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Flying the Safe and Easy Cirrus SR22

Icarus Would Have Wanted One

A three-quarter front view of a Cirrus SR22

In short: A user-friendly, luxurious, four-place general aviation aircraft.

In meteorology, a cirrus is a cloud usually found at about 33,000 feet of altitude, but for Alan and Dale Klapmeier, there is nothing on the horizon but sunshine. The company they founded in 1984, Cirrus Aircraft, has managed to produce the best-selling airplane on the planet, only six years after their first delivery. Their contribution is monumental and is attributed to a rebirth in the world of private aviation. Now distributed in more than twenty countries, there are five generations of Cirrus SR20s and SR22s populating the skies.

The Cirrus success story started with an act of Congress (the General Aviation Revitalization Act or GARA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, that protected manufacturers of small aircraft from liability in the event of an accident involving an airplane older than eighteen years. After years of steady decline, the number of certified pilots had been cut in half, but with GARA, a series of manufacturers jumped back into the marketplace to court new pilots. Established long-time makers like Cessna and Piper were of course in the game, but a slew of other companies entered the fray with some offering experimental kits like Lancair and others being fully certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, like the revolutionary Duluth, MN, based Cirrus Aircraft.

Having announced on February 28, 2011 its plan to buy Cirrus Aircraft for an estimated $210 million, China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga) now owns the light aircraft manufacturer. "We’re excited to have joined forces with Caiga," said Cirrus president and CEO Brent Wouters. "This partnership will benefit our business and our customers. Caiga has the resources that will allow us to expedite our aircraft development programs and accelerate our global expansion." The most important of these development programs is Cirrus’ single-engine Vision SF50 jet, previously known as "The Jet." Despite a price tag of nearly $2 million, the company already holds orders for more than 500 of the jets, which it plans to begin flying in early 2014.

High-tech cockpit includes red handle that activates CAPS parachute
High-tech cockpit includes red handle that activates CAPS parachute.

Design is key to Cirrus' Aircraft's success. Since they had no history and therefore no baggage to carry, Cirrus started with a clean slate and threw in all the new technologies available — a composite airframe, glass cockpit and a ballistic airframe parachute system. Compare that to a typical Cessna C-182 based on engineering from the 1940s! Everything has been put together in a no-nonsense way, making the experience user-friendly by focusing on safety and taking a lot of the fuss out of the flying experience and reorienting it toward enjoyment and functionality. For example, there is no retractable landing gear like with most aircraft in the same performance category, which is a system that always brings concerns and a few horror stories. Comfort has been enhanced to levels not seen before. Compare that to the awkward and cramped cabin of a Piper Cherokee, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the luxurious appointments of this new cruiser.

CAPS Parachute System
CAPS Parachute System

Not only can this amazing machine be used for a casual weekend flight for a round of golf, but in certain circumstances it can also double as a valuable business machine taking you to important meetings. As an example, propelling a Silicon Valley executive from San Jose to Santa Monica is a one-hour, 45-minute job in a SR22, leaving the security lines at San Francisco and Los Angeles international airports to less fortunate air travelers.

This is not a technical flight review of the aircraft — we’ll leave that task to the experts at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), In Flight and other trade magazines. So, beyond all the technological advances packed into this bird, one of the determining factors that have made the company No. 1 are their revolutionary ideas that give more people the opportunity of flight. They have created a series of ownership programs to enable pilots or would-be pilots with ways to buy and own Cirrus aircraft with less stress. There are Cirrus Access, Cirrus Certified, Cirrus Share, Cirrus Encore, Cirrus Insurance, Cirrus Finance and Cirrus Lease.

We recommend that you take a complimentary demonstration flight, as we had a chance to do on a recent trip to the Catalina Island “Airport in the Sky” to munch on buffalo burgers. At airports around the country, you can meet one of Cirrus’ friendly company pilots who can not only walk you through the aircraft and its systems before the flight, but through the company’s smart ownership programs as well.

Seasoned airmen will reminisce about the stick and rudder environment of a Piper Cub as a true aircraft, but there is no denying that with more than 3,000 aircrafts sold, Alan and Dale Klapmeier are doing something right at the right time. Our hats are off to these brave and ingenious brothers. If only Icarus could have had a Cirrus.

by Alain Gayot

Read about Cirrus Aircraft's Ownership Programs

A three-quarter rear view of a Cirrus SR22

Base Price: $349,995 / As Tested: $475,000

Technical Specifications

Engine: Continental Single Propellor
Horsepower: 310 hp
Takeoff: 1,020 ft
Takeoff (50' object): 1,574 ft
Climb Rate: 1304 ft/min
Cruise Speed (75% power): 185 KTAS
Cruise Range with Reserve: 700 nm

Maximum Range (55% power): 1000+ nm
Landing Ground Roll: 1,141 ft
Landing over 50' Object: 2,325 ft

Maximum Gross Weight: 3,400 lbs
Standard Empty Weight: 2,250 lbs
Maximum Useful Load: 1,150 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 81 gals/486 lbs

Length: 26 ft
Height: 8 ft, 7 in
Wingspan: 38 ft, 7 in
Wing Area: 144.9 sq ft

Cabin Length: 130 in
Cabin Width: 49 in
Cabin Height: 50 in
Seating Capacity: 4

Safety: 55-ft parachute attached to airframe; terrain awareness system; airborne traffic warning; air bag seatbelts; optional ice protection system

Find out about the 2013 Cirrus on the Cirrus Aircraft website

Photography: AlphaMedia
CAPS photo by Cirrus Aircraft

(Updated: 10/14/13 BH)

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