Generation 5 Cirrus SR22
Cirrus calls the latest edition of its SR22 the Generation 5, which some customers have begun to refer to informally as the SR22 G5. There are a number of really big changes that make the model a strong upgrade, one that took clever design decisions to achieve.
How appealing is the new model? As of mid-March, Cirrus was sold out of Generation 5 SR22 production slots through July. It is shaping up, Cirrus vice president of sales and marketing Todd Simmons told me, to be the best year for Cirrus in many moons, and it is thanks to the G5. Customers are eating it up.
Why the love fest? Easy. Through a series of smart and complicated engineering decisions, Cirrus found a way to increase the gross weight of the airplane by 200 pounds, to 3,600 pounds.
In order to accomplish this, Cirrus had to do a number of things to the airplane that were complex, expensive and time-consuming. (Do those three things ever not go hand in hand when it comes to certification?) The company’s goal was to add some capabilities to the SR22 that owners have been asking for from day one. More on that in a bit.
Now, 200 pounds is a lot of weight increase for a light airplane, and it’s a number that resonates with pilots, as it is the ballpark weight we use for an FAA-standard passenger. (Your standard passenger may vary.) So, all other things being equal, you can add another passenger to today’s SR22 and go flying. While the numbers differ on differently equipped models because their rough empty weights are dissimilar, the bottom line is that every SR22 gets a sizable increase in useful load and full fuel payload.
The standard equipped nonturbo, non-FIKI, non-A/C SR22 is the best-case example, as it’s the lightest SR22 that Cirrus offers. With that model, you get a useful load of 1,340 pounds and a full-fuel payload of 788 pounds, which means you can take four 190-pound occupants, 25 pounds of bags and full fuel — 92 gallons — enough to fly no wind with reserves and then some from Portland (KPDX) to Santa Monica (KSMO). Leave out 10 gallons of fuel, and you can bump up the bags to nearly 100 pounds and you’re good to go from Atlanta to West Palm Beach, Florida.
For the more commonly ordered SR22s, with turbocharging, A/C and approved de-ice package, it’s still a big win. You can fly with three 180-pound occupants and full fuel, or load enough 100LL for a three-hour flight with reserves and fly with four 180-pounders. There are no other four-seaters in production that we know of that come close to these numbers.
How Cirrus arrived at a 200-pound weight increase is a complex tale. Of course, the company started by realizing that it had to beef up the spar, and interestingly, Cirrus says this aspect was relatively straightforward. Cirrus engineers added a few layers of composites and did the necessary analysis. The gear had previously been strengthened to handle the higher weight, so that work was already done (which also tells you something about how far in advance Cirrus plans its product upgrades). Had they left it at that, though, the 200-pound strength increase would have been lost to weight added on the spar and elsewhere to support the greater structure (the Catch-22 of every gross-weight-increase project). For the first time, there’s also a zero fuel weight, a figure that’s new to most piston-single drivers but common to jet pilots. The restriction in the G5 is a zero fuel weight of 3,400 pounds, which essentially means 3,400 pounds of nonfuel weight; so you need 200 pounds of fuel at max weight.
To counteract the hit they knew they would take in terms of a beefier structure (and one other big item), they went to work lightening the airplane. Cirrus engineers redid the structure of the rear seats to save 10 pounds; they shaved some weight with the oleo strut (actually new on an earlier SR22 model); they improved manufacturing processes throughout to cut an unspecified amount of weight; and they used new interior materials to cut some weight as well. They were also able to remove around eight pounds of ballast from the tail, which had been added on a previous model in order to keep the CG more tolerant of front-seat-only loading scenarios.