is lighter and stronger than aluminium construction.
There's also a cargo compartment behind the passenger cabin.
See the naked carbon fibre walls?
Step inside and you'll find a surprisingly roomy cabin and absolutely massive windows.
There's room for five adults and two children. The cabin is 1.5m wide and 1.2m high. You can't really stand up in there.
The leather lined interior was really pleasant and comfortable. The materials and build quality felt solid.
There are USB plugs and even an optional overhead entertainment system. And if you get caught short, there's an available toilet option complete with privacy blinds.
Up front, the Vision Jet's cockpit is designed for single-pilot operation.
The intuitive glass cockpit is by Garmin.
There's a bank of three touchscreens where you can control everything from your communications with air traffic control and your navigation system to the radio station.
Above the pilot are a pair of emergency oxygen masks and the release lever for the parachute.
So..what's it like to fly in the Vision Jet? It's pretty incredible.
To fire up the engine, all you need to do is press the push-button starter like in a car.
Control inputs are made through a pair of sidesticks.
Once airborne, pilots have access to augmented reality synthetic vision technology. A useful tool especially in bad weather.
With Matt at the controls, we hustled down the runway with impressive pace. According to Cirrus, the Vision Jet needs just 620m of runway to take off.
Once up in the air, we navigated our way through the busy air corridors around New York City. Matt had to explain to one air traffic controller that this Cirrus is actually a jet. Since we were forced to maintain an altitude of around 762m, the first few minutes of the flight were quite bumpy. However, things smoothed out once we climbed to 4,800m.
The Vision Jet was fairly noisy and as a result, we had to have headsets in place to communicate. Something we didn't need in the HondaJet.
Due to the greenhouse-like design of the windshield, the two seats up front tended to be warmer than the rest of the cabin.
Looking out towards the wing and you'll see the rubber deicing boots.
According to Cirrus, the Vision Jet can cruise at 555km/h with a maximum operating altitude of 5,500m.
Flying at 555km/h and 5,500m of altitude, the jet has a range of 1,850km. Drop the speed down to 444km/h and the range increases to 2,200km. That means LA to Kansas City or Dallas to New York.
So far, the Vision Jet has been a hot seller for Cirrus with roughly 600 aircraft sold to date. This means there's a backlog that will take several years for the company to work through. I guess good things come to those who wait.
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