Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 Cirrus SR22T: Commemorating 10 Years Of GA Innovation

Cirrus refines the SR22T with a 2011 Limited Edition

What It's Like To Fly The Cirrus Vision Jet
Chief test pilot Mike Stevens tells us why he has the best job in the world

With all eyes on Cirrus' SF50 Vision jet, the first question that comes to mind is, "What's it like to fly?" Because Cirrus has established a reputation for innovation and engineering milestones, pilots are anxious to know what developments this personal jet will bring to the industry. At marketing events across the country this year, Cirrus let pilots get up close and personal with the SF50, and performed several drool-inducing fly-bys for all to see. We sat down with Mike Stevens, Chief Test Pilot for Cirrus, to get a firsthand feel for what it's like to fly this impressive V-tailed beauty.

Q: How long have you been flying this prototype jet?
A: For about three years. To date, we have some 346 flights and 600 hours in it. We call this jet "V1," since it's the prototype aircraft. Lately, we've had a chance to fly it up and down the East Coast in a "real world" kind of environment, and we've been doing several demonstration flights as well. There are three of us who fly it.

Q: How different is the Vision jet from other Cirrus products?
A: When you climb inside and strap in and look around, you immediately know that, ergonomically, it's a Cirrus. It's actually very similar to our SR22. The speeds are not much different from the SR22, and the operational altitudes are not that different either. The side stick, throttle and displays are similar to the SR22; the throttle is slightly larger. A pilot coming from an SR22 would not feel out of place at all. The absence of a propeller might alarm them at first.

Q: What about comfort?
A: We'll have a pressurized cabin, so it's more comfortable for high-altitude operations. And you don't have to suck on a mask or stick a tube in your nose for oxygen. The airplane is also very quiet. Our "V1" is not as insulated as the production model will be, but it's very quiet.

Q: Is the Vision jet complicated to start or to handle on the ground?
A: Not at all. Starting—there's nothing to it since it's all FADEC controlled. You turn the key—not many jets have that—you count to about 10, and it's up and running! You bring your generator online when your engine is spooled up, and start taxiing. We use a castering nosewheel like on the SR20 and 22, but this one has a centering mechanism so it's easier to go straight. The trailing-link gear is smooth, solid, and it feels more substantial.

Q: Take me through a typical takeoff and climb.
A: The takeoff is dissimilar because there's no propeller, and that makes it nicer. There's no torque or P-factor, so you don't have to be very active on the rudder pedals. The wide gear stance also makes it feel more stable. You advance the throttle, and notice the airplane goes straight down the runway. At 75 or 80 knots, it wants to fly so you rotate—it takes a little more force to rotate than the SR22—then pitch to a similar attitude as the SR22. Gear up, flaps up, and you're on your way uphill at about 2,500 fpm.

Q: Once at cruise, is the airplane docile?
A: Yes. You don't have to worry about buffet or mach. You tend to cruise the SF50 close to the Mmo (max operating speed—0.53 Mach on the SF50). You do have to pay attention that you don't exceed Mmo during descent. The controls on the airplane are relatively harmonized—something we will continue to improve on during testing. There is nothing unusual in the stall, and speeds in general are not that different from the SR22. Our maximum operating altitude on the SF50 is 28,000 feet, which is similar to the SR22. Also, the Garmin autopilot flies beautifully.

Q: Is it easy to land?
A: The SF50 is easier to land than the SRs! The trailing link gear makes it easy. The speeds in the pattern are about 120 knots on downwind, 100 knots on base and then an 80-knot final. You touch down at about 65 knots. You have to pay attention and fly a stabilized approach. You also have to be gentle with the thrust changes, and realize it doesn't react as quickly as a propeller, as with any jet. The SF50 is easy to operate from 3,000-foot runways, and we've been pleasantly surprised at its performance from shorter fields, though we tend to fly it heavy, with all the test equipment.

Q: Overall, it sounds like most pilots could handle it?
A: Absolutely. The SF50 is a very forgiving entry into the jet world. The pilot workload is less than normal, and a lot of it has to do with whether you can run the FMS (flight management system) and stay ahead of the airplane. Because at 250 knots in the terminal area, things can happen very quickly. But we feel the airplane is manageable for most of our customers. It's a lot of fun to fly.


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