The Cirrus SF50 better known as the Vision Jet is one of the most interesting aircraft in the skies today and has taken the aviation world by storm. This v-tail, very lightweight jet (VLJ) aircraft is the first of its kind being that it’s powered by only one jet engine, making it the first civilian single-engine jet to be type certified by the FAA and EASA.
In a very Cirrus-like fashion, Vision Jet has redefined what a VLJ can be and has quickly caught up to its competitors in terms of sales, even though it has been in production for a fraction of the time. From a pilot’s perspective, the features and capabilities of the SF50 or Vision Jet are nothing short of amazing and probably make it the best VLJ on the market today. After reading this guide, I think you’d agree, so let’s get into it.
The first Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 rolled off the production line on the 5th of May 2016. But the idea for the aircraft began more than a decade before, 13 years to be exact. The Vision Jet project was top secret when development began in 2003 and started in Cirrus’ “Moose Works” offsite location in Duluth, Minnesota.
The idea behind the aircraft was simple: produce the cheapest personal jet that people would want to buy. So the company set out on building an all-composite single-engine VLJ that would be high-performance and luxurious, in other words, quintessentially Cirrus.
The aircraft would only be unveiled three years later at the 2006 Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) gathering in June. In October of the same year, the company went on to tease the aircraft at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention, to solicit deposits and funding for an aircraft that hadn’t even been named yet.
Cirrus managed to get 140 deposits for what they advertised as “The Jet”, quoting that it would be the lowest, slowest and cheapest personal jet ever with a cruising altitude of 25,000 ft (7,600 m), a speed of 300 kts (560 kmph) and an estimated price tag of $1 million. The company also planned to get the aircraft certified in 2010.
At this point, the deposit holders didn’t even know what the aircraft would look like until they started periodically receiving small snippets of an aircraft drawing. The final piece was delivered on the 27th of June 2007 and the aircraft was unveiled to the deposit holders on the same day and the public the day after.
At the end of 2007, Cirrus leased the former A320 maintenance hangar of Northwest Airlines at the Duluth International Airport to continue development. In June 2008, two years after it was announced, the prototype was rolled out at the COPA gathering coming full circle. At this point, “The Jet”, as it was now called had over 400 buyers lined up and waiting.
Naming the Cirrus Jet
From its inception till the prototype was unveiled, the aircraft was called either “The Jet” or “The Personal Jet by Cirrus”. However, after the prototype was unveiled, the company’s marketing department got into gear and began trying to officially name the aircraft. In July 2008, Cirrus announced that the aircraft will be called the “Vision SJ50”. V for the V-tail design, and SJ for the single-jet engine configuration.
The convention was changed less than a year later to the “Vision SF50” because it’s to be powered by a fanjet (turbofan engine). In 2016, the Vision SF50 was called the “Vision Jet” by Cirrus, with the SF50 moniker taking a back seat until its certification in 2018 when it was certified as the “Model SF50”.
The Cirrus Vision Jet was first unveiled in 2006, but the customers would only receive the first orders 10 years later. There are multiple reasons for the delay, but it all centers around a lacking of funding for the projects caused by the great recession in 2008.
In 2009, the company planned to sell the project to one of Cirrus’ founders, Alan Klapmeier in a bid to keep it alive. The project didn’t sell because the price wasn’t attractive enough to the company. The deal falling apart also resulted in Alan Klapmeier leaving Cirrus.
Cirrus had debts to pay, and the lack of sales had rendered it unable to do so, without an injection of cash, the company would go into bankruptcy. In 2010, Cirrus Aircraft was purchased by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA). The program was injected with funding again in 2012 to push it to the finish line.
The Vision Jet’s flight testing program began in 2008 and would continue until 2016. During the testing phase, major changes were introduced to the aircraft. During the initial flight tests, the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft was found to be inadequate and prompted the company to make changes, that might seem small but have a large effect.
The original SF50 has two doors, but the passenger door was replaced by an emergency hatch for rigidity and weight savings. In addition, the V-tail was altered by adding two ventral fins in such a way that it almost becomes an X-tail. The sweep angle of the tail was also reduced, and the bottom of the fuselage was made larger.
Production and Success
The first Vision Jet was delivered to a customer on December 19th, 2016, after which Cirrus started working on its massive backlog. The company has since increased production every year and was the only aircraft company to do so during the pandemic. After the aircraft received its EASA certification, sales started to go global.
The decade of perseverance by Cirrus has been rewarded with astounding success. The SF50 is the most delivered business jet every year since 2018. Sales of the SF50 don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, especially since Cirrus keeps updating the features on this already desirable aircraft.
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Specifications
The exact specifications of the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet G2+ are:
|Parameter||Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet G2+|
|Length||30 ft 11 in (9.42 m)|
|Height||10 ft 11 in (3.33 m)|
|Wing Span||38 ft 8 in (11.76 m)|
|Cabin Width (Max)||5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)|
|Cabin Floor Width||3 ft 1 in (0.94 m)|
|Cabin Height||4 ft 1 in (1.25 m)|
|Internal Baggage Volume||24 ft³ (0.68 m³)|
|External Baggage Volume||30 ft³ (0.85 m³)|
|Maximum Ramp Weight||6,040 lbs (2,740 kg)|
|Maximum Takeoff Weight||6,000 lbs (2,721 kg)|
|Maximum landing Weight||5,550 lbs (2,517 kg)|
|Zero Fuel Weight||4,900 lbs (2,222 kg)|
|Basic Empty Weight||3,860 lbs (1,751 kg)|
|Maximum Payload||1,040 lbs (472 kg)|
|Useful Load||2,180 lbs (989 kg)|
|Fuel Capacity||2,000 lbs (907 kg)|
|Available Payload with Maxl Fuel||180 lbs (81.6 kg)|
|Available Fuel with Max Payload||1,140 lbs (517 kg)|
|Maximum Thrust||1,846 lbf (8.21 kN)|
|Service Ceiling||31,000 ft (9,449 m)|
|Transition Altitude||18,300 ft (5,577 m)|
|Takeoff Distance||1,920 ft (585 m)|
|Takeoff Distance @ 5,000 ft & 25C||3,045 ft (928 m)|
|Landing Distance||1,628 ft (496 m)|
|Lateral Noise Level||79.6 dB|
|Flyover Noise Level||70.9 dB|
|Approach Noise Level||80.3 dB|
|Wake Turbulence Catergory||L|
|Maximum Payload Range||461 nmi|
|Maximum Fuel Range||1,171 nmi|
|Four Passenger Range||622 nmi|
|Ferry Range||1,220 nmi|
|Reference Speed (VREF)||87 kts (150 kmph)|
|Takeoff Speed (V2)||91 kts (168 kmph)|
|Maximum Operating Mach||Mach 0.530|
|Maximum Cruise Speed||311 kts (575 kmph)|
|High-Speed Cruise||305 kts (564 kmph)|
|Long Range Cruise||259 kts (479 kmph)|
|Stall Speed Full Flaps||67 kts (124 kmph)|
|Engine||Williams FJ33-5A Turbofan|
|Engine Inspection Interval||4000 hours|
|Avionics||Cirrus Perspective Touch+ (Garmin G3000)|
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Performance and Handling
Cirrus understands its customers the proof of this is in how the Vision Jet is designed. The aircraft is meant to be a natural step up from the SR22T and hides all the complicated jet functions behind the scenes, adopting an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy.
There are many similarities in the control mechanics of the SR22 and the Vision Jet, all of which Cirrus has carefully calibrated so that a pilot from a piston model will feel right at home in the SF50. The nosewheel is fully castering, which means that differential braking is needed to steer the aircraft on the ground, exactly like the SR20 and SR22.
Once in the air, the aircraft is very friendly to hand fly and has all kinds of aids to make the experience pleasant. One of the “aids” is a set of centering springs fitted to the control surfaces to help with stability on all three axes of flight. The aircraft also has a yaw stability system that automatically kicks in at 200 ft (61 m). Roll trim is also controlled by a dedicated motor, and once you trim it out, it stays in trim. When hand flying, you’ll want to use electric trim to make things easier, especially at lower speeds because the controls tend to get quite heavy.
The engine sits on top of the rear fuselage and is angled in upwards when the aircraft is on the ground. Because of this unique positioning, the POH quotes a deck-angle limit of 20 degrees pitch up for more than 30 seconds. During a normal climb, a typically loaded SF50 will climb at around 1,500 fpm.
Cirrus aircraft are known for being fast, and a problem with Cirrus pilots is that oftentimes, they let the aircraft get ahead of them, and have a hard time slowing down. At first glance, the lack of speed brakes or spoilers might be concerning, but the SF50 fixes this by having high extension speeds for the landing gear and flaps, 210 kts (389 kmph) and 190 kts (352 kmph), respectively.
For stopping on the runway, the SF50 is fitted with bigger versions of the tried and true Beringer brakes and wheels available on the piston models.
A big upgrade in the G2 model is the new autothrottle system which is activated with the push of a button. The autothrottle system is critical for the Vision Jet’s Safe Return Autoland feature. This feature will make the autopilot choose an airport to land in safely and will fly a precision GPS approach from the initial segment to the landing. Once activated the aircraft will land safely, come to a full stop, and shut down the engine, all without any input from the pilot.
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Maintenance Schedule
The Vision Jet has an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. Cirrus has simplified and automated almost everything possible to ensure that the aircraft is operated safely and this extends to maintenance as well.
The FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) on the aircraft manages the engine carefully to reduce wear and tear on the aircraft. The FADEC automatically alternates the two ignitors with every start and has fail-safes to turn off the system if something goes wrong. The system has a cutoff on the takeoff thrust setting of five minutes to prevent damage to the engine because the POH advises that for every 72 minutes of flight, the takeoff thrust setting should only be used for two minutes.
Williams FJ33-5A Turbofan engine on the Cirrus Vision Jet has a time before (TBO) overhaul of 4,000 hours and a hot inspection time of 2,000 hours. Overhauling a jet engine of any size is no small feat, and will be expensive. Few SF50s have reached the 4,000-hour mark, so estimating a cost is challenging. However, a brand new Williams FJ33-5A engine is sold for around $650,000, which is what customers should expect to pay, plus labor.
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Price
When the Cirrus Vision Jet finally hit the market in 2016, the aircraft was priced at $1.96 million, nearly twice the amount Cirrus promised when it announced the aircraft just under a decade ago. Customers had few complaints about the introductory price of the aircraft and understood that the rise in costs and inflation had rendered the promised price moot.
In 2019, the company released the G2 Vision Jet and priced the base version at $2.38 million, with the full-option “Elite” configuration priced at $2.75 million. Two years later, the G2 received an upgrade, and the new variant was called the G2+. As of 2022, the Elite (fully loaded) configuration G2+ is priced at $2.98 million, while the G2 Elite is available for $2.85 million.
The SF50 requires a type rating to fly, but luckily training for one pilot is included in the purchase price, VFR only, IFR training can be had at an additional cost.
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Modifications and Upgrades
The Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 and its variants are highly customizable. The company offers multiple cosmetic and performance packages which allow each customer to ensure that their aircraft is equipped how they want.
Some customers might find the standard interior and exterior cosmetic packages lacking, in which case, they can have Cirrus’ design studio create a bespoke aircraft built per their specifications.
Exterior Customization Packs
Cirrus offers customers two standard exterior cosmetic packages Apex Premium and Vitesse Premium. The packages share the same eight color options, but the main difference is the areas of the aircraft that get painted.
If the Apex Premium package is chosen, then the upper parts of the nose, fuselage, and the top of the engine nacelle are painted in color. The colored portion does not extend past the engine nacelle, leaving the tail portion in the standard white. If the Vitesse Premium option is chosen, the fuselage is split by a strip of colored paint, which increases in width until it envelopes the empennage.
If these options are satisfying, then the aircraft can be custom painted as part of a bespoke package.
Interior Customization Packs
The interior of the Vision Jet is available in two colors, tan or black and grey. The seats are available in eight colors, however, the color of the interior is dependent on the color of the seats. All the seats are leather and can be customized if needed.
There are three seating packages available with the Vision Jet. The Family package is the most conservative and offers seating for seven, including a row of three seats at the rear. The Executive package reduces the number of seats to four while making the passenger seats larger and more comfortable. The third and final option is the Complete package which adds the last row of seating available in the Family package to the seating in the Executive package, once again increasing the count to seven.
The seats on the Vision Jet are entirely modular and are designed to be removed and replaced with ease, allowing users to create up to 28 seating configurations.
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Resale Value
The Cirrus SF50 is a highly desirable aircraft with hundreds of orders yet to be filled. The company built 86 Vision Jets last year and plans to increase production, but if you want to get your hands on one immediately, the used market is your only option.
Surprisingly, there are a few models for sale, ranging from the original to the newer G2 models. These aircraft don’t depreciate as much as conventional aircraft because of the high demand and low time.
The oldest and cheapest Vision Jet we could find was a 2017 manufactured, G1 base trim model that has several G2 components such as the wings, carpets, and soundproofing. This aircraft has 598.2 hours total time and is in good condition. This particular listing is priced at $2.25 million.
The newest model we found is unsurprisingly also the most expensive. This aircraft is a fully loaded, special edition Arrivée G2 model manufactured in 2021. The aircraft only has 115 hours of total time and the seller is asking for $3.6 million.
The table below shows some listings to help understand the depreciation and resale value of the aircraft. The information is accurate as of October 2022.
|2019||G2||Elite||Cargo Extend||380||$3.299 million|
|2017||G1||Base||G2 Wings, Carpet and Soundproofing||598.2||$2.250 million|
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Operating Costs
Costs are broken down into two categories, fixed costs, and variable costs. Fixed costs remain the same regardless of how much the aircraft is used, while variable costs change based on how many hours the aircraft flies. For this cost breakdown, we’ll assume the plane is flown by the owner, which removes the need for crew salaries and management.
The total fixed costs per annum for an owner-operated Vision Jet is estimated to be $64,000.
If you want your Vision Jet to stay shiny, you need to store it away from the elements, foreign objects, and potential damages that can occur from a wayward fuel truck or airport vehicle. The cost of the rental space is based on the area the aircraft will use, and in certain cases, the aircraft’s weight. It’s also dependent on the airport, with busier airports charging a higher premium for their hangar space.
The Cirrus SF50 is on the smaller side, so parking for this aircraft is cheaper than for other VLJs. An operator of a Vision Jet can expect to pay roughly $14,000 per annum for hangar space.
The insurance for a Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet is, like all aviation insurance, split into two different parts. The first is liability coverage which covers damage caused by the aircraft to third parties, be it property damage or personal injuries. Liability insurance is also used as a defense fund in instances where the policyholder or operator is sued. Liability insurance is required by law and is the minimum level of insurance an aircraft can have to be operable.
The second type of coverage is hull coverage. This coverage is optional and covers damage to the aircraft. The aircraft will be valued during the initial process, and this figure is what the policyholder will receive if the aircraft is totaled or written off. The premium is dependent on the experience of the pilot, which insurance splits into two groups, qualified and less than qualified.
According to BWIFly, insurance companies consider qualified pilots as having a commercial pilot’s license, with 3,000 total hours, 1,000 multi-engine land hours, and 50 hours in the make and model. The breakdown for insurance for a Cirrus SF50 is as follows:
For qualified pilots, an insurance policy with only liability coverage worth $1 million can expect to pay between $1,500 to $1,750 per year. While low-time pilots will have to pay between $1,800 to $2,400. When hull coverage worth $2 million is added, the premium for qualified pilots can cost between $13,000 to $16,700 per year, while low-time can expect to pay between $22,000 to $38,000.
Like most Cirrus aircraft the Vision Jet is equipped with the proprietary Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). The parachute system needs to undergo maintenance every 10 years to ensure failsafe operation. The repacking of the parachute and maintenance of the CAPS system is one of the largest costs an owner of a Cirrus will incur.
There are no Vision Jets in existence that have had to do a routine CAPS repack yet, but we can use the SR22 G6 repack to gauge how much the maintenance would cost. A new CAPS parachute for an SR22 costs upwards of $15,000. Given that the parachute of the Vision Jet is significantly larger, and the system is also probably more complex, the price might be anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000.
These are fixed costs that don’t fit into the usual categories. There can be charges for software and chart updates, and other unexpected costs that are associated with owning an aircraft. Cirrus aircraft are usually expensive to maintain, especially the SF50, so budgeting for surprise costs is a must.
Variable costs are calculated per hour the aircraft is used, and are usually referred to as the hourly cost. Five factors go into calculating the hourly cost: fuel, engine overhaul, maintenance, fees, and miscellaneous costs.
Fuel is by far the highest operating cost for any powered aircraft. The more you fly, the more fuel you burn. The Vision Jet’s Williams FJ33-5A consumes roughly 80 to 85 gallons (303 to 323 liters) at first because of the increased fuel burn for the climb. During cruise flight, the SF50 will burn 70 gallons (265 liters) per hour.
As of October 2022, a gallon of Jet A-1 costs $3.44. This would mean for each hour of cruise flight, the Vision Jet will cost $240.8. We can disregard the excess fuel burn during the climb phase by offsetting it with the reduced fuel burn during the approach and landing phases.
The Vision Jet, like all general aviation aircraft, will have to abide by part 91 rules (non-commercial operations). The aircraft has to be inspected every 100 hours of flight, plus any maintenance suggested by the manufacturer. Compare Private Planes quotes the average hourly maintenance cost of an SF50 at $124.
The 4,000-hour TBO and 2,000-hour hot inspection time of the Williams FJ33-5A means that the operator of an SF50 can enjoy quite a bit of flying before having to deal with the immense cost of a jet engine overhaul. As previously mentioned, we can expect the overhaul to cost upwards of $650,000. After completing the math, we can see that the hourly engine maintenance cost of a Vision Jet is $162.50.
An operator of a Cirrus Vision Jet should budget $25 or so for hourly miscellaneous costs.
Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet Variants
The Cirrus Vision currently has two versions including the original.
Generation Two (G2) Vision Jet
The second generation of the Cirrus Vision Jet was announced on 8th, January 2019. The G2 offered several upgrades over its predecessor, improving performance by a significant amount.
The first change is the removal of the vortex generators on the wings, to compensate a tab has been added on the trailing edge of the ailerons. This change improved the roll axis response and controllability, while also bringing down the stall speed of the aircraft, proving that boundary layer separation occurs later.
The G2 has a higher service ceiling of 31,000 ft (9,449 m), versus the G1’s 28,000 ft (8,534 m). The G2 is also rated for RSVM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums) operations. While an increase of 3,000 ft (914.4 m) doesn’t seem like much, the gains in performance can mean the difference between an extra fuel stop or a direct flight.
The strength of the cabin pressurization system has also increased from 6.4 PSI to 7.1 PSI. The increase allows the Vision Jet to maintain an 8,000 ft (2,438 m) cabin altitude for its whole flight envelope.
The interior of the Vision Jet has also been upgraded in the G2. The changes are small but improve the user experience. The storage space has increased courtesy of pockets and pouches to place items in, and the entertainment package has been improved. The biggest improvement is the new carpeting, which makes the cabin quieter.
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 Competing Aircraft
There is a handful of VLJs in the market today and even fewer that can stack up to the SF50. In my opinion, there are three aircraft that do so.
ONE Aviation Eclipse 550
The Eclipse 550 is the successor to the popular Eclipse 500 model. This aircraft was produced between 2014 to 2017 and was discontinued due to poor sales. During its 3-year production run, the company only sold a total of 33 units.
This 5-passenger, twin-engine VLJ had a list price of $3 million when it was brand new. Used models are hard to find because there are so few in existence. The aircraft was very well equipped for its day and had advanced features such as autothrottles.
In comparison to the SF50, the Eclipse 550 isn’t as high-tech or as cheap but is more powerful thanks to its dual engines and larger footprint. This also makes it more expensive to operate than the SF50.
SOCATA TBM 960
Unlike the rest of the competitors on this list the SOCATA TBM 960 is a turboprop aircraft, and it is also the only single-engine competitor the Cirrus SF50 has. The SOCATA TBM was introduced in 1988 and is still being produced to this day, with the 960 being announced in April 2022.
The TBM 960 is also outfitted with the Garmin G3000 avionics suite and a FADEC which allows it to have autothrottles, and more importantly, autoland. A feature that the Vision Jet prides itself on. These similarities make these two aircraft seem equal.
The TBM outperforms the SF50 when it comes to the spec sheet. But like the rest of the SF50s competitors, it has a larger footprint, which allows it to carry more weight, fuel, fly further, etc. But the TBM 960 is expensive in comparison to the Vision Jet, costing $4.57 million, which is far too much for the slight increase in performance.
Another successful VLJ is the Brazilian-built Embraer Phenom 100EV. The EV is the new and upgraded version that was introduced in 2017. This version also has a Garmin G3000 but doesn’t have the coveted autoland feature.
This twin jet is also larger and more expensive than the SF50, costing $4.95 million. However, like the other competitors on this list, bigger numbers don’t always translate to better. The SF50 is still cheaper to operate and the difference in performance between the two is negligible.
The Phenom 100 has been in production since 2008 and has sold 392 units, which is nothing to scoff at, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the popularity of the Vision Jet.
Honda HondaJet Elite S
The HondaJet is Honda’s first attempt at the aviation market and is a fan favorite. The quirky-looking aircraft is a serious performer, reaching max speeds of 422 kts (781 kmph) and a maximum cruising altitude of 43,000 ft (13,106 m).
This VLJ is marketed as the “most advanced light jet”. The aircraft has the largest cabin in its class and though it has two engines, only burns roughly 10 to 15 gallons of fuel per hour more than the SF50. But with a starting price of $5.3 million, the HondaJet Elite S is still more expensive to buy, and run than the Cirrus.
The aircraft has been in production since December 2015 and has sold just over 200 units.
Frequently Asked Questions – Cirrus Vision Jet
Question: What is the maximum Mach number the SF50 can reach?
Answer: The SF50 can reach speeds of Mach 0.530 which may not seem like much, but for a small single-engine jet, it is quite impressive.
Question: Does the SF50 have thrust reversers?
Answer: Unfortunately, the SF50 is not equipped with a thrust reverser so stopping. The cost and complexity of the aircraft would increase if the feature was added, so Cirrus made the smart decision to strap on smarter anti-skid piston-and-caliper brakes.
Question: Does the SF50 share the SR22’s Flight into Known Icing Package?
Answer: Yes, SF50 has an icing package available, but the system does not work like its piston counterpart. The SF50 uses a combination of anti and deicing equipment, while the SR22 is strictly an anti-icing system.
The SF50 uses pneumatic boots to remove ice from the wings while using engine bleed air to keep the intake and other safety-critical areas safe from ice build-up. There is a TKS system on board, but that is used to prevent ice buildup on the windscreen. The icing system on the SF50 is fully automated and can be activated without any input from the pilot.
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