some thoughts from an SR20 owner, May 2013
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Most of my knowledge about Cirrus airplanes comes from owning a 2005
SR20-G5, about which I have written an
extensive review. This page contains my thoughts on the SR22,
especially the G5 model, introduced in 2013.
The G5 SR22
First, there was no G4. That would have been an unlucky number for
Cirrus's Chinese owners. The big differences between the G5 and a
"classic" mid-2000s Cirrus:
The already excellent (for a four-seat airplane) ergonomics and
interior usability were carried over from previous models.
- an extra mini-seat in the middle of the back, making this a
five-seat airplane if at least one passenger is small and slender
(i.e., eight years old or younger)
- a 200 lb. gross weight increase with comparable empty weight due
to increased use of carbon fiber rather than fiberglass
- more flexibility regarding airspeeds for flap deployment (up to
150 knots for the first notch; 110 knots for the second)
- Garmin G1000 avionics and attitude-based autopilot
- holds more fuel (92 gallons instead of 84)
What can you cram into the SR22?
On May 21, 2013 I flew N130MH, a Cirrus demonstrator, that has all of
the options and lists out for $750,000. The plane has an empty weight
of 2482 lbs (the Cirrus Web site says 2260 is the "base weight" so
this is more than 200 lbs. of options). With 60 gallons of fuel ("to
the tabs") the plane can fly for nearly three hours (burning 18 gph)
and still have a 30-minute reserve. That's probably as long as anyone
would want to be in a Cirrus but the plane can hold 92 gallons. A full
tank of TKS fluid weighs 74 lbs. So in still air you'd be able to put
700 lbs. into the airplane and fly for about 540 nm before landing
(180 knots cruise).
Access remains poor for transporting full size bicycles.
How much better is the G1000 than the Avidyne?
If you have a two-pilot crew, the Garmin G1000 is a wonderful
system. There are plenty of buttons and screens to keep the co-pilot
busy. For a single pilot, however, I prefer the simpler interface of
the legacy Avidyne system, which has proven very reliable with the
Release 7 software.
The attitude-based Garmin autopilot is very solid and
confidence-inspiring. On the other hand, everyone seems pretty happy
with the attitude-based Avidyne DFC90, a roughly $13,000 retrofit to
older generation Cirruses.
Do you need all of the options?
In theory you can drive a Cirrus out of the factory for $569,900 and
enjoy a useful load of 1258 lbs.
The Ice Protection System weighs 63 lbs. and costs $51,900. We need
that in the Northeast if we are going anywhere on a schedule for about
half the year. It includes a Tanis engine heater, a nice touch. The
air conditioner weighs 55 lbs. and costs $21,900. You get to explain
to your passengers how you bought an air conditioner for roughly the
same price as a new Honda Accord and, not only did you not get a car
to go with the A/C but the A/C that you did get only works about half
as well as the one in the Honda.
A yaw damper, which should not be necessary in such a short airplane,
costs $35,900 and is bundled with an infrared "Enhanced Vision System"
that brings up disturbing images of hills, etc. on the MFD. It weighs
9 lbs. and includes a potentially useful second air data computer. But
really what are you going to do with the enhanced vision? Most single
pilots have enough trouble concentrating on the PFD and/or what's
outside. Now you're going to look at the MFD too? Possibly useful if
you fly as a two-pilot crew.
Cirrus will sell you an active traffic system and enhanced terrain
warning system for $36,900. This comes bundled with approach plates on
the MFD ("ChartView"). Maybe you could skip this 15 lb. option and get
an iPad or Android tablet.
Cirrus is the only airplane manufacturer that is even trying to keep
pilot workload from skyrocketing with the addition of additional
systems. Nonetheless there is a bit of extra work that could be done
with this machine. Apparently the "recirc" mode on the A/C can result
in CO being sucked into the interior so there is a checklist item to
disable it. But the airplane knows whether or not it is flying. The
transponder, for example, can switch from standby to ALT
automatically. Why then isn't the recirc mode simply disabled at
speeds above 30 knots?
Likely Maintenance Cost
Given that the Cirrus is now priced about the same as a used turboprop
it is worth looking at maintenance costs. A two-year warranty is
included. They will sell you three more years of warranty for
$28,000. Figuring annual inspections at $5000 each that's $10,600 per
year for maintenance. The aging turboprop will cost at least $25,000
If I could change one thing about my SR20 it would be the interior
noise level, approximately 93 dBA in the front seats in cruise (recent
measurement; has been as high as 94-95 in the past). My 3.5-year-old
daughter, asked whether she likes the Cirrus or "Drew's Bonanza"
replies "Drew's Bonanza because it is quieter." (about 86-88 dBA in
the back and 91 dBA in the front)
Previous SR22s, presumably due to the higher airspeeds, had measured
noisier than my SR20, around 95 or 96 dBA. How loud is the new SR22-G5
compared to my friend's ragged-out 2004 SR22? Exactly as noisy:
Measurements were made with a somewhat crummy (but consistent over the
years) Radio Shack digital sound level meter.
- Climbing at 5000': 101 dBA in front; 93 dBA in back
- Lean-of-peak cruise at 6500' and 175 knots true airspeed: 95 dBA front; 95 dBA back
- Flying at SR20 speeds (135 knots at 4500'): 94-95 dBA front; 89 dBA back
- Cruise at 3500' and 167 knots: 95 dBA front; 95 dBA back
I have spoken with one Cirrus owner who managed to reduce his SR22's
interior noise from "101 to 93 dBA with soundproof techniques. Now
with the new [four-blade MT] prop I average 89 in cruise. This was
measured with an iPad app which has never been calibrated. The
perceived differences are remarkable, though it's still loud."
The Ideal Cirrus
If cost were no object I would buy a new SR22-G5, throw out the prop,
put in the prop
speed control (if Tamarack ever can make it compatible with the G1000) and MT
Prop STCs and some sound proofing, and enjoy a plane that had cost
almost as much as a good used Piper Meridian or a ragged-out TBM 700
(both substantially more capable airplanes, albeit with much more
expensive annual maintenance required). With cost as a factor I think
the best choice is a 2004-2008 SR22 with Avidyne avionics that is
nearly ready for an engine/prop overhaul. Add the MT prop and the prop
speed control STCs. Add the Avidyne attitude-based autopilot. Add
sound proofing. Add the latest engine mount and a factory-new
engine. The total cost should be under $300,000.
Don't Forget the SR20!
A used SR20 with a glass Avidyne cockpit is now about $120,000. If
your flights mostly fit the following profile: (1) VMC, (2) two
adults, (3) 200 n.m. or less, consider the SR20. The extra complexity
of the Garmin G1000 is in no way useful for VFR flights. The SR20 has
pretty of climb-out power with two adults on board and tab fuel (but
don't try gross weight on a hot day!). The speed difference is not
significant on a short flight.
Cirrus continues to be the world's only manufacturer of
family/personal airplanes that is investing in innovation and
improving its already-certified products. I wish that they would put
their engineering staff to work on a version of the airplane with
substantially reduced interior noise, even if it meant taking a hit to
cruise speed and payload.
Text and photos Copyright 2013 Philip