Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cirrus Perspective


A Garmin-based glass-cockpit revelation


cirrusWhen the engineers at Cirrus Skunk Works branded the company’s Garmin-based, next-generation glass-panel system, Codename Fighter, the moniker was more apropos than they might have thought.
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cirrusWhen the engineers at Cirrus Skunk Works branded the company’s Garmin-based, next-generation glass-panel system, Codename Fighter, the moniker was more apropos than they might have thought.

A few years ago, I spent about seven hours at FlightSafety International getting familiar with the Dassault Falcon 900EX tri-jet, its Honeywell Primus-based EASy glass-cockpit flight deck and its Rockwell Collins Head-up Guidance System (HGS). At the time, I had maybe a hundred or so hours flying the Avidyne Entegra integrated flight deck, which was then still relatively new to the SR22, and it was a revelation for its intuitive and straightforward operation. Similarly, the EASy system in the Falcon ushered in a renaissance in what was becoming possible in glass-panel systems, and I became a full-fledged, Kool-Aid-drinking believer. Indeed, what Apple’s Macintosh did for personal computing, Dassault’s EASy system did for electronic flight instrument systems (EFIS) in large business jets—it changed the game. And now, the game has changed again—this time for pilots of the Cirrus SR22-GTS and, ultimately, for pilots of smaller, piston-powered, technically advanced GA aircraft.

cirrus
The new center console integrates with Cirrus Perspective. Buttons are grouped logically according to function.
The technologies and ergonomics found in the Falcon were eye-opening. Remote data entry, radio tuning, trackball flight management system (FMS) control and the flight path vector are technologies that trickled down from Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet. To Dassault, if this technology reduced pilot workload and increased safety at Mach 2, then it would at Mach 0.85. So when I visited Cirrus’ base of operations in Duluth, Minn., I was floored when I saw fighter-jet technology featured in the jointly designed Cirrus/Garmin flat-panel system called Cirrus Perspective.

Big Screens, Big Capability

First things first, Cirrus Perspective isn’t a G1000. The displays and bezels are different—bigger screens, fewer buttons. The architecture is different—dual and redundant attitude and heading reference systems (AHRS). The operation and buttonology are different, meaning intuitive and logical. The autopilot’s logic and failure modes are different; they’re more fault-tolerant and robust, thanks to those redundant AHRS, and as such, the names were changed to protect the innocent. Maybe it’s a G10,000, but whatever you call it, it’s not your father’s G1000.

Let’s Go Flying
As I settled into the left seat of a two-tone, claret-red and white SR22, I ignited the dual 12-inch screens that are the centerpiece of the Perspective system. I immediately felt at home, even though I was in a completely new cockpit environment.

If you’ve ever flown behind either the Avidyne Entegra or the G1000, do you recall how big those 10-inch screens felt when you first started flying them? How wide the horizon seemed and how it was visible in your peripheral vision? And how much information was available on the seemingly expansive MFD? Pilots flying Cirrus Perspective will enjoy a 35% increase in screen area over systems with 10-inch screens, affording more real estate for Garmin’s Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT) and the wealth of information crowding the smaller screens. Believe me, the show is worth the big screen.




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