I recently flew a new SR20 with Cirrus' Matt Bergwall, who was kind enough to bring the airplane down to Austin from Duluth, Minnesota, for the evaluation. For the flight, I chose to go from my home airport of Austin Bergstrom International (KAUS) to Scholes International Airport (KGLS) in Galveston, because the trip from Central Texas to a Gulf Coast Texas city represents an excellent demonstration of the capabilities of the SR20. At 160 nautical miles, AUS-GLS is the kind of trip that takes far too long in a car. And if you want to take the airlines, well, you'd better plan for that journey to take longer than it would if you drove. Flying a small airplane is by far the best way to get from this particular Point A to that particular Point B. It's also a distance that underscores the utility of the SR20, which made the trip, including short vectors on departure, a climb to 5,500 feet and a jog around the southern end of Houston's Class Bravo airspace, in just over an hour. A flight in an SR22 would have beat that figure by maybe 10 minutes, about the amount of extra time you'd spend on the ramp with the SR22 if you, for instance, had to add a quart of oil before departure.
Even though it was the value-package SR20 S, the airplane we were flying that day was equipped with a lot of optional equipment, including the Perspective cockpit. Because it was headed for a European delivery, it also had DME and ADF.
In the SR20, the Perspective cockpit is almost identical to that in the SR22, but it has displays that are smaller, 10.4 inches diagonally compared with 12.4 for the SR22. I know that Cirrus has made a point of lauding the larger displays in the Perspective SR22, but I'm very happy with the 10.4-inch Entegra LCDs in the PlaneSmart G3 Turbo Cirrus I regularly fly.
I'm a big fan of the Perspective cockpit, and in the SR20 the Garmin system is an excellent, scalable fit. Apart from the smaller displays, there are few differences between the systems in the SR20 and the SR22, and most of those have to do with installed equipment. We've written at length about Garmin's Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT), and in the SR20 it's a great fit. On our way back from Galveston, we were scouting photo locations and, heading from one potential location to the next, we flew much lower — around 2,500 feet agl — than I'd normally fly while en route, and the Perspective was invaluable in several respects. While terrain is not a factor in the area, SVT helped me keep track of the many obstacles, namely towers and traffic, both of which show up on the primary flight display in a way that's hard to miss. You do still have to keep your eyes peeled, though, because there can be airplanes with no transponder in the kind of uncontrolled airspace we were namely towers and traffic, both of which show up on the primary flight display in a way that's hard to miss. You do still have to keep your eyes peeled, though, because there can be airplanes with no transponder in the kind of uncontrolled airspace we were flying through, as well as big birds, two of which we narrowly avoided hitting on our trip back home.
In addition to SVT, there were safety features galore on the airplane I flew for this report, including traffic and terrain alerting, Garmin charts, Garmin SafeTaxi and WAAS. The one thing missing was XM Weather, because, as I mentioned, the airplane is bound for Europe, where XM is unavailable. There's also the standard BRS whole-airplane recovery parachute system, a feature that Cirrus pilots overwhelmingly like having on board.
Along the way I was reminded of just how roomy the SR20 cockpit is. With a cabin width of 49 inches, and excellent headroom and legroom, the space you have available in the 20 is truly luxurious. It's hard to overstate this fact. I hadn't yet flown an SR20 with the X-Edition interior, but it was impressive in its fit and finish. The airplane we were flying was trimmed out with black leather and premium detailing. Despite its plain Jane reputation, this is one SR20 that has a lot of sex appeal.
The SR20 is often used as a transition airplane for new or inexperienced pilots who are looking to move up to an SR22, and it's an excellent platform for that purpose. It's a lighter airplane than the SR22, and it feels that way. It lands better than does the 22, which in my humble opinion is not the best-landing airplane in the world. The slightly slower approach speeds of the 20 and its natural stability, not to mention the excellent avionics, would make it a great instrument-training platform too.
For pilots looking for a good cross-country-capable airplane with sophisticated available equipment, great comfort and excellent economy, the SR20 is worth a long look, and not just as a transition airplane but also as one you could fly and love for many years to come.