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I am about to begin flying lessons and I'm considering a school that
only teaches students in the Cirrus SR20 GTS. The school is
Performance Flight at the Westchester County Airport (HPN). It is
amazingly expensive to get a private certificate there, but leaving
that aside, what are the pros and cons of doing one's initial training
in that aircraft?
p.s. Thanks for this excellent site, I've found it very useful and
-- Sam F., June 26, 2009
If you plan on flying the SR20 as your family or business airplane it will be helpful to have as many hours in the SR20 as possible. On the other hand, if this is your intention you can simply buy an SR20 for $150k and then get an instructor to fly with you at a minimal rate of pay.
If you are going to fly something other than a Cirrus in the long-run, the plane is not a cost-effective trainer. The advantages of the Cirrus over an ancient Cessna or Piper include (1) solid autopilot to reduce pilot workload when in the clouds, (2) system redundancy for instrument flying, so that a single failure does not put the flight at risk (e.g., you have two alternators, two batteries, two attitude indicators), and (3) fancy computer screens that integrate a lot of valuable information into one place. All of these are important when you're by yourself in the clouds. None of these are relevant when you're learning to fly visually.
You won't use the autopilot because you're supposed to be learning to hand-fly. You won't need system redundancy because if the alternator quits you will simply land at the nearest airport and ask a mechanic to install a new one. You won't need the fancy computer display because you are supposed to spend 90 percent of your time looking out the window.
The Cirrus is a bit more challenging to fly than a basic Cessna or Piper so it will take you more hours to get your certificate. HPN is an incredibly busy airport and you'll probably pay for at least 5 hours of simply sitting waiting to take off or land. HPN also requires you to become an expert with radio communications before you can solo or get a certificate. That will add another 5 hours compared to someone who trained in a field in Kansas (but of course it is a required skill if you are ever to fly in the NY area).
If cost is no object and HPN is very convenient to your house I wouldn't discourage you from learning in an SR20.
-- Philip Greenspun, June 26, 2009
I've never been in an SR20, but I have sat right seat and took the controls of an SR22 a couple of times now, and, based on my experience, I would not want to use that aircraft for primary training, for a few reasons.
The side-stick vs. yoke, I don't consider to be major, that's just a matter of muscle memory. However, I found the controls of the Cirrus to be VERY sensitive, and nearly impossible to trim for straight and level. Touching the trim hat as softly as I could seemed to over-correct incredibly far. You never should have to touch the autopilot during your primary training, and I could not keep that aircraft level without it.
There is too much going on on the panel of the Cirrus. I know glass is the future, but when you're starting out, there are enough distractions in a steam gauge aircraft that you'll instinctively be heads down far more than you should be. You should be looking out the windshield and windows 80-90% of the time when VFR, and I felt a constant urge to watch the LCD screens of the Cirrus (traffic, terrain, EGTs, etc.) when I was in it.
I could see transitioning to the Cirrus after 10-20 hours in a Cessna or Piper, but I would not want my first few hours to be in the Cirrus. On the other hand, though I haven't started on my instrument training yet, I can see the Cirrus as making an excellent instrument trainer, with the situational awareness the moving-map MFD provides, as well as the dominant attitude indicator on the PFD.
I can't say for sure that my opinion isn't based purely on being used to steam gauge Pipers, since that is what I trained in, but the Cirrus seems like an aircraft for a pilot with several hundred hours of experience, not someone just starting out. I never touched the controls of a Cirrus until I had my private pilot, and about 60 hours total time, and I felt genuinely overwhelmed, and constantly behind the aircraft, when flying it.
-- Joshua Levinson, July 3, 2009
All of you have good points. Yes, the SR-20 isn't the best trainer if you plan on only going Private or Instrument. But the thing that you're missing is that some students have the intention of being airline pilots, not private 172 pilots. As a student of Western Michigan University (Trains with SR-20 and C-172), the SR-20 has quite a bit of advantages over these "reliable", "classic", "standard", or "ancient" aircraft. No, a private pilot won't need to learn how to use an autopilot, but a student at WMU is shooting for airliner and will need a little bit of experience in it. The student still learns to fly by hand and masters that first, but then he/she can expand on that with the autopilot. No, a private pilot that flies family around will no need a fancy PFD or MFD, but guess what kind of airplanes WMU grads are flying... I learned to fly both SR-20 and C-172 initially, and guess which one I found to be a ton more useful in shooting for ATP?
In the end here it is. Airline pilot= Train on a Cirrus. Private pilot= Defiantly a 172.
So the question is: What is you goal in aviation?
-- Brad Revertson, July 24, 2009
For more information on renting a cirrus with a CSIP instructor, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org I have over a thousand hours flying a sr22gt and started a flight school with a 02/05 model. Thank you and look forward to answer any questions on training.
-- David Murrin, February 3, 2010