Today I want to take you along for a short journey during my first flight in the Cirrus SR22 GTS, truly a revolutionary airplane and personal transportation breakthrough. Watch my first flight in the SR22 GTS below. A transcript of the video is available after the video.
It stood poised and ready to fly. With smooth lines one could imagine the wind rushing quickly over its sleek body. This is not a traditional airplane. The forward doors are opened with the push of a button. The door raises upward and rotates forward, giving an unobstructed view of this modern personal transportation device. The cockpit looked more like a luxurious sports car than a general aviation airplane. I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this stylish and functional design.
Jeff from V1 Clothing will be giving me my introductory flight in the SR22. After his walk around and an easy climb into the cockpit I settled into the ergonomically designed seat surrounded by a continuously curving cockpit. We both commented how this airplane was more sophisticated in many ways than the airliners we have flown.
After a quick tour of the Interior’s amenities and briefing me on how to exit and enter the aircraft he added another item to the safety briefing I have never been exposed to, the parachute handle. Situated between us in the divider above the two doors is a red handle whose operation consists of a simple pull and we are floating to the earth. I asked “when would we ever use such a device”. He said this could save your life especially over inhospitable terrain including water, but like any parachute you will need some altitude before pulling the chute.
The large engine rumbled to life with a simple but thorough starting procedure. One thing that made me feel at home is the simple t-handle throttle similar to the jet I fly at work. The only difference was a mixture control next to the handle. I turned to him and said where is the prop control? He responded with a smile “the prop is controlled automatically.” Wow! how simple can you get!.
He let me taxi the plane which took some getting used too but since I had flown many Grumman products I had experience with the castering nose wheel. For the first few turns I had to remind myself to tap the breaks instead of using the rudder or a tiller to steer. As with any castering nosewheel it becomes second nature in short order.
During the taxi one of the most notable items is the amazing visibility afforded by the windows that surround you. It almost reminded me of the great visibly from my days in the bubble canopy of the piper tomahawk. Oh and one even more important item, especially in Florida is the air conditioning. What a great feature. No more having to keep the door cracked open. Simply turn it on and it works wonderfully, just like a car.
Some unique items installed in this plane which I didn’t have much time to be schooled on is the separate alternators and their importance, but we did make sure number two alternator was running properly during the run up and especially during takeoff.
We align ourselves with the runway and pushed the power forward and away we go. A unique noise you will hear from the engine is the propeller adjusting as we gain power and airspeed down the runway. Exceleration was quick and we were off the ground in short order pulling the nose up and climbing rapidly away from the ground.
Noise in the cockpit is similar to many single engine aircraft during takeoff if not slightly less but that could be attributed to the Bose noise canceling headsets I was using. Ours was a short flight but once underway Jeff let me do some maneuvers such as steep turns and some slow flight. This is a comfortable aircraft in all flight regimes with great responsiveness to control inputs.
A unique flight control design is the single handed side yoke which helps you keep coordinated turns through linkages with the rudder. This was slightly odd during takeoff and I was anticipating a foreign feeling during our landing. At times I felt as if the controls were fighting me but I’m sure with experience this will feel more natural.
Steep turns are a dream. With the hat trim tab on the control yoke I’m able to trim all the forces out of the controls during all phases, especially steep turns. Wow talk about reducing fatigue while flying. Not knowing how to use the autopilot, Jeff demonstrated the ease of use and it seemed to operate very similar to the airliners we both fly with a flight director guiding the way. When he looked at me and said do you want to see something really cool? Normally this is the last words you hear before someone does something really dangerous but since this was a demo flight I felt more at ease and said “sure”.
He then put the aircraft into a nose high unusual attitude and then pushed a button on the autopilot. Immediately and smoothly the autopilot lowered the nose and leveled the wings. Auto leveling autopilot! What a great safety feature especially if you succumb to spacial disorientation.
With a ballistic parachute, auto leveling feature, and a flight display on a large screen, I can see how this would be a very safe platform for anyone looking to transport their family economically and quickly. Speaking of economics, lets first look at fuel consumption.
After leveling off to pick up our friend in Plant City, FL, we accelerated quickly to 160 knots. This was a respectable speed especially with our fuel burn of only 14 gallons per hour. This is similar to the 182 I fly but I fly 30 knots slower thus on miles per gallon basis we where saving on fuel in the Cirrus. The largest expense for this airplane is the acquisition cost and for a used Cirrus with much less equipment you are looking at least three hundred thousand or more.This might not be as economical for many of us, but it’s hard to put a price on all the safety features.
The GTS variant of this aircraft includes TKS anti icing system, or weeping wing and electronic propeller, or hot prop. With approval for flight into known icing conditions this makes me feel much safer than in most unequipped aircraft, although it is more of a system to get you out of icing than to fly continuously in icing. With that said I sure would love this feature on my airplane.
The other wonderful safety feature is the incredible visibility and traffic alerting equipment. It has been proven that you will see traffic earlier if you are given a warning as to the traffic in the immediate area. You will be looking towards the known traffic earlier and in the right direction. Again another safety benefit.
As we descended for landing the positioning of the flaps was a simple flip of a switch. As we place full flaps and decelerated I noticed the amazing view out the front window. Most noticeable for us high wing pilots is the lack of having to duck your head and look around the wing above you. Although it is still important to clear the traffic below you. The nose down attitude enabled us to view a very large area in front and around us.
During round out and flair I noticed that the controls were light but had some resistance which prevented over controlling during the flair. With mechanical attachments between the roll input and the rudder it seemed slightly unnatural during the landing but I did not feel as if I could not cross control to land in a proper wing low position which was good on this day with winds 12 knots gusting to 18.
A full stall landing and the roll out seemed familiar until I was reminded that the nose wheel is not attached to a steering mechanism. As I tried to turn toward the taxiway exit I notice it was not turning as quickly as a normal aircraft. About that time I said to myself, “Oh yes, castering nose wheel”, and with a slight touch of the break I was turning in the correct direction.
Of course parking is great in that you can turn the aircraft in a circle very easily and in a small area. I got a chuckle from Jeff when I immediately opened the door to let air in after landing. He looks at me and then pointed to the air conditioning knob. I smiled and said, “ah the luxury of air conditioning.” I then closed the door and turned the air-conditioning on high which cooled us down quickly.
After we stopped to pick up our friend Ray, it was my turn to be a passenger and see how comfortable the back seat is. After reclining in the seat and the air-conditioning was started I felt as if I was sitting in the back of a luxury car. The air conditioning worked so well that it was almost too cool. As I looked around the cabin I realized I didn’t have my sunglasses on and it did not seem bright. It is then I asked about the windows and he said they where tinted.
The other great part of being a back seat passenger in the Cirrus is the incredible views out the windows and below. The slim wing mounted forward on the fuselage gives the rear seat passengers a wonderful view of the world below. For the first time I truly felt comfortable in the back seat of a small plane. Great leg room and the ability to recline allowed me to get quite comfortable.
I spent the rest of the day taking video of central Florida. After landing it was my turn to take off again and we where headed back to home base. With my initial excitement waning I began looking more intently at the details of the aircraft.
Two large screens in front made it easy to fly from either seat. The large electronic attitude and heading reference system made it very intuitive to fly and the airspeed and altitude tape made it easy for me to navigate using small eye movements. I think my favorite display on the right which included a navigation screen and a systems screen that was very useful during startup and leaning. Used in navigation mode it would be hard to get lost with such a large map in front of you at all times.
There is much functionality behind this multi function display including safe taxi and a large charts database. There is almost no reason to have your own charts with you except for the safety of redundancy.
As far as ergonomics this is a wonderfully laid out cockpit and cabin which obviously included much customer input during design. The only draw back that I can see is the fact that if you are tall you will need to recline the seat slightly to fit into the cabin. My legs are short and my head was touching the ceiling if I pulled the seat full forward. This was remedied by a slight recline giving me the feeling of being in a high performance aerobatic plane or fighter.
Overall the Cirrus was a joy to fly. A truly great cross country airplane with amazing electronics and multiple layers of safety you normally would see built into a transport category aircraft, baring the extra engine. I would feel comfortable flying over unfriendly terrain knowing I could use the parachute if I lost an engine. I also think that flying over water would be somewhat safer since the risk of flipping over once we hit the water would be alleviated. This was demonstrated recently by a water landing done by a Cirrus in the Caribbean.
If I had the money and wanted to fly long distances this would be the plane to buy. The only thing missing to compare this to a cabin class airplane is the second passenger entry and the toilet. Otherwise your friends and family would be more than comfortable flying to exotic locations and you would feel more comfortable flying them there because of the many safety features.
I hope you enjoyed coming along with me on my introductory flight in the Cirrus SR22 GTS. If you have never been in a Cirrus I encourage you to see for yourself what in my mind is the safest, most stylish, and most comfortable four seat aircraft on the market.
This has been Carl Valeri and links to more information about the Cirrus can be found at ExpertAviator.com. Special thanks to our friends at V1Clothing for the demonstration flight.
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