Host of Features
There are groundbreaking features galore on this airplane, all of which we’ve written about in recent years and many of which Cirrus came up with through innovative initiatives with its partners. Chief among these is Garmin, with whom Cirrus has been working from its inception. Innovative Garmin products include the Perspective avionics suite with 12-inch displays, integral alphanumeric keypad, the industry-leading GFC 700 dual-channel digital autopilot, active traffic, synthetic vision, enhanced vision system, and envelope and hypoxia protection via Garmin’s ESP system. This is not to mention a host of non-Garmin-related features, like single-lever (no prop lever) mechanical power control, the whole-airplane recovery parachute system (WARPS), the high-performance fixed-gear design approach, the incredibly roomy interior, the built-in O2, the approved flight into known icing anti-icing system, air conditioning, airbag seat belts and more.
Flying in the SR22
Cirrus puts these features together in a very satisfying package. The airplane is beautiful to look at, true, but it’s also a pleasure to fly, and not just for the excellent true airspeeds, fine climbing ability, great visibility and comfortable seats. While the first few years of Cirrus airplanes felt less substantial and solid than I would have liked, the latest models are solid on the ground and in the air. The redesigned gear feels better than ever; the factory turbocharged Continental TSIO-550 is a smart choice; the control feel on the side yoke is tighter and more positive than ever; the environmental controls are better designed and more effective, and the soundproofing is better than ever. The result is a comfortable ride in an airplane with a lot of capability.
The features add to the airplane’s utility and the peace of mind that it brings, and FIKI is just one of those. On my flight back from Dallas to Austin last week, there was a front moving through the area with forecasts of widespread ice from the surface through around 15,000 feet. The morning of my flight, visibility was low — around 300 overcast with a mile and a half visibility at Love Field, with temperatures in the low 40s and rain falling. The evening before, Dallas had gotten some snow flurries. The tops were reported at around 5,000 feet, which is less than 10 minutes of climbing in the clouds if I could get a climb directly to that level or higher, not a given going out of Dallas. Airplanes 50 miles north were reporting only light to moderate rime ice in the clouds, but having the known ice protection on the Cirrus SR22 made the go/no-go an even easier decision than it otherwise would have been. I loaded up the windscreen and wings with fluid and headed out.
There was, as I suspected, no ice at all, but even if there had been moderate ice, it would have been a nonissue on that day under those conditions. And that’s not to mention the synthetic vision, which I love having when the weather is low, the excellent autopilot, the envelope protection and, yes, the chute. It all adds to the Cirrus SR22’s safety and utility.
The Cirrus SR22 has the high-performance piston single market largely to itself these days. With Mooney on an extended production hiatus and with Cessna not yet up and running with the new Corvalis, the Beechcraft Bonanza is the SR22’s only in-production high-performance rival. Cirrus has capitalized on the dearth of competition by holding prices and adding features. There are still a couple of desirable options buyers will be asking about and that Cirrus isn’t offering: fadec, which no one has yet, and the G2000 touch-screen control avionics suite. Cessna has announced G2000 on its four-seat Corvalis TTx, which Cessna has not yet started delivering.
Is the Cirrus SR22 loaded with bells and whistles? No, it’s not, and I say that because the term implies that the airplane’s features are somehow frivolous. This is not the case. Sure, there are available features that pilots don’t need and that are unrelated to safety, like air conditioning and voice calling, but for every quality-of-life feature, there are three or four safety innovations, from WAAS to envelope protection, that make the point clearly: Innovation, not just with Cirrus but in light GA, is all about safety and utility, the two traits in any airplane that will always be hot commodities.