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Justin Pede and Kimberly Pithey check out Whisenhent's jet on display at the celebartion. 

GRAND FORKS — 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, April 4, 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.

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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.

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