On the ramp in the mist, the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet, which many still call the âCirrus Jet,â 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 âBugatti.â 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 Jetâ¦not so much. It is, in contrast, the AMC Pacer of planes, a deeply polarizing aesthetic experience. Me? I like it.
Then again, Iâve flown it a few times, so Iâm biased. Itâs 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.
Itâs a jet, letâs not forget. And the big bullet point on this update is that it has autothrottles. Oops, autothrottle. I have a hard time referring to âengineâ and not âenginesâ when it comes to the SF50, though Iâve 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. Iâve flown a dozen jets with this technologyâGulfstreams, Embraers, Falcons and Citationsâand even though I didnât 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. Thereâs zero doubt in my mind that SF50 flyers will feel the same.
But with the introduction of its SF50 Generation 2, or âG2ââthe company is reprising the naming convention it developed for the SR20 and SR22 piston singlesâCirrus 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 youâre 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 autothrottlesânot yet, at least (and thatâs me, not Textron speculating here)âand 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.