Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cirrus SR22T: Turbo Without the STC

Cirrus Design now offers a turbocharged model with a factory Continental

Has it really been a full decade since Alan and Dale Klapmeier introduced the first version of the airplane that would eventually conquer the general aviation world? Is it really possible that the “new age” of general aviation aircraft has been with us for nearly a dozen years, heralding such innovations as carbon-fiber construction, full airframe parachutes, multiscreen electronic instruments and a BMW 5 series interior? Did someone invent the airplane of the future and forget to tell us?

Cirrus has been a consistent leader in producing aircraft that embrace 21st century technology, not only in construction materials and techniques but in avionics, aerodynamics and creature comforts. The Columbia (now Cessna Corvalis) line of singles and the Diamond models have brought new ideas to the marketplace, enticing buyers with more options. While changes haven’t all been earthshaking, they’ve represented a steady improvement in the breed. Cirrus has chosen to introduce new features one at a time, as they’re ready.

Such is exactly the case with the new Cirrus SR22T. Cirrus Aircraft recently flew a new 22T out from the factory in Duluth, Minn., for us to fly. In my job evaluating airplanes, I meet a variety of check pilots, and Matt Bergwall was one of the most thoroughly prepared I’ve come across. He was way ahead of me on every question, and there was nothing he needed to refer to the factory. It’s nice to work with pros.

The motivation for the newest version of the SR22 was directly related to the industry’s concern over continuing availability of leaded avgas. Then too, there’s also some concern about continued availability of avgas of any kind. Mobil already has dropped avgas from its inventory, and Chevron recently made allusions to “realigning” its avgas suppliers. Any way you read the signs, it’s apparent that avgas supplies are contracting worldwide, and 100LL may be disappearing altogether in the not-too-distant future.

Accordingly, Teledyne Continental Motors began work a few years ago on a big-bore, TSIO-550 engine that would run on lead-free, 94 octane avgas. The new mill, technically known as a TSIO-550K, employs a 7.5:1 compression ratio rather than the standard 8.5:1 ratio employed on the 100 octane LL engines.

The new Continental is rated for 315 hp at 2,500 rpm and 36 inches mp continuous, and retains that rating all the way to cruise height. Once you’re off and headed uphill, you can pretty much set power and forget it. (In the full-blown version, currently utilized on the Lancair IVP, the engine is rated for 350 hp at 2,800 rpm and 38 inches mp).

In order to maintain cool heads under the cowling, the new 550K utilizes several minor mods to improve airflow. The updated TCM powerplant mounts additional NACA vents to streamline cooling flow and some other minor cowling mods. There’s also a minor mod to the nosewheel fairing.

Labels: Piston SinglesSpecs


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