Cirrus calls the latest edition of its SR22 the Generation 5, which some customers have begun to refer to informally as the SR22 G5. There are a number of really big changes that make the model a strong upgrade, one that took clever design decisions to achieve.
How appealing is the new model? As of mid-March, Cirrus was sold out of Generation 5 SR22 production slots through July. It is shaping up, Cirrus vice president of sales and marketing Todd Simmons told me, to be the best year for Cirrus in many moons, and it is thanks to the G5. Customers are eating it up.
Why the love fest? Easy. Through a series of smart and complicated engineering decisions, Cirrus found a way to increase the gross weight of the airplane by 200 pounds, to 3,600 pounds.
In order to accomplish this, Cirrus had to do a number of things to the airplane that were complex, expensive and time-consuming. (Do those three things ever not go hand in hand when it comes to certification?) The company’s goal was to add some capabilities to the SR22 that owners have been asking for from day one. More on that in a bit.
Now, 200 pounds is a lot of weight increase for a light airplane, and it’s a number that resonates with pilots, as it is the ballpark weight we use for an FAA-standard passenger. (Your standard passenger may vary.) So, all other things being equal, you can add another passenger to today’s SR22 and go flying. While the numbers differ on differently equipped models because their rough empty weights are dissimilar, the bottom line is that every SR22 gets a sizable increase in useful load and full fuel payload.
The standard equipped nonturbo, non-FIKI, non-A/C SR22 is the best-case example, as it’s the lightest SR22 that Cirrus offers. With that model, you get a useful load of 1,340 pounds and a full-fuel payload of 788 pounds, which means you can take four 190-pound occupants, 25 pounds of bags and full fuel — 92 gallons — enough to fly no wind with reserves and then some from Portland (KPDX) to Santa Monica (KSMO). Leave out 10 gallons of fuel, and you can bump up the bags to nearly 100 pounds and you’re good to go from Atlanta to West Palm Beach, Florida.
For the more commonly ordered SR22s, with turbocharging, A/C and approved de-ice package, it’s still a big win. You can fly with three 180-pound occupants and full fuel, or load enough 100LL for a three-hour flight with reserves and fly with four 180-pounders. There are no other four-seaters in production that we know of that come close to these numbers.
How Cirrus arrived at a 200-pound weight increase is a complex tale. Of course, the company started by realizing that it had to beef up the spar, and interestingly, Cirrus says this aspect was relatively straightforward. Cirrus engineers added a few layers of composites and did the necessary analysis. The gear had previously been strengthened to handle the higher weight, so that work was already done (which also tells you something about how far in advance Cirrus plans its product upgrades). Had they left it at that, though, the 200-pound strength increase would have been lost to weight added on the spar and elsewhere to support the greater structure (the Catch-22 of every gross-weight-increase project). For the first time, there’s also a zero fuel weight, a figure that’s new to most piston-single drivers but common to jet pilots. The restriction in the G5 is a zero fuel weight of 3,400 pounds, which essentially means 3,400 pounds of nonfuel weight; so you need 200 pounds of fuel at max weight.
To counteract the hit they knew they would take in terms of a beefier structure (and one other big item), they went to work lightening the airplane. Cirrus engineers redid the structure of the rear seats to save 10 pounds; they shaved some weight with the oleo strut (actually new on an earlier SR22 model); they improved manufacturing processes throughout to cut an unspecified amount of weight; and they used new interior materials to cut some weight as well. They were also able to remove around eight pounds of ballast from the tail, which had been added on a previous model in order to keep the CG more tolerant of front-seat-only loading scenarios.
The one place they took a hit was with the parachute, which is all-new. Because the airplane weighs as much as 200 pounds more, the parachute has to lower the airplane with the same dynamic forces on touchdown, so the chute has to be bigger: It went from 55 feet in diameter to 65 feet in diameter. An added benefit of the larger chute is that the airplane will now touch down at lighter weights at very low speeds. While the handle, cables and system of channeled webbing that make up the extraction system are the same, the rocket had to be bigger because the chute itself is bigger and heavier and needed more power to fire it. The new rocket is longer and more powerful. Cirrus also went with a new firing system, which makes use of solid-state ignition instead of an incendiary device, as on the former models.
Other Weighty Gains
Another big plus with the G5 is the improvement in two critical airspeeds. The first of those is max flap extension, which increases from a too-low 119 knots for the first-notch to a fantastic 150 knots. The second notch of flaps, formerly set at a max deployment speed of 104 knots, has climbed a modest 6 knots to 110 knots but has gained an additional 3.5 degrees of extension in order to keep landing speeds low. The strengthening of the main spar helped provide the structure needed for the increase, as did improvements to the flap hinge and hinge attach points.
The speed for the deployment of the parachute has also increased, from 133 to 140 knots, which adds to the margin of safety for deployments.
There are some trade-offs to the weight increase and all that went into it. Liftoff speeds (which are calculated at max weight, as most specifications are) have increased from about 72 knots indicated to about 80 knots, increasing takeoff run but only by about 60 feet. The stall speed increased from 58 knots to 60 knots, and the best rate and angle of climb both increased marginally. Landing performance figures are virtually identical to those of previous SR22s.
In terms of climb and cruise performance, the G5 airplane will climb a bit less quickly (same wing, same power plant, higher weight), taking around eight instead of seven minutes to get to 8,000 feet at max weight. Likewise, the range decreases by about 50 nautical miles on average (of course, range figures are all dependent on weight, winds, equipment and other conditions).
Cruise speeds theoretically will be affected too, though in my tests (and according to the pilots I know who’ve flown the G5), it was hard to see any differences. At 9,000 feet in the turbo (with FIKI, which cuts a couple of knots off the top end), I was seeing 175 knots true. At 24,000 feet, a friend reported seeing 205 knots. The new model will burn slightly more fuel for the same performance.
The new model also rolls into the standard package a number of features that were recently introduced on other models. The Garmin GFC 700 autopilot (you thought it was standard, didn’t you?) now is in fact standard. Also, the remarkably accurate fuel sender units are there too. They are so accurate, they are used to send CAS messages apprising the pilot of any coming fuel imbalance; at eight gallons of imbalance, you get an alert; at 10 gallons, you get a caution; and at 12 gallons and beyond, it’s a master warning. The fifth seat (which Cirrus calls 60/40 Flex Seating) saw universal adoption by buyers over the past year. It is now in every SR22 (SR20s as well, actually). ADS-B is also standard.
The lineman at my airport spotted one other new feature, the redesigned wheel pants. As far as I could tell, they are completely unrelated to the gross weight increase, and they don’t seem to affect the airplane’s performance either. But they do have access doors for the inflator valve, which explains why the line guy spotted them right away. On older SR22s, it’s a pain to inflate the tires.
G5 In Flight
I had an extended opportunity to fly the Vision Inspired Generation 5 SR22 over the course of two weeks, flying it on cross-country trips, on local hops and even on training flights.
The creature comforts of the model are remarkable. The seats are the most comfortable yet (though they could use another recline notch between the “bolt straight” and “kicking back” settings). The soundproofing and fit and finish are better than ever too. The doors on the G5 (an issue with some older airplanes) worked like a charm, and the stylish tone of the interior hits the perfect note.
Even though the SR22 feels very familiar to me — I fly an SR22 G3 model regularly — there was something about the G5 that was more solid than any SR22 I’d previously flown.
On my heaviest flight, we were a few hundred pounds under gross with full fuel, but I still kept it on the ground for the additional few knots the book says is needed at gross weight just to get a feel for it. My conclusion is that it’s really not needed for rotation, as the airplane was ready to fly not at 80 knots but at 70. For clearing obstacles, use book values.
I had a hard time discerning differences in performance between the G5 and the G3 I normally fly (for the record, there is no G4, for no other reason than it wasn’t as mellifluous-sounding a designation as G5 is). Climb was strong, around 1,200 fpm on the cool morning that I headed down to the Texas Gulf coast for the photo shoot. If there’s a difference, and physics dictate there must be, then it is surely slight. Likewise, in cruise it felt like any G3 I’ve flown: nice, comfortable and fast.
It was in arrival and approach that the airplane showed its great new powers. With a first-notch speed of 119 knots in previous generations of SR22s, you needed to be clever at times to get down to approach speeds. Start the approach a little too fast, and you’ll be struggling to both descend on the glide path and keep the speed below the flap limit. With the new settings, you can throw in the first notch of flaps at 150 knots, which is a huge deal to Cirrus pilots. We’ve all talked about how nice speed brakes would be on this airplane in the past. With the new flaps, there is no need — none, nada, zilch. You can now tailor your approach speeds to fit the traffic, the procedure and the needs of ATC.
Landing the SR22 G5 is different than in previous models, and there are a couple of reasons for that. For one, it has an extra bit of travel on the second notch of flaps, so you tend to sink nicely even while carrying a little power. The other thing is that the airplane is heavier, so with the power being equal, you are going to sink just a bit more. If any of that sounds bad, it’s not. Actually, it’s great. The G5 is by far the best-landing SR22 ever. And it is the best-flying SR22 by a long shot.
When Cirrus began showing its SF50 Vision jet around with a new iridescent blue paint scheme, it received a warm welcome from potential customers. So Cirrus decided to create a marketing tie-in with the soon-to-be-announced Generation 5 SR22, allowing buyers of the G5 airplane to get a position on a jet for $1.19 million instead of $1.96 million, or to allow jet position holders to pick up a G5 SR22 with guaranteed brokerage when they take delivery of their jet in a few years.
Cirrus called the special-edition SR22 the “Vision Inspired” model, which I flew and photographed for this story. In addition to the cool paint scheme, the Vision Inspired SR22 comes with a package of special features, including black baffling, stainless-steel cam locks, carbon-inspired interior with suede-look headliner and side panels and yoke covers, and Vision Inspired badging. The airplane also comes with three years of tail-to-spinner maintenance, the sat/comm/data package and air conditioning. The cost of the Vision Inspired SR22 is an eye-popping $829,000. Standard SR22T (turbo) models start at $569,900 for the well-equipped base model and go up to $724,900 for the decked-out GTS model.
Cirrus has delivered more than 5,300 airplanes to date, and the SR22 G5, with its 200-pound increase in gross weight, greatly improved flaps, enviable performance and features list, is the best one yet. While not everyone will be able to fork over the dough for the latest model, many pilots are jumping at the chance to do just that; a few are taking the opportunity to get a Vision Inspired airplane and a spot in line for a jet to match.