The launch of the 2012 Cirrus SR22 is noteworthy thanks to a couple of new features but even more so because, in aggregate, this is the year that the Cirrus SR22 has really arrived at the top of the heap.
Back in the 1960s, the launches of a new model year’s airplanes used to be big things, because there were often important changes to the model lineups of the big three and their less established competitors. Sometimes the upgrades were minor, like new interior options, and sometimes they were substantial, like new engines or avionics makeovers.
As a journalist, I’ve learned over the years that it’s not wise to speak in absolutes. Any time you say that any airplane is the “most” anything, get ready for a hearty helping of crow, as there’s surely some model somewhere in history that you’ve forgotten that is even more than what you blithely claimed in the first place. But in this case, I’ll break my unofficial rule and come right out and say it: The 2012 Cirrus SR22 is the most sophisticated single-engine civilian airplane ever built and by a long shot.
While this statement could probably have been said of the Cirrus SR22, with its remarkable suite of avionics and safety capabilities, for the past couple of years, the addition this year of a fifth seat option and a very capable satellite communications system with global weather, voice calling, texting and e-mail seals the deal.
The rest of the market is playing catch-up.
It’s not every airplane I fly that I get the chance to test by flying it hard over the course of many days. When I do I seldom learn entirely new things about the airplane. It’s more like getting to know a new friend. You get little insights here and there that add up to a sense of the character that feels somehow more authentic. That’s how it was with the latest Cirrus SR22 I got to fly. I’m still flying it and I’m still feeling it.
For those pilots who think they know the Cirrus SR22 based on a flight seven or eight years ago or, worse yet, word of mouth, I’d urge them to rethink what they know about what has become far and away the most popular high-performance piston-powered airplane in the world. Today’s SR22 is a very different animal from the one Cirrus launched amidst much fanfare and controversy some 11-odd years ago.
While the basic outline of the 2012 airplane looks nearly identical to that 2001 model, the truth is that Cirrus has over the years updated nearly every bit of the airplane. In some cases, as with the adoption of LED exterior lights, those upgrades might be considered minor, while others, like with the all-new wing on the G3 and the launch of the Perspective cockpit, were clearly major improvements.
Five Seats: Big Deal?
How significant a feature is the five-seat option? Let’s put it into context.
First, the five-seater is not a new airplane but simply an option that Cirrus is offering on all of its models. The latest edition of the SR22, which Cirrus refers to simply as the 2012 model, is the first to have the option for a fifth seat, but buyers can get that option even on an SR20.