Plane & Pilot
Sunday, February 1, 2004

The NEW Cirrus SRV

The people who put certified composites on the map now offer an entry-level airplane with an all-glass panel

cirrusDownscaling an existing model isn’t a new trick. Piper has done it a number of times with the Cherokee 140 and Warrior. Maule offered a less powerful, nosewheel trainer version of its M7 bush bird taildragger. SOCATA continues to produce an entry-level model in the Tampico, essentially the same airplane as the Trinidad sans retractable gear and constant-speed prop, and with 90 less hp.
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Accordingly, Cirrus set out to build a simplified, less costly variant of the SR20, one that could compete more favorably with the crowd without any major changes to its running gear or any significant loss of its performance margin. Cirrus left the BRS parachute system in place behind the cabin because it has ultimate faith in its Cirrus Airframe Parachute, and removing it is a compromise the company is unwilling to make on any of its airplanes.

Considering that the finished airplane would be intended primarily as a VFR trainer and therefore not obliged to shoot instrument approaches, Cirrus switched to a Garmin 420 as the nav system, essentially the same box as the Garmin 430, but without VHF/NAV capability. Cirrus Design also left out the SR20’s second GPS/COM (a Garmin 250XL) and the backup alternator. This meant total trust in the GPS satellite navigation system (no VOR or ILS nav possible), but Cirrus has always been more willing than other manufacturers to trust in modern technology. Trainers normally don’t have much use for autopilots, so Cirrus dispensed with the S-TEC 55SR, standard on the SR20. Other missing features are the HID landing light, the nosegear fairing and noise-canceling power jacks for the headsets.

These economy measures reduce the price of admission an impressive $40,000 and result in the Cirrus SRV, introduced at last year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. If you hadn’t already guessed, the V stands for VFR, as the basic airplane is intended for VFR-only operation with an Avidyne Entegra Primary Flight Display (PFD) limited to visual flight rules. You can add most of the options available on the SR20 if you wish, everything from Stormscope, autopilot and a PFD upgrade to leather interior, a three-blade prop and a variety of other items. In theory, you could spend nearly $75,000 for options, though if you were so inclined, you’d be better off buying the IFR-certified SR20 as a platform.

It’s apparent from the numbers in our comparison chart that the SRV has a major advantage in virtually all areas of performance except takeoff and landing distance. That’s partially a function of the airplane’s high 9.0 aspect ratio, NLF wing, actually a combination of several NASA airfoils. This provides good high-altitude capability, a major benefit for flight schools located in the western U.S. where summertime density altitudes can reach five figures. For many airplanes at airports in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and much of the mountain west, takeoff and climb performance can be so severely compromised in summer that it becomes difficult or impossible to conduct normal flight-training operations. With 20 to 40 hp more than the others and a high aspect wing, the Cirrus isn’t so drastically affected by operation in thin air.

Strong cruise performance isn’t very important in a trainer, and for that reason, some flight schools will probably use instructional power settings for cruise on the V, 55 percent or less. That should generate 135 knots in exchange for 8.5 gph. More than coincidentally, that’s nearly the same fuel burn you’ll see in the Skyhawk R and Warrior (at 75 percent), and you’ll be flying at least 10 knots faster. (In case you were wondering why the SRV lost six knots of cruise with the same power and gross weight, the answer is the loss of the nosegear fairing.)

High cruise numbers aren’t inconsistent with the training mission as long as the airplane has low approach speeds, and the Cirrus SRV should qualify. Dirty stall is only 54 knots, and while that’s still several knots faster than the competition, approaches can be flown at 75 knots without pushing the envelope. That’s only about five knots quicker than normal approach speeds in the Skyhawk and Warrior, so Cirrus pilots needn’t feel unduly rushed.

No one can guess how well new student pilots will take to the Cirrus SRV, but I’ll bet they’ll love it. The generic Cirrus cockpit is wide and comfortable, 49 inches across with doors on both sides, specifically designed around the dimensions of a BMW 5-series sedan. Both cabin doors open forward and up in modified gull-wing fashion, providing excellent access to either front or rear seats.


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