Moreover, Perspective airplanes have an upgraded electrical system, with the same dual alternators as on previous SR22s, but with the secondary one having an output of a very respectable 70 amps. With this scenario, if one alternator were to fail, the other could pick up all of the slack. You would probably want to turn off the air conditioner and the fan. Hardly the stuff of hairy emergencies.
As in high-end Garmin integrated systems, such as on the Mustang, the GFC 700 digital autopilot is controlled by a dedicated control device, which with Perspective is located below the keypad on the console. The range of options with the GFC 700 is impressive, as we've written many times before, and the performance is excellent, rock solid and silky smooth, if you can imagine an autopilot being both at the same time. Pilots can select different modes on the autopilot, including vertical speed or indicated airspeed mode (which on a small airplane is a better name for it than FLC -- for "flight level change" -- it seems to me).
I've flown with the GFC 700 before, so the autopilot was nothing new, even if some of the labels (IAS instead of FLC and the addition of the LVL button) are different. For pilots new to the GFC 700, the addition of more modes and the easier logic -- no arming is necessary -- will make the new autopilot a pleasure to use. And I found the jet-style roller control for indicated airspeed and vertical speed adjustments to be much more intuitive and easier to use than the "nose up" and "nose down" buttons on most G1000 systems.
There's also something new to the SR22 world, a yaw damper. On all previous SR22s, the lack of rudder trim coupled with a powerful engine requires a lot of right leg work on departure. The yaw damper eliminates the need for such exercise, while keeping autopilot turns, especially at lower airspeeds, silky smooth. Best of all the yaw damper -- as its name implies -- automatically moves the rudder to damp the Dutch roll induced by turbulence.
The GFC 700 can be coupled to all vertical nav modes, from cruise descent to WAAS vertical guidance approaches to ILSes. The autopilot will also fly your holding patterns and procedure turns for you, getting the entry right every time.
One GFC 700 panel feature is sure to be controversial: a single button that Cirrus Design calls the "level" button but which pilots will surely be referring to as the "panic" button. And to be frank, that is the purpose of the button. One push of the blue LVL button and the autopilot levels the wings and holds the current altitude, which you have to admit is a much better place to troubleshoot control problems than in a 90-degree banked dive. When confronted with loss, or near loss, of control, this button is a response one step more conservative than the chute, and there's a lot to be said for that. A number of jet fighters have such a feature that has probably given some hotshot jet jockey who was momentarily confused while upside down at night or in the clouds a chance to figure out what is going on.
Flight planning on the new system is much improved, mostly because the increased real estate on the MFD allows you to see both the flight plan utility and a decent-sized moving map at the same time on the same screen. Plus, you can now do something you couldn't on the Entegra screen: pan ahead. Unlike the Avidyne multifunction display, Perspective's MFD has a cursor you can use to pan ahead as far as you'd like, and even add flight legs, if you want. Pilots who own a Garmin portable navigator already have this feature available, and if they're like me, they use it all the time.
This is, of course, in addition to the much improved speed of entering a flight plan, which you can now do using the alphanumeric keypad. Crackberry addicts out there will find that it takes a while to get used to the alphabetical (as opposed to qwerty) keypad, though old hands with FMSes won't blink an eye. There's also an improved stored flight plan function, victor airway routing, improved flight plan management and more. Nice.
On my hour-and-a-half-long flight in a Perspective-equipped SR22, we made our way up to Hibbing from Duluth, flew an RNAV approach there, and missed the approach into the hold. After that, we flew the return trip to Duluth, though along the way we lost the PFD (on purpose, of course) and used the MFD in reversionary mode, simulated a loss of control of the airplane and used the LVL button to regain our equilibrium. Flying the ILS back into Duluth (under actual conditions, by the way) showed the power of the SVT to provide situational awareness. I was flying the localizer and glideslope indicators, but even though the runway was behind the clouds, I was looking right at it, runway numbers, markings and all, on the display right before my eyes.
My impression? Simple: Pilots are going to love this system.
The SR22 with Perspective should be fully certified and available by the time you read this. A full-up Perspective-equipped GTS-X model, with turbocharging, air conditioning, TKS and more, goes for right around $640,000. And based on the historical tendencies of Cirrus buyers, that's exactly the airplane they're going to want.
For more details about the new system, visit cirrusdesign.com.