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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Cirrus Perspective is so much more than a graphical upscaling of SVT. It was important for Cirrus to preserve the organic way a pilot interacts with the flat-panel suite. As such, buttons normally on the bezel in other Garmin EFIS systems have been relocated to the center console. Grouped logically by function, the buttons simplify system operation compared to legacy Garmin EFIS systems.

And then there’s the autopilot. So much has been said about the terrific GFC 700, but Cirrus has added a significant safety feature that I’m confident will propagate to other autopilot systems.

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The new throttle, integrated with the go-around button, in the Cirrus Perspective.
Push Before You Pull
On the autopilot control panel, there’s one button that’s new and one that’s renamed from other GFC 700 installations. In keeping with Cirrus Design’s philosophy of simplicity and safety, the FLC (flight level change) button is now named the more intuitive IAS (indicated airspeed hold). Because these functions have been written about extensively, I’ll leave it at this: Want to climb? Use IAS. Want to descend? Select VS (vertical speed).

There’s a new mantra at Cirrus: “push before you pull,” which refers to the new blue button emblazoned LVL (level). Selecting LVL will override all other autopilot functions and immediately level the wings and hold altitude. For example, if a pilot becomes disoriented and loses situational awareness, or if the autopilot takes a turn you weren’t expecting, push the little blue button before pulling the chute. It’s fabulous in its simplicity and it’s a wonder that it hasn’t appeared before.

Along with Cirrus Perspective, Cirrus has massaged and adjusted other elements of the SR22. There’s a new, more substantial throttle with an integrated go-around button. During a GPS approach earlier in my demo flight, we went missed, I clicked the button and the flight director cued me for a seven-degree positive pitch angle. The electrical system now has 100- and 70-ampere alternators. The flap handle is now stubbier—not sure why, but okay. The circuit-breaker panel is easier to manage, a welcome change. And the environmental controls are now all electronic.

Really though, the big news regarding Cirrus Perspective is the Cirrus-ized, Garmin-based flat-panel system. The catch, there always is—for now, Cirrus Perspective will only be available on the top-of-the-line SR22-GTS and -GTS Turbo, at a $48,000 premium. But for fighter-jet technology in a single-engine piston, that’s an amazing bargain.

BONUS GALLERY:
(click to enlarge)
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