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Cirrus plane deliveries up in 2017

Cirrus' Vision SF50 jet. (2014 file photo / News Tribune)

Cirrus delivered more than 350 planes in 2017, a high mark in recent years, and also added nearly 300 jobs at its various locations.

The Duluth-based aircraft manufacturer's 355 shipments of SR Series piston airplanes was an increase from 320 in 2016, 301 in 2015 and 308 in 2014.

In addition, Cirrus delivered 22 of its SF50 Vision Jets in 2017 — following its first three deliveries in 2016 — and is ramping up production, the company announced Wednesday.

"Our goal remains revolutionizing the personal flying experience for the pilot and passenger through innovation in performance and safety," Cirrus Aircraft co-founder and CEO Dale Klapmeier said in a news release. "Our strong results in 2017 are a direct result of how our mission resonates with our customers. The SR Series, and now the Vision Jet, continue to reinvent personal aviation around the world."

Cirrus moved 46 SR20s, 135 SR22s and 174 SR22Ts last year, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. It was the most planes the company has shipped in a single year since 2008, before the effects of the economic recession. In GAMA data dating back to 2004, Cirrus' peak year was 721 planes in 2006; its low was 253 shipments in 2012.

The first SR Series plane was delivered in 1999; Cirrus is slated to deliver its 7,000th SR airplane in April.

Cirrus reported that it added nearly 300 jobs in 2017 across its facilities in Duluth, Grand Forks and Knoxville, Tenn. A new "Cirrus Approach" training center, including a Vision Jet training simulator, is slated to open on the company's Knoxville campus later this year.

Cirrus reported that Lufthansa and Emirates airlines added fleets of SR Series aircraft to their training programs in 2017.

Meanwhile, GAMA reported Wednesday that the overall general aviation industry saw a 2.5 percent increase in shipments in 2017, though billings dropped 4.2 percent.

"The 2017 year-end results were encouraging, especially with the delivery growth we saw in the business jet, piston airplane and rotorcraft segments," GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said in a news release. "Looking ahead, we're optimistic given some very positive economic indicators, stabilization in the used business aircraft market, new manufacturing techniques spurred by additive manufacturing, and innovative aerospace technologies."