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Cirrus Aircraft wins aeronautics award for creating world's first single-engine personal jet

Justin Pede and Kimberly Pithey check out Cirrus Aircraft's Vision Jet during a 2016 event at the Grand Forks International Airport. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

An aircraft company with ties to Grand Forks has won a prestigious aeronautics award less than two years after presenting the world's first single-engine personal jet to its customers.

The National Aeronautic Association announced Wednesday it will give Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft the Robert J. Collier Trophy, an award recognizing, in part, "the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America," according to a news release. Cirrus will receive the award during a formal presentation June 24, the release said.

"For more than a century, the Collier Trophy has recognized the greatest achievements in aviation in America," NAA President and CEO Greg Principato said in a statement. "By revolutionizing general and personal aviation, Cirrus Aircraft, with their Vision Jet, has added to a great and historic Collier legacy."

Founded in 1984, Cirrus expanded in 1997 to Grand Forks, where it manufactures jet parts that are shipped to Duluth for assembly. It also has a facility in Knoxville, Tenn.

The company employs 1,375 workers, with 270 employees based in Grand Forks, according to Cirrus staff. That's an uptick from the 2016 count of 200.

Cirrus has been known for producing aviation firsts, and the NAA applauded the company for creating the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, as well as the Vision Jet, the first single-engine aircraft designed for personal use.

Cirrus celebrated the creation of the Vision Jet in December 2016 at the Grand Forks International Airport. The first jet, which was sold to Joe Whisenhunt of Conway, Ark., cost $1.96 million and was 15 years in the making. It can reach speeds of 300 knots, or 345 mph, and can hold six passengers.

The parachute system was the first whole airframe technology of its kind to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as standard equipment on an aircraft, according to Cirrus.

Cirrus plans to dedicate the accolade to its employees and partners, company co-founder and CEO Dale Klapmeier said in a statement, adding the Vision Jet has "forever changed general aviation and personal transportation."

"We will celebrate this great honor by continuing to focus on our core mission of creating safer aircraft, safer pilots and safer skies," he said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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