Our arrival at KBTR was in the dark, and there were multiple taxiway closures there, so I flipped on the EVS to taxi while flipping back and forth between that and SafeTaxi to make sure we were where we wanted to be on the airport.
A couple of weeks later, I flew the new Cirrus SR22 on a third trip, up to Dallas Love for Heli-Expo. I had a number of bulky items, including a couple of large trophies for presentations at the show, so I folded down the rear seats and treated the SR22 like a station wagon.
To accommodate the new seating layout, Cirrus did some things differently in back, including relocating the headset jacks so they’re no longer plugged into the back of the console — where the plugs can be accidentally bent or broken if a heavy bag is laid atop them. Cirrus also added automotive-style inertial reel shoulder harnesses to all three positions in back, a big safety upgrade for those rear seats’ occupants. Also new are improved anchors for car seats, smart for an area that’s likely going to be used by folks with kids in child seats. The overall effect is a cleaner, sleeker rear seating area that makes for improved comfort, loading flexibility and safety.
If you’re worried about cell phones and texting breaking into the pilot’s last bastion of privacy, namely the cockpit, worry away, but there’s not much you can do about it. It’s coming. As far as I’m concerned, I welcome it wholeheartedly. There are things that voice calling, e-mail and Internet can do to improve the safety of flight that we’ve only begun to dream of. With the new Cirrus SR22, I got a chance to witness firsthand some of those capabilities.
In addition to the five-seat option, the SR22 offers a brand-new communications option, called Perspective Global Connect. The system offers global weather, satellite phone piped through the audio panel (more on that in a bit), texting through the MFD and even e-mail.
The weather available through Global Connect is similar to XM WX, but you can get it anywhere in the world (though products vary by geographic location).
There’s also a big difference in price. While XM costs a reasonable flat fee for whatever usage you want, Global Connect is pricier. Then again, it does more than XM, which is an always-on receiver that simply listens for the latest XM updates beamed down from the system’s geostationary satellites — it’s just available in North America. Global Connect, on the other hand, makes use of the Iridium satellite system, which provides global coverage.
This means that wherever in the world you are, you’ve got coverage. You can specify the weather coverage area you want to receive. Whereas with XM you get all of its data all the time, with Global Connect, you can specify only what you need, so there’s much less data getting sent down, which can help lower the cost. (Plans and rates vary; check with Cirrus for detailed pricing information.) In North America there’d be little reason to use anything but XM, but in other parts of the world, Global Connect will be a must-have option. Even in the States, the ability to make voice calls, text and e-mail will make it a popular choice as well.
I tried every function of Global Connect. It all worked right off the bat every time. I texted my wife, “Guess what, honey, I’m texting from the plane!” I didn’t really have much else to say. Ever the smart aleck, my wife texted right back, “How do I know that?” With no built-in camera phone, she had me there. Then again, electronic tracking is part of the Global Connect feature set, so there really was a way to prove it. Pressing my point, I “dialed” our home number on the keypad of the Perspective avionics suite. She picked up the phone, answering apprehensively, apparently leery of the long, strange number that must have popped up on our home phone’s caller ID. I was clearly in an airplane, she admitted, and confirmed the voice quality was very good. She sounded great. A few moments later, trying her patience, I e-mailed her, promising I’d stop aerially harassing her soon. She responded with a quick “Love you” and my test was done.