Just what good does a nonapproved system do for a pilot? Good question. In terms of what it does for you in terms of ice protection, well, the answer is very complicated and ranges from everything required to not nearly enough, depending on the severity of the conditions and the outcome of the flight. Despite flying Cirrus SR22s in some of the iciest parts of the country over the years, my firsthand knowledge of the subject is minimal. I have asked a lot of SR22 drivers what their experiences have been, and they've had a lot of reassuring things to say about the nonapproved TKS system as installed on previous SR22s, as well as a few not-so-reassuring things. (The basic system will still be available even after the introduction of the FIKI system.)
But what a nonapproved system does for you from a regulatory point of view is easy to answer: nothing. There are few issues in aviation that are more controversial than what constitutes "known icing" conditions, and even the FAA over the years has waffled on the point. But the bottom line is, only a known ice approved system keeps you legal when you encounter icing conditions. A non-approved system, on the other hand, might keep you safe, but if you have an ice-related incident or emergency, it won't protect you from enforcement action.
A certified system, on the other hand, keeps you legal.
The second and more important part is, it undoubtedly keeps you safer, too.
The new TKS system was designed jointly by Cirrus and TKS manufacturer CAV Ice Protection Ltd. It's not just a beefed-up version of the former TKS system on the SR22 but a whole new system with upgraded components throughout. This includes the panels themselves, laser-drilled titanium units that can deliver more anti-icing fluid more quickly. There's also more coverage, with longer panels on the wing leading edges, a panel on the vertical tail and mini-panels on the mass balance on the elevator and on the wingtips. On the leading edge is a heated stall vane/angle of attack sensor, and an automotive style spray unit keeps the windshield clear. LED-powered ice lights on either side of the fuselage illuminate the surfaces, so you can see how it's going even at night. As on the previous installation, a slinger ring protects the prop.
There's more capacity and backups galore with the FIKI system. There are three pumps, two tanks and system display capability. When filled, the two 4-gallon tanks give the system 2.5 hours of capacity, automatically cycling between the tanks to keep the levels roughly even. On the MFD you've got a display that shows you the amount of fluid in each tank, the length of available deicing time in the system at each of the three flow rates (max, high and normal), and even the range available under current conditions.
On the day that I went flying in the new Cirrus SR22, there was, believe it or not, icing forecast over a wide swath of Central Texas. And with a 600-foot ceiling at KAUS and even lower down at San Antonio, where we were headed, the fact of the matter was, it was the perfect day to be FIKI equipped.
As is so often the case, even though ice was forecast, there wasn't any of it in the clouds. In fact, there was quite a temperature inversion, and freezing rain had been forecast further north. On the ground at Austin it was just above freezing, but by the time we got to 5,000 feet, the OAT was 50° F. The ride, you might have guessed, was silky smooth.