Friday, February 26, 2021

Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft sales hurt by pandemic, rebounded late in 2020

Second-quarter sales dropped nearly 40% but by year end shipments were 10% off 2019 levels.

DULUTH, Minnesota – Cirrus Aircraft sales dropped 10% last year compared to a record 2019 due to pandemic challenges, but the Duluth-based private aircraft manufacturer ended the year on an upswing.

Cirrus, which makes the top-selling SR Series piston airplanes and Vision personal jets, moved 420 planes last year after selling 465 in 2019, according to a recent report from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

"As expected, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted general aviation and stifled the industry's growth," association CEO Pete Bunce said in a statement. "While we continue to face headwinds globally, all signs point to strong demand for our products and services."

Cirrus saw its steepest drop in sales in the spring, when uncertainty over the pandemic's effect on the economy caused quarterly sales to plummet nearly 40% year over year. The company furloughed employees and started making personal protective equipment.

Sales improved steadily after that, with third-quarter shipments exceeding 2019 levels by 9% and fourth-quarter shipments 23% ahead of the previous quarter.

"It is encouraging to see that segments of our industry saw a solid rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020," Bunce said.

In total the company reported $491.7 million in billings in 2020. Sales of the $2 million Vision jet helped drive record billings of $547.3 million in 2019.

Cirrus has more than 100 jobs advertised for its facilities in Duluth, Grand Forks, N.D. and Knoxville, Tenn. It had about 1,600 employees across all locations before the pandemic, with a majority of them in Duluth.

The company recently unveiled the 8000 Limited Edition SR Series to commemorate the 8,000th delivery of its piston airplane series later this year.

"The SR Series has an incredible history of innovation, evolution and invention," CEO Zean Nielsen said in a news release. "Our team took that as inspiration to create a limited edition that breaks out of the boundaries of traditional aircraft design to reflect the energy and excitement of where we are going next."

Cirrus was founded in southern Wisconsin in 1984 and is now owned by Chinese Aviation Industry General Aircraft. The company has been headquartered in Duluth since 1994.

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