For as long as Garmin has delivered flat-panel avionics systems to airplane makers, there have been rumors that Cirrus was on the verge of offering Garmin glass in its high-end SR22 single. All along, the rumors were wrong.
That is, until now. In late May Cirrus officially launched the new flat-panel avionics suite for its SR22 piston single, Perspective, by Garmin.
In April Cirrus gave Flying a sneak peak at Perspective. The package, which is technically a cockpit upgrade, will be a $48,000 option available only on its top trim level SR22 G3 piston single. Cirrus will continue to offer the current Avidyne Entegra flat-panel based system to customers who want it.
Perspective is not, Cirrus is emphatic to point out, a G1000 system. While utilizing many of the underlying technologies that Garmin employed to bring G1000 to the marketplace a few years ago, the new system was developed specifically to Cirrus' specifications.
As you might know, it's common practice for the makers of high-end bizjets to create a brand identity for the avionics packages they spec and tweak, sometimes extensively. Gulfstream with its PlaneView suite and Dassault with its EASy package on its Falcon bizjets, for example, have shaped the Honeywell Primus Epic-based avionics packages to create their own visions of the ideal avionics offering. Along the way they work closely with the avionics manufacturer to modify the layout of the components, the symbology on the displays, the size and position of the panels and the logic of the user interface. The changes in both cases were extensive and painstakingly thought out.
On a smaller scale, this is precisely what Cirrus has done with its new brand, Perspective. And in the end, the product is within shouting distance in functionality to packages offered on some of the latest bizjets, and at a small fraction of the cost.
The Suspense and the Payoff
Shortly after the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, I traveled up to the shores of Lake Superior to visit with Cirrus Design at its Duluth, Minnesota, headquarters. All I knew was that I would be flying an airplane with a new avionics package, which they would neither confirm nor deny was made by a company whose name began with a "G." What would this new panel be? And how would it be different than the system in previous Cirrus airplanes, a flat-panel package anchored by Avidyne Entegra displays paired with Garmin GNS 430 navigators?
Room for Enhancement?
Avionics, like just about everything else having to do with the SR22, is a subject of endless controversy among Cirrus drivers. Many of them, like me, are fans of the Entegra system, an elegant, powerful, capable and readily expandable system that does a lot and asks little in return.
That said, there are shortcomings to the previous system. For starters, the MFD is not reversionary -- that is, if the primary flight display were to fail, the multifunction display, used mainly to show maps, flight plans and engine instruments, can't take over the PFD's job. You need to revert to the backup flight instruments. On the same lack of redundancy note, there's only one attitude heading reference sensor (AHRS) in the Entegra, and if that were to fail, you'd likewise be left with the steam gauges. And the system relies on the S-Tec 55X autopilot, which pales in comparison in terms of performance and features to the Garmin GFC 700 digital autopilot. (But more on the benefits of the 55X in a bit). Finally, Cirrus' backup electrical system in the Avidyne PFD system is, frankly, underpowered and requires a good deal of load shedding if the primary alternator were to quit.
So, as nice as the existing system was and is, there was without argument room to add safety and new features to the SR22 cockpit. And the company chosen for the job, on the strength of its immensely popular G1000 avionics systems (now standard equipment in more than a dozen airplanes from light singles to jets), was Garmin.
A New Direction
So in all honesty, it was no shocker when Cirrus showed me Perspective. The eye opener was that it was so ambitious a system for a small airplane.
Perspective, in some ways, is an apt name for the system, as two of the major new features -- synthetic vision and the larger displays -- are all about seeing more and seeing better.
Perspective at a Glance
• Displays: Two 12-inch diagonal high-resolution LCDs, one PFD and one MFD
• Attitude: Dual digital AHRS
• Power and Redundancy: Full automatic or manual reversionary capability for both displays; dual alternators (100 and 70 amps); dual buss, integrated caution messaging.
• Autopilot: Garmin GFC 700 digital autopilot with optional yaw damper. Standard features include indicated airspeed select, vertical speed select, a host of nav and approach modes, and a one-button wings-level altitude-hold recovery function.
• GPS Engine: Garmin WAAS receiver
• Data Entry: FMS keypad or concentric knobs
• MFD Features: Advanced flight planning, Garmin SafeTaxi, Garmin or Jeppesen electronic instrument charts, XM Weather, SkyWatch traffic avoidance, Stormscope and more.