The X factor with the new Corvalis might very well be the interior. Cessna went to great lengths to give the Corvalis the kind of sleek and hypermodern appearance that its main rival has been banking on for some time now, and which works.
Over the past year or so Cessna has figured out that having great performing high-value airplanes isn’t enough anymore. Airplane customers demand great style in their airplanes too. So from its biggest jets to its single-engine lineup, Cessna is giving them what they’re asking for. In the TTx that translates into great fabrics, carbon fiber trim, standard air conditioning, new cup holders (situated in a cutout that used to be dead space underneath the console), better carpeting and leather-wrapped sidesticks. You can even remove the rear seats for that station wagon effect and load mountain bikes or large bags in the back.
As I said, Cessna went beyond the basics in its reconstitution of the Corvalis, which is evident too in its decision to replace the mechanical standby gauges with the L3 Trilogy standby, a product we love. Trilogy gives you attitude, airspeed and altitude in one easy-to-interpret instrument that provides its own backup AHRS and air data computer on top of that. And right next to the Trilogy standby is another great feature, a built-in pulse oximeter, so you can regularly check your pulse and oxygen saturation stats without having to hunt for where the gadget went. It’s always right there in the panel.
The overall effect is a cockpit so clean, so elegant, that it looks as though the airplane were built around it and not the other way around. The engine/prop controls are a case in point. The three push controls — throttle, prop and mixture — butt up against the panel, where you have the go-around switch and the speedbrakes, allowing the pilot to manage both of these functions without having to hunt for them.
The same is true of the touch-screen controller, which, with its large, raised bezel, is situated so your hand just falls to it with no reaching or stretching required. Even in bumpy air the required movements are easy and natural. If the touch-screen controller were to fail, there’s a dedicated hard-button controller on the glareshield next to the autopilot controller. There are some functions that some pilots might regularly perform there. Kirby says he likes the touch-screen controller and winds up using it almost exclusively in his flying the TTx.
Regardless of what you call the airplane, Cessna’s high-end carbon fiber speedster remains an absolute pleasure to fly, and none of its characteristics have changed in that regard. I have dozens of hours flying the airplane, so my flight in the Corvalis on that exceptionally hot summer afternoon wasn’t to discover how the airplane flies — I already knew that — but more to see how it feels, how the new avionics, interior and, very importantly, air conditioning contribute to the experience.
Heading out of ICT we got a VFR clearance to 4,500 feet toward Hutchinson, where we’d fly a couple of approaches to get the feeling and flavor of G2000 and how well it fits in the Corvalis. As I’ve said before, G2000 is a quantum leap over G1000, a system I’ve flown in dozens of different airplane models. The differences are not just in the way you control the system, with a touch-screen controller (not a touch-screen display), but in the way the architecture of the system is laid out. Instead of using chapters and pages to navigate around the system, an approach I always found clumsy, with G2000 you revert back (again and again) to a home page before going to your new destination. It’s a kind of hub and spoke system for avionics, maximizing efficiency and minimizing unnecessary motion. The other big change is that everything is graphical, so instead of having to read the fine print to figure out what the next step is toward inserting a new flight plan leg, for instance, you simply touch the leg you want to modify and follow the simple, pop-up directions placing the new waypoint either before or after the existing one, and you’re on your way.
We flew to Hutchinson through the light chop of a hot, late-summer afternoon, flew the RNAV approach, flew the missed and marveled at the level of automation available through G2000 and the GFC 700 autopilot. The autopilot flew the proper entry to the LPV approach and then automatically guided us down the glidepath. For the missed, you simply hit the “go around” switch and the V-bars come up, and guidance to the missed segment is automatically loaded into the flight plan. Then we were on our way back home.
As always it was great flying the Corvalis — I love the sidestick, the smooth control response, the good visibility and the great performance. I couldn’t be any happier that it’s on the road back to market or any more impressed by the kind of commitment that Cessna has made to the product. Flying the Corvalis TTx, in fact, made me long to take an extended trip in one again, which is where the airplane shines. With 102-gallon fuel capacity, built-in oxygen, world-class avionics and even available satellite communications, it’s an exceptionally well-equipped personal transportation machine, one that has again raised the bar for the level of safety, comfort and capability that customers have grown to expect from a top-of-the-line single-engine airplane.