Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Single Engine Jets - And the winner is...Cirrus

After talking with all the Single Engine Jet (SEJ) manufacturers at NBAA, it's pretty clear that Cirrus will be the dominant player in this space.

Product design is a series of trade offs and compromises. Cirrus has the best balanced single engine jet. I'm certain they will achieve their goals of not being the fastest or furthest or carrying the most load. They will provide the best value. Cirrus has already taken $100,000 unsecured, fully refundable, deposits on over 500 planes, far more than any other SEJ. They are selling to their installed base, which is the largest demographic likely to upgrade to SEJs. Most Cirrus owners, including me, are generally happy with the company and the products.

The Diamond DJet is still suffering through a major engine change, just months before certification. The cabin still feels too small.

The Piper Jet looks interesting. The cabin is heavily copied from the Meridian/Mirage line. They've added vectored thrust to counterbalance nose drop when power is applied. My biggest concern is Piper's financial depth to bring this product through certification and then support it effectively. While it is nice to have the choice to climb above virtually all weather at 35,000', prudent pilots should stay in the mid-20's in case of depressurization. I don't believe there will be an option for a whole airframe parachute.

The Eclipse 400, like the rest of the company, is a joke. The experimental prototype had better not be indicative of the final design since it is so small and cramped. It was hard to get real data on what the 400 will be.

I gave Epic a cursory glance. They have a diverse and exciting product line on paper. The planes look great on the ramp. How well they succeed in certification and in company strength is an open question at this time.

It's pretty clear to me that Cirrus will sell at least 1,000 or more SJ50s over the next few years. With numbers like that, will Cessna again miss this opportunity and again be forced to acquire a small player like Columbia in order to play catch up? How long will Cessna and Embraer stand on the sidelines?

Cirrus continues to be an innovative, exciting company to watch. They will be company who best fills the $1.5-2M market gap between top end single engine pistons under $1M and twin jets like the Mustang which cost over $3M.

NBAA 2008

Just returned from a busy 30 hours at NBAA in Orlando. While the economy is affecting so many sectors, especially commercial aviation, Business/Private/General aviation is generally doing well and will likely do so for several years to come, at least according to Honeywell.

For example, I stopped by the static displays at ORL where you can actually play with the planes. At the Gulfstream display, I checked out the mockup of the new G650. It goes for a cool $60M, and was only introduced in May. I asked the friendly Sales Engineer what the order backlog was. While Gulfstream does not make this public, it is "higher than any major league batting average, and sold out through 2018." Translation: something like 350-400 units. With a non-refundable deposit of $3M (the cost of a Mustang), the deposits alone are worth $1B.