1 The Chute
Perhaps more than any other design feature — and the chute is a design feature and not an accessory — the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) in the SR-series airplanes crystallizes the controversy behind the airplane. The chute, in case you've just returned from Mars, can be deployed from the cockpit and lowers the entire airplane, occupants and all, back to the ground in a highly survivable if not terribly comfortable manner. Now, the subject of the chute isn't a black-and-white one. You don't have to either love or hate it. Many owners and pilots of SR22s have nuanced views of the technology. In general, one distinction seems true, though. There's a huge divide between younger and older pilots in how they view the very concept of the chute. It amounts, as far as I can tell, to the older pilots feeling as though having a chute to save the day when things go terribly wrong amounts somehow to cheating. Cirrus, to its credit, saw the controversy coming and, when it designed the original airplanes, made CAPS standard equipment. That means buyers couldn't opt out; nor could the airplane remain airworthy without the chute. So, after 10 years in the SR22, what has been the legacy of the chute? For one thing, it has saved more than a dozen lives, which might not seem like much unless you're one of those dozen people or someone who cares about them. But for the rest of the industry, the chute has not had a major impact. You can get one on a brand-new Cessna 182, but very few buyers avail themselves of that option. The aftermarket performance of the chute has been similarly subdued. But CAPS remains a signature feature of the Cirrus, and many Cirrus buyers report that it is a big part of the purchase decision.