Tuesday, April 26, 2011
2011 Cirrus SR22T: Commemorating 10 Years Of GA Innovation
Cirrus refines the SR22T with a 2011 Limited Edition
The SR22T features Garmin's Synthetic Vision to create a three-dimensional view of the world outside the airplane on the pilot's PFD. The SVT includes terrain warning, traffic indicators, flight-path markers, runways and airport signs, and Garmin's cool "highway in the sky" feature that makes flying the airplane almost like a video game. Just steer the airplane "through" the magenta boxes depicted on the PFD, and you're where you need to be. This version even has a guide for turns, so you control your pitch to match the yellow line depicted on the PFD, and you get a level, controlled turn every time.
The infrared Enhanced Vision System is really cool if you've never used it (and most of us haven't). With infrared technology pioneered by the military, sensors on the airplane allow the pilot to see the world at night or in low visibility. It gives pilots a real-time unobstructed view of terrain, airport surfaces and everything around the airplane. Think of it as X-ray vision for pilots. Perspective puts it on the MFD, so combined with all the information on the PFD, there aren't too many low-visibility or night situations that would prevent normal operations. Playing with the system gets your mind racing at the possibilities.
Control pressures are firm, and I used lots of trim to keep the forces balanced. Though I wouldn't consider the SR22T to be nimble, it maneuvers very well, but the stick forces are moderate. I hand-flew the climb to get to know the airplane, and I felt comfortable at once. We switched to the autopilot while Goble showed me features of the Perspective, including the engine screen with its plethora of information.
With the turbocharged TCM TSIO-550K in the Special Edition SR22T, we were turning 315 hp, and it was smooth and quiet. Goble showed how to set up the performance so it becomes a single-lever operation once set. It makes leaning a snap and, like other Cirrus innovations, makes the workload lighter.
With the SR22T's amphitheater visibility, it makes the whole interior calm and airy. The contrast of dark and light gives the effect of a naturally lit gallery.
Since part of our flying day included a photo mission with both the new SR22T and SF50 Vision jet, I got to experience flying side by side with the V-tailed beauty. Our SR22 pilot for the mission was Jens Hoepfel, one of only three test pilots on the SF50. Though Hoepfel had told me that the jet's speeds were very similar to the SR22T, it was remarkable to look out the window and see the jet in formation with us at near-cruise speeds. It's a testament to the SR22 that we flew the jet's wing for quite a while without even pushing the airplane hard. One gets a sense of the lineage of both machines, and it's not hard to imagine the SR22 as merely a stepping stone to the Vision jet. Another odd sensation was that we could barely hear the jet, even just off our wing. Cirrus has seemingly perfected quiet operations.
The SR22T is wildly successful because it appeals to those who use aviation as a tool—for business or for pleasure. The SR22T—and especially this Limited Edition model with every bell and whistle that Cirrus offers—is an airplane that can help steer aviation from a highly specialized pastime for an elite few, to a universally appealing activity that can realistically replace the arduous world of airline travel for those who can afford it. Combining safety and innovation, the SR22T is a game changer in the industry. Here's to what's coming next for Cirrus.
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