Cars, Airlines and the Cirrus SR-22

By Robert Mark on June 1st, 2008

The Cirrus Design folks were in Chicago the other night on the first stop of a 22 city nationwide-tour Garmin Cirruspromoting not only the G-3 version of their top selling airplane, but also a special new version of Garmin’s popular G-1000 avionics system called the Perspective as standard equipment on the aircraft.

What made last week’s event of particular note is that people were able to peer into the cockpit of the SR-22 while it sat inside the Garmin retail store located on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The Cirrus folks trucked it down from Duluth, pulled off the wings and made it look to passersby like the airplane belonged on Michigan Avenue.

The irony of the event however, was that it took place on the same day General Motors announced massive layoffs in an attempt to cut the production cost of new cars. Not to be outdone, United Airlines also said it would cut another 1,000 workers including pilots and flight attendants to try and keep the airline from sliding any further toward the bring of extinction.

Looking inside the Cirrus, as well as listening to company co-founder and vice chairman Dale Klapmeier Klaptell the audience about the development of the company he and his brother founded 25 years ago made me realize what is both right and wrong with the country’s manufacturing and service sector.

(Dale Klapmeier)

I’d invited along my AOPA student pilot buddy Frank Rodriguez to take a look at the Sr-22. As I showed him the intricacies of the panel, I was able to point out, not simply the bells and whistles most pilots ogle over – the electronics – but also the wide leather seats, the front and rear-seat legroom and the gull-wing doors for easy entry. The SR-20 & 22 also include a side stick control that is comfortably placed on the side wall near the instrument panel and includes an armrest to make flying more enjoyable.

The throttle looks like the gearshift of a fine European touring car with a well placed center console armrest to allow the flying pilot to relax. The Cirrus airplanes also look as though they’re already moving at 150 knots just sitting on the ground.

That’s when Dale Kalpmeier’s words sank in.

He’d told the audience earlier that evening that the way to promote flying was not only to make flying comfortable for the pilot, but to also make it feel as safe as possible for the passenger in the right seat, usually a spouse or loved one. The Garmin G-1000 doesn’t just offer the pilot incredible situational awareness, it gives the pilot’s spouse an easy way to relate what he or she sees to the outside world and feel better about owning a Cirrus and flying it … a lot. Klapmeier said a Cirrus Design goal has always been about looking for ways to improve the product one small item at a time.cirrus

Its All About the Customer

Imagine that. Cirrus thought about its customer. And what does that have to do with cars and airlines?

It’s simple really.

Here you have an aircraft company that evolved 25 years ago just when most people had given general aviation up for dead. I remember listening to people say Dale and Alan Klapmeier were crazy in fact. But they looked at the marketplace, spent the time to gather real insights about the behavior of their potential airplane customers and went to work designing the best airplane possible … and they haven’t quit yet.

Most of the airlines and all of the U.S. the automobile manufacturers have taken just the opposite approach. Ford, GM, Chrysler for the most part build cars no one wants. The airlines deliver a product fewer and fewer people want in its current form. Take it or leave it is pretty much the the slogan these days. The results at the airlines and auto builders pretty much speak for themselves.

Both the auto and the airline industry think they’ll be able to cut costs again even though there is little left to axe and shrink their companies to profitability when in reality, they need only make the trek up to Duluth Minnesota to glimpse a little success. There they’ll find a small, group of devoted employees who think the way to build a profitable company is by offering customers what they want, an airplane that people are proud to show off to their friends, an airplane that represents new-age value.

Looking at a Cirrus also reminds people of exactly why they don’t want to buy a U.S. built automobile or fly on an airline like United unless someone else is paying the freight. So Dale … Alan, I’d suggest you try flying an SR-22 into ORD or DTW, but my guess is the airline and auto folks would be too busy watching the sky fall to take any notice.

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One Response to “Cars, Airlines and the Cirrus SR-22”

  1. Miguel cangueiro Says:

    Nice posts, mate! Keep it going…

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