In aviation, technical details don’t always convey how impressive something can be. Think the Rolls Royce Merlin engine powering the Spitfire. No words can accurately describe that sound.
It’s the same with the 2016 version of the world’s biggest selling single engine aircraft for the last 12 years, the Cirrus SR22. No red blooded pilot will escape coveting this latest iteration of an already successful aircraft. Not even those who like the wings on the top.
A word of warning, this aircraft can cause relationship break-ups. Non flying partners will notice suspicious tell-tale signs of behaviour change, long unexplained absences, and hushed telephone calls, making them suspect their loved ones are cheating. It won’t be with other people though, but rather to spend more time gazing at, sitting in, and flying this Cirrus. The best advice for partners is “You can’t beat them, join them.”
Airwaves was given the opportunity of test flying VH-PDC, a brand new SR22, with every option, just delivered ex the USA factory. Our flight was courtesy of Charles Gunter at Avia Aviation in Moorabbin. We quickly discovered that PDC was not just a “looker”, but that her beauty was much more than skin deep.
Stunning in a colour scheme mimicking the high visibility orange of the Australian desert, or Uluru under the glistening outback morning sun, this A$1.25m (including GST) aeroplane will turn heads, both in the sky, and on the apron.
After the colour scheme the next thing you notice is the large, fat, black, light weight, composite prop, that yields jet-like (for a piston) acceleration and climb performance. It also gives a “You talking to me?” look to the nose of the aircraft.
Something about the pilot’s door catches your eye and you remember that you have a key fob in your hand. Pressing the “open” button down, the disappointment that there is no “beep beep” sound allowing you to show off to one and all, is quickly overcome by a loud “click” as the doors unlock. It’s then a quick lift of the shiny new silver coloured aluminium handle, and the pilot’s door opens, like the wing of a bird wanting to rise skywards.
Your eyes are drawn to the higher quality leather of the seats, then the two-screen MidContinent “Standby Attitude Module”, or SAM for short, digital back up instrument, which takes up so much less room than the old backup dials. Your eyes scan the sides of the seats and find the headset holders and little slots at the front for mobile devices. “Why on earth didn’t someone think of this before? Finally, well done Cirrus,” you say to yourself.
Like a Hollywood star, billionaire or politician, you cannot resist smiling, looking around, or waving at the crowd as you climb up onto the wing and slip into the sumptuous cabin. You feel like royalty – a prince or princess at the very least.
Your infatuation is about to become an obsession as your sense of smell cuts in and you breathe deeply, several times, to take in the rich aroma of leather, and a new aircraft smell no car can hope to match. “How did they do that?” you ask yourself, as you are bombarded with a feeling of total class. On the drive home you will still be able to smell that leather, and you like that.
Siting high up with a 360 degree view, you gaze at the familiar avionics and remember the lady in the Cirrus 2016 video saying you can upload flight plans direct from your iPad or iPhone, straight into the multi-function display (MDF). It works perfectly, and you really like the idea, as it saves time and money running the Hobbs.
You notice PDC has the satellite phone which makes calling for the taxi or homestead pickup, or cancelling a SARTIME a breeze. Perhaps you will also buzz family or friends just to say you are about to fly over their house. The satellite system gives an airline like ability to continually broadcast all your flight data back to base too. And then there is the integrated SMS and weather download ability to be mastered.
You’re reminded that there are four 2.3 amp USB charging ports and that the Bluetooth system allows you to stream music through your headsets, while the kids in the back can have their own input device sourced entertainment. When the aviation radio is active your music is instantly muted, so you miss nothing.
Infatuation and obsession are about to become addiction – it’s time to go flying (accompanied by instructor Lachlan Powell) In pre-flight we had hung up our headsets using the clips on the side of the front seat backs. Seated it was easy to reach and take the headsets from the holders. The gull wing doors were simple to close and latch with the new light weight handles, and the interior quiet, even with the engine running. Preferring the scenic sea-side of the Moorabbin circuit – with less traffic, we departed northwards on runway 35 left, climbing like a jet in the cool air, conscious of the slightly higher CAPS parachute system deployment height of 600 feel AGL in the G5, 2016 model.
Heading south for the training area we gave the autopilot a good workout, particularly enjoying the Garmin Perspective avionics’ ability to climb at a pre-set airspeed, to a selected altitude, on our selecting heading. The $15,000 optional yaw damper takes immediate care of lazy feet and the need to hold a constant rudder input. This is an aeroplane where pilots can use the advancements in avionics to enjoy on the view.
We did some slow flight practice, remembering to increase power in the turn, and then basic stalls, which were very gentle, due to the cuffed wing, and general handling exercises. Contrary to popular belief, the view from this low wing aircraft is excellent. Of interest was the new electronic angle of attack indicator on the PDF. It is a rather small item and colour coded with a digital readout so you can quickly observe your angle of attack. It seemed to disappears during normal flight – this was, we guessed, likely based on a clever in-built safety algorithm.
PDC was just 67 flight hours old and everything worked perfectly. Lachlan tried changing the flight plan on the iPad and sending it to PDC. That took seconds. For many pilots this will be the 2016 enhancement.
Returning to Moorabbin, way too soon, we were instructed to join up-wind for runway 35 left and did several circuits before taxiing in with huge smiles on our faces. The plush leather seats had been particularly comfortable for the 1.2-hour flight and Lachlan made full use of the seat pocket for his mobile phone.
The 2016 model’s enhancements, including the remote unlocking doors, plush new interior, headset and mobile device holders, angle of attack indicator, and in particular, the ability to flight plan at home or in flight, and transfer the plan at the touch of a button, will have pilots falling in love all over again. And there’s good news for those without $1.25m. A “Cirrus Life” can be also be accessed via syndicates or rental.
About the author
Paul M Southwick is a freelance journalist, consultant, and pilot based in Melbourne.