Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Cassidian Aviation has chosen a fleet of 16 Cirrus SR20s and 7 Cirrus SR22s to be dedicated to training French Air Force and Navy pilots.
"Some of them—the SR20 aircraft—will be used for primary pilot training. The SR22s will be used for navigation officer training, and some other transportation within the French Air Force. And, it's an extension of the direction we're trying to go in expanding our business into the government fleet market," said Jon Dauplaise, Vice President of Fleet and Special Aircraft.
According to Dauplaise, the reasons for the foreign military's interest in the aircraft are the same reasons that attract the private sector: "It's a very sophisticated airplane, but it's very simple to fly. It's very well engineered to be docile, and handle well."
Surprisingly little is being changed among 23 of the world's best–selling single–engine, four–seat aircraft... with the exception of a few, military–friendly modifications.
"They've got some military radios installed. They don't have some of the equipment that you'd typically find in a retail business, privately–flown aircraft," said Dauplaise.
According to Dauplaise, the U.S. Air Force took delivery of their 25th SR20 in May, and as time continues, other foreign governments could be setting their sights on Cirrus.
"You can expect to hear some news of other governments working with us, here, in the very short term—also bringing jobs back in the area," said Dauplaise.
And, when the future is bright for Cirrus, according to city officials, the future is also bright for the Duluth economy.
"To have a block of 23 [aircraft] purchased is a great triumph for Cirrus. It benefits them greatly. Their success is our success as a community. They are employers of our community," said David Ross, President of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.
The average SR22 costs $500,000 dollars.
The first SR20 was delivered to France on August ninth, and the first SR22 will be delivered in September.
Delivery will continue through the end of 2012.