We Fly Tamarack’s Cirrus Mods

This week, Flying became the first publication to experience first hand the effect Tamarack Aerospace Group's active winglets, which we reported on earlier this month, and control quadrant replacement have on the Cirrus during a flight out of Van Nuys, California, with Tamarack's president Nick Guida.

We were graced with a rare day in Southern California with patchy clouds that created some light to moderate turbulence, which was helpful for the demonstration of the ATLAS system. The winglet-clad SR22 has huge ramp appeal and several people came up to the airplane during the preflight inspection. Even the controllers at Van Nuys Airport’s tower couldn’t resist asking about the airplane during our taxi to Runway 16R.

During the runup, we did a quick test of the Active Technology Load Alleviation System (ATLAS) by switching it off and making sure that the annunciator light worked and the Tamarack Active Control Surfaces (TACS) positioned themselves in the default position. We also checked that propeller control was operational. Prop control? Yes, earlier this year Tamarack received an STC for a control quadrant replacement, which includes the standard throttle, prop and mixture combination. This modification became immediately apparent during the takeoff roll. While many pilots like the automatic prop adjustment that Cirrus has become known for, it is likely that many others will enjoy the smoother engine spool-up during the takeoff roll and the ability to adjust the prop in flight for better efficiency.

While the control quadrant was nice, the real purpose for the flight was to test the winglets. The TACS deploy automatically during loads above 1.5 g and they effectively deactivate the winglets to decrease the stress of the wing. (Guida hopes that the system will eventually allow for an increase in the fatigue life for the Cirrus.)

Thanks to the bumps and a few maneuvers, we experienced many deployments of the TACS during our flight. During short bursts of turbulence, the devices quickly realigned themselves with the trailing edges after being deployed. And there was a noticeable difference in how much the TACS deployed depending on the severity of each bump.

We also made some medium to steep turns and applied some backpressure on the side stick to increase the load on the wings. The continued increase in the wing loading kept the TACS deployed.

You may think that these trailing edge devices would disturb the airplane when deployed. But while it was easy to see when the TACS were moving, there was no noticeable change in the handling of the airplane.

With the increased aspect ratio, there was definitely a noticeable difference in the stall. The airplane resisted the stall and felt very stable in slow flight. We felt a slight burble at about 57 knots – a few knots below the white arc. During the landing, the increased wingspan made the airplane want to remain in ground effect. The added cushion made for smooth landings.

The winglet and wingtip extension add a total of five inches to the wingspan, said Guida, so most Cirrus owners should have no trouble fitting their airplanes into their hangars. The wingtip extensions are made of carbon fiber and the TACS are aluminum, and with the attached wiring the weight of the system adds up to about 24 pounds. To offset the weight gain, Tamarack developed a cargo conversion, which allows the Cirrus owner to remove one or both of the rear seats to make the entire rear space a luggage area and increase the useful load by 34 pounds, said Guida. He also said Tamarack is close to receiving the FAA’s blessing on this modification.

Whether Cirrus pilots want to pay $59,000 plus installation to receive the benefit of Tamarack’s ATLAS system remains to be seen. But Guida said the target market is really business jets. The company has already completed an installation on a Cessna Citation, which will be on display at NBAA’s 65th Annual Meeting and Convention in Orlando, Florida, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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