It's official. With the introduction of the G3 version, the seminal Cirrus SR20 piston single is all grown up.
I hadn't fully realized that until recently, when I had the lucky chance to fly a pair of SR20s, one really old one (well, as old as they get) and one brand spanking new one, in close succession.
To be perfectly honest, I'd forgotten just how basic an airplane the first generation SR20 is. Sure it has a chute and it is all-composite, but despite that, the basic airplane feels pretty Spartan and, to be even more honest, a little rough around the edges.
I'll forgive myself the lapse of memory. After all, the airplane has been more or less constantly changing since its introduction almost 10 years ago, getting avionics upgrades on a few occasions, improved doors (thank heavens) a while back, upgraded interiors on a couple of occasions, not to mention the transformative addition of flat-panel avionics as standard equipment a few years back. Whether you want to call it polished, evolved or simply improved, you won't get an argument from me. Regardless of how you phrase it, the G3 is far and away the best SR20 that Cirrus has built yet.
I don't think Cirrus planned it that way in the beginning, but for years now the SR20 has played second fiddle to the company's faster and more powerful SR22. Consequently, people don't get very excited about it, and we've all but forgotten the commotion that accompanied the then-startup company's first delivery of the all-composite SR20 200 hp single back in 1999. The excitement was justified. The SR20 was the first high-profile new piston single-engine airplane to earn FAA Part 23 certification in years, and it came at a time when the industry was ready for a change and even more ready for some success.
In the years prior Cirrus co-founders and brothers Alan and Dale Klapmeier had all but abandoned the experimental market and their earlier kitplane, the sleek but problematical VK30 four-seat pusher. The brothers and their team retreated into the secrecy of Hangar X to plot their to-be-certified follow-on effort.
But much to the dismay of aviation rebels, the airplane that emerged was a very conventional looking four-seat fixed-gear single with the engine in the front and the tail in the back. Cirrus called it the SR20, which sounded pretty corporate, as well.
But if the iconoclasts were disappointed by the outward conformity of the new airplane, there was more to it than met the eye: a whole-airplane recovery parachute, side yokes, a big flat-panel MFD and more.
Their conservative industry counterparts, however, were skeptical about the prospects across the board. The airplane didn't go through the conventional flight test certification spin matrix, relying instead on the presence of the chute for credit on that testing. And the chute just rubbed traditionalists the wrong way (still does, for many).
But Alan and Dale Klapmeier were true idealists, hellbent on creating an airplane that did things differently. And they did just that.
A New Generation
With the introduction of the SR22 G3 with its all-new carbon fiber wing last year, I figured that the introduction of the next-generation SR20 was only a matter of time.
It's simple economics, really. It just saves a lot of time and money to build more of the same thing than to build two different kinds of parts. Detroit has known that since the days of Henry Ford, and it's no different for 800 airplanes a year than it is for half a million cars.
Besides, the new wing was a clear improvement over the old one. How so? Let me count the ways.