On the ramp in the mist, the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet, which many still call the “Cirrus Jet,” is a figure of some mystery. When I posted a photo on my Facebook page of the plane viewed from the rear, its distinctive V-tail prominent, a friend asked if it was a “Bugatti.” Now, the Bugatti, developed at the tail end of the Golden Era of air racing, was a single-engine speedster with a distinctive V-tail. The slick little number makes a lot of lists of the most beautiful airplanes of all time. The Vision Jet…not so much. It is, in contrast, the AMC Pacer of planes, a deeply polarizing aesthetic experience. Me? I like it.
Then again, I’ve flown it a few times, so I’m biased. It’s an airplane unlike any in the worldwide fleet that does things that few other planes can in a way that is unique. It is the unicorn of general aviation planes.
It’s a jet, let’s not forget. And the big bullet point on this update is that it has autothrottles. Oops, autothrottle. I have a hard time referring to “engine” and not “engines” when it comes to the SF50, though I’ve made progress. Keeping autothrottle singular is a work in progress. It is the only civil jet in the world with such a technology.
Autothrottles are not new to me. I’ve flown a dozen jets with this technology—Gulfstreams, Embraers, Falcons and Citations—and even though I didn’t fully understand the appeal of the technology before I flew with it 15 years ago, I have over time developed a strong appreciation for the safety benefits autothrottles bring to flying jets. There’s zero doubt in my mind that SF50 flyers will feel the same.
But with the introduction of its SF50 Generation 2, or “G2”—the company is reprising the naming convention it developed for the SR20 and SR22 piston singles—Cirrus has created something that is a brand-new experience for me, well, and anyone else who gets to fly it: a single-engine, single-pilot jet with a Boeing 787 level of technological sophistication. And truth be told, the Vision Jet makes better use of such sophistication than the Boeings or Airbus beauties do because when you’re flying single pilot, the fewer things you need to keep track of, the more safely you can fly, especially when things get busy.
I have a single pilot type rating in a few small jets, the Cessna CitationJet CJ through CJ4, none of which have autothrottles—not yet, at least (and that’s me, not Textron speculating here)—and I know from simulator experience that when things get busy with emergencies, managing airspeed and engine health on non-FADEC, non-autothrottle engines makes already challenging circumstances even more difficult to safely manage.