Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet impressions

A beginner jet pilot owns a Cirrus SF50 G2 and this report is based on two flights with him.

Best news first: as on the SR22, the air conditioning is awesome! This is the ultimate machine for Florida and Texas.

The visibility is great from the front and back seats, much better than in a typical bizjet. The windows are huge and the panel is compact. Cirrus media photo:

On the other hand, it is almost impossible to take pictures out of the front with an iPhone due to the fact that the autofocus system gets confused by a coating inside the windows and thinks that the subject (at infinity) is just a few inches away. Here’s the multi-function display, one of two big screens. See if you can find, amidst the clutter, how much fuel is left!

Do you care about the amps going into each battery during normal operations in which both generators are running smoothly? How about fuel? Do you care how many gallons are in each tank? If you said “I care the same about battery amps and fuel” then the Garmin G3000 is the system for you! These items are presented at the same size in the same color with the same prominence.

The automation philosophy is like nothing one would ever find outside of aviation. For example, the probe heat is limited to 5 minutes on the ground. The aircraft knows whether it is flying and should be able to guess whether it is taxiing out to fly. Why can’t the probe heat come on automatically, maybe with an annunciator, when the airplane is getting close to the runway? And then turn itself off after landing?

The airplane is ripe for Asiana 214-style confusion about who is responsible for doing what. There is an autopilot. There is an autothrottle (confusion about which was a prime cause of the Asiana 214 crash). The panel looks more or less the same, however, in the following states: (1) pilot is doing everything, (2) pilot is being given a flight director suggestion about aircraft attitude, (3) autopilot is flying, but pilot is responsible for setting engine power, (4) autopilot is flying and the magic computer systems are responsible for setting engine power. There are, of course, subtle text and graphic cues to distinguish these four modes, but they’re not strong. In the picture above, for example, we were on autothrottle, but the percent thrust meter doesn’t say anything about that.

If I were going to design a similar system, I would make the stuff for which the computer was responsible turn gray (even the PFD would mostly be gray during autopilot ops!). The fuel state would be prominently displayed while the normal-operation engine/electrical gauges would be subdued/hidden.

Vibration is minimal compared to a piston-powered aircraft or a turboprop. Noise isn’t so bad in the front with noise-canceling headsets, but our rear passenger, a Cirrus SR22 renter, said that he was “surprised” as how noisy it was sitting right under the engine. (Update: my measurements of cabin noise)

The slide-o-rama seats are awesome. If you’re used to yoga-class-for-the-old-and-fat, as in the PC-12 and all of the bizjets with pedestals, you’ll appreciate that the Vision Jet is by far the easiest jet for getting in and out of the pilot seats.

Rumor has it that a slightly heavier long-range version of the Vision Jet is in the works. At that point it is tough to understand why someone would want to buy a TBM (longer range, similar speed and altitude capability; higher price).

13 thoughts on “Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet impressions

  1. You have mentioned a variation on this theme a bunch of times: why aren’t displays more dynamic, only bringing things to prominence when they need attention? One answer might be that, if a user doesn’t see them when they’re normal, how will they be able to process them when they are abnormal. When their engine(s) are failing in some weird way, does it really make sense to present them with a new UI that they’ve never seen, except maybe in a manual?

    • I think @philg wants better visual clues in UI, not new dynamic UI in rare extraordinary situation. I would be at a loss what runs what when there is combinations of software controls and manual controls and UI does not show what is controlled by what. Graying out staff under software control is common sense for anyone who used windows in 1990th: it was a UI standard not to hide disabled features based on combination of parameters but gray them out. I would like comprehensive but reasonably short color and icon system combination in flight control and display software. But I would not consider buying or renting Cirrus SF50 G2 based on its price and feature set and my finances. It is way to slow for a jet with little utility. There are faster turboprops on the market. But it looks cool.

    • It looks like Focke-Wulf Ta 183 with engine from Heinkel He 162 and visual queues from Jetsons cartoon.

    • SuperMike: I could rephrase your question, “If the engines are failing in some weird way, does it really make sense to have the screens look almost exactly the same as when the engines are functioning normally?”

      (But my post was not about the ideal interface in the situation of an uncommon failure. It is about how to communicate to the pilot which of 4 normal operating modes the airplane is in.)

    • It seems to have some kind of manual focus mode with a slider but since I don’t have an iPhone I can’t determine whether you can just lock it and leave it there for every photo the camera takes subsequently. If you have to do it shot-to-shot, that’s a pain. I wonder why there isn’t some kind of modded camera app. that lets you just “set it and forget it” in other words.

  2. Do you ever use non-Apple camera applications like ProCam? They are good for those rare occasions when you need access to things like manual focus. It’s not free, but not expensive.

  3. OK I’m going to be the know-nothing weirdo here:

    In the left photo:
    You’re consuming 67 GPH and you have 182 gallons left, 88 left and 94 right tank.

    In the right photo:
    You’re consuming 71 GPH and you have 182 gallons left, 88 left and 94 right tank.

    Third “row” down, left side. I picked it up fast because I saw GPH instantly at a glance. But I don’t fly these things ;). So I guess I like the G3000 – not having known anything else in the past, that is. So I have no idea whether the battery amperage displays, etc., are just superfluous. If they wanted to make the fuel easier to see, why not just color those columns RED. Red = hot = fuel.

    Now please destroy my ignorance ;).

    • You were able to find the fuel quantity remaining gauges. Congratulations! But given how common engine stoppages due to fuel exhaustion are, do you really want them buried in this clutter? And do you want them the same size as battery amps? (if the generators are functional, battery amps should be close to 0 for the entire flight, every flight)

    • @philg: It does look like everything else and is buried with the rest of them. I was able to spot it quickly because for some reason my visual system cued on the GPH very fast, but I wouldn’t generalize from me. I look at images of different kinds all the time and try to spot details, so I’ve kind of trained myself. In the cars and trucks I drive, I always prefer to have the fuel gauge standing on its own in an easily-visible, permanent, “muscle-memory” location.

      And I agree with you that the visual cues need to be a lot stronger to distinguish between modes where the computer is in control.

      I’m surprised this can’t be set / modified. Jeez, look at the interface options in something like PyCharm IDE.

  4. Think you understand lift? Think again…
    “Common Misconceptions in Aerodynamics” – Doug McLean, retired Boeing Technical Fellow, discusses several examples of erroneous ways of looking at phenomena in aerodynamics, that have either taken hold in parts of the aerodynamics community or have been expressed in books or papers by other authors.

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