Cirrus Aircraft on Thursday announced the expansion of its Grand Forks facility to accommodate a new autoclave oven in preparation for production of the Vision SF50 jet and the company’s SR propeller-driven planes.
Modifications to the Grand Forks facility began in May, although the autoclave wasn’t delivered until Thursday. Construction of the building around the giant piece of equipment will be finished by the end of July with the facility operational by mid-August, the company said in a statement.
Cirrus received a $950,000 loan from the Economic Development, Growth Fund Committee for the project. Cirrus operates a shop in Grand Forks that produces composite parts for its airplanes, employing about 100 people. The expansion is expected to add about 10 jobs in Grand Forks “over time,” said Todd Simons, executive vice president of sales, marketing and support.
An autoclave oven is used in the manufacturing process of composite parts — in this case large parts such as the carbon fiber main spar of the SR series aircraft and the Vision SF50 jet. The spar is the main structural component of the wing. Production of the carbon spar using an autoclave had been outsourced to an out-of-state contractor. Cirrus has said the in-house effort will save the company about $3,000 per plane.
The autoclave weighs 40 tons and has a working volume 8.5 feet in diameter and 40 feet long.
“Bringing this process to Cirrus at the Grand Forks composites facility will save the company several million dollars over the next 10 years and creates the opportunity for future job growth,” the company said in the announcement.
As with the SR propeller planes, production of the Vision jet will begin in Grand Forks and final assembly will occur in Duluth, where the company now employs roughly 500 people, Simmons said. The company’s first-quarter sales of SRs were up, and Cirrus is hiring additional employees in Duluth.
“The year is continuing to show good strength on a year to year basis. The news is good,’’ Simmons said.
The first deliveries of the new jet are expected in 2015.
“We appreciate the ongoing support from the city of Grand Forks,” Bill King, vice president of business administration for Cirrus Aircraft, said. “They have partnered with Cirrus from the very beginning and their actions and support confirm their devotion to our continued success.”