When trying to explain the ergonomic factors, safety and luxury of Cirrus airplanes to aviation novices, I usually describe them as what happens when you cross a Lexus automobile with a business jet.
That was before the Cirrus SR22 G3 came out.
I now have to describe the design as the pairing of a jet and a sports car — but not any sports car, one owned by James Bond.
I recently had a chance to fly the Cirrus SR22 G3 (for third generation).
ON THE OUTSIDE
Just looking at the new Cirrus you can tell it is a refinement of what is now a 20-year-old design.
According to the company’s sales literature, the new design was two years in the works. The G3 boasts 700 refinements and system improvements.
For starters, the G3 sits higher on the ramp than its predecessors. This was a great relief to me because when I approached the airplane I thought I was shrinking. I also thought the wings looked different.
“They are different,” said Matt Bergwall, a Cirrus demo pilot. “The new wing has a center carbon-fiber spar. It’s actually reduced the weight of the wing by about 50 lbs. while increasing its strength.”
Combine that lighter wing with an increased fuel capacity (92 gallons usable) in a wet-wing, and you have an aircraft with 16% greater range over its predecessors.
Cirrus also expanded the center of gravity envelope to give pilots more flexibility when loading the aircraft. This is something you will appreciate if you have ever loaded a Cirrus to gross weight for a cross-country trip and had to send a duffle bag full of clothes home via FedEx because you picked up too many souvenirs.
The G3 is the first in the Cirrus line to have the option of a TKS de-icing system, which makes it possible for pilots to legally enter known icing conditions.
The system, created through a partnership with CAV Ice Protection Ltd., consists of a “weeping wing.” There are panels that extrude de-icing fluid on the leading edges of the wings as well as on the horizontal and vertical leading edge surfaces of the tail.
There also are high-intensity LED lights with a prism lens mounted on the sides of the airframe which help the pilot see the ice at night. In addition, de-icing nozzles similar to windshield sprayers on cars have been added to keep the windscreen clear. A propeller slinger ring is utilized for protection of the propeller.
The airplanes carry eight gallons of de-icing fluid, which can provide the pilot with 2.5 hours of endurance, but company officials stress the idea is not to fly into known icing conditions for two hours, but to be able to legally takeoff and land, and to have a greater margin of safety should ice be encountered.
“The system gives you greater flexibility with the airplane,” said Bergwall, noting that some pilots based in colder climates, such as Duluth, Minn., where Cirrus is based, may not fly for weeks at a time because of icing.
Every Cirrus I have ever been in seems ergonomically comfortable and the G3 is no exception. You’ll find the familiar side stick. The throttle is a lever in the middle of the center console. This Cirrus also had a “go around” button on the throttle lever which, as the name implies, is designed to be used during a rejected landing. The BRS chute T-handle is still located above the pilots’ seats.
The avionics suite is Garmin (known as the Perspective in Cirrus corporate speak), but if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Avidyne user, there’s the option of having that brand installed in your airplane.
No matter what avionics you use, spend some time on the ground studying the forest of buttons and switches in the cockpit before you need them. There is the possibility of negative transference here, such as accidentally hitting the switch that in an SR20 would turn on a light but in the SR22 activates the windshield de-icing fluid.
Start up and taxi in the G3 is like that in any other Cirrus. Tuning in the radios is easy with the Garmin and soon we were on our way, making a short hop from San Jose Mineta Airport (SJC) to Salinas Municipal Airport (SNS), which is roughly 50 miles as the Cirrus flies along Victor Airway 485 with a right turn to head direct toward the Salinas VOR.
Adjusting the power on the Cirrus G3 takes some getting used to. This airplane wants to go fast, and you will get behind it quickly if you are playing “find the button/load the approach” on the Garmin while zipping along at speeds that would make a multiengine pilot feel right at home.
En route I tried Dutch rolls. The aileron crispness I know from flying other Cirrus models was there. The G3 handles like a Cirrus, but I found myself doing a bit of death grip on the stick, I think because I was not used to a side stick and flying with my left hand.
Bergwall showed me how to adjust the trim for a smoother ride and cautioned me not to bust altitude because this little bird wanted to CLIMB. The latter might have something to do with the redesigned wing root fairings which, according to the engineers, are supposed to enhance climb performance.
A couple of turns were next. Typical Cirrus. The shape of the windscreen and cowling provide optimal visibility.
Cross-country navigation is where the Perspective really shines. When properly programmed, it is nearly impossible to get lost when you navigate using the Perspective. Rectangular pathway windows guide you along your course, be it en route or on approach. Terrain is also highlighted.
The Perspective also has a traffic awareness system that makes it easier to spot traffic on the Primary Flight Display and then locate it out the window to avoid potential conflicts.
The G3 was configured for landing and then we were told to go-around. That little go-around button sure comes in handy.
We headed back to San Jose. Bergwall cautioned me to slow the airplane down much sooner than I was used to to prepare for the approach. “You get there quicker than you think you will,” he said. It felt weird to have the Cirrus at a minimal power setting when we were still 10 miles out, but that’s what it took not to eat up the other airplanes in the pattern.
Bottom line: I can see the Cirrus G3 replacing many personally owned light twins. If you’re looking for an airplane that seems to be designed for single-pilot IFR, will lessen your work load and has flexibility when it comes to weather, this could be the one for you.
Cirrus has three versions of the G3 with varying degrees of luxury and aesthetics. Prices range from $380,650 to $530,100.
For more information: CirrusAircraft.com.