Here is a late-night post-AOPA brain dump on many Cirrus-related issues.
Avidyne MFD (FlightMax EX5000)
It is just flat out gorgeous. Super VGA (800 x 600) LCD, very clean user interface, and Lake Superior is lake-like and blue. Despite what a previous post said this is not “officially” an option yet (e.g. pricing has not been set) but it is obviously a done deal.
The Avidyne already supports Stormscope and Skywatch. Avidyne is working on (at least) three new features, in the following order of priority:
- Downlinked weather, including superimposed NEXRAD radar plots. This is an announced Avidyne add-on, and will use low-orbit satellites. The service will be provided by Avidyne, and may be something like $29.95/mo for a basic service level. This is not Echo-FlightÂ’s wx product but apparently uses the same satellites. Cirrus has not specifically announced support for the weather option (which will require an external antenna and a box) but the ink is barely dry on the Avidyne deal so give Â‘em a few weeks to digest this and I think youÂ’ll see theyÂ’ll offer it. But also see my comments on Garmin below.
- Engine monitoring. This will happen but will probably take several months to implement.
- Jeppview approach chart display. Details such as how updates are loaded into the unit and whether a little Cirrus will fly around the chart are TBD. But at a minimum youÂ’ll have the plate available on the MFD. And the resolution will clearly be adequate.
For those picking up airplanes while the official Avidyne option is still in transition Cirrus will apparently offer to leave a hole in the panel (with a suitable cover) so that the Avidyne can be installed by a service center when available.
Garmin is also going to provide downlinked weather, and this will use the Echo-flight service. They announced this several months ago and the rollout has been delayed but expect it 1st Q 2002. As with the Avidyne, this will require an external antenna and a box.
So we will have a situation where two avionics vendors, Garmin and Avidyne, will be offering weather downlink. Will Cirrus make either available at the purchaserÂ’s option? Will GarminÂ’s Echo-flight wx display on the Avidyne? (I doubt it. Why should Avidyne support a competitive wx service?) Personally IÂ’d vote for supporting AvidyneÂ’s wx, as the display is obviously vastly larger and clearer that the 430Â’s screen.
Mode S transponder. Click here to view the Garmin press release on this transponder. What does this give you? The biggie is that youÂ’ll get traffic information in ATC areas that support this capability, and the traffic display and traffic alert functionality will be just like what you get with the Skywatch. This is currently supported in all high-density ATC areas, such as Southern California, the Bay Area, the Eastern corridor, and around almost all Class B areas, from the map that I saw. In other words, in the high traffic areas where you want traffic info the most. Note that this may require an air data computer input such as that generated by the Shadin (see below) for full functionality. IÂ’ll get clarification from Garmin on this. All transponder-equipped aircraft will show up on your traffic page on the 430, not just mode S transponder-equipped aircraft.
Garmin lists the mode S transponder at $5K, so the upgrade from the 327 will probably be about $3K IÂ’d guess. So compare that to the $21.5K Skywatch option, which has the ability of displaying traffic anywhere, not just in ATC areas that support mode S, and you can make an informed decision based on where you fly, your level of paranoia, or the depth of your wallet. Note that Cirrus has not announced the availability of the Garmin mode S transponder. It is 2 inches longer than the 327, and I do not know if that presents a problem. If not, IÂ’d be surprised if Cirrus didnÂ’t offer it some time soon.
Rumor has it that Garmin may support terrain warning functionality in the 430 in the future, and this would probably be a software and database upgrade, not a hardware upgrade.
Near and dear to my heart personally, FADEC is not progressing as smoothly as Cirrus had hoped. Word is that the FADEC engine “is running” and you can read the damnation by faint praise between the lines. Cirrus really wants this to move forward and is actively working with Aerosance to get the (apparently software-related) issues resolved so that Cirrus can go through the integration and certification process, which will supposedly take about 4 months. So it is a matter of when that 4 month process can begin. The ball appears to be in AerosanceÂ’s court right now.
The Shadin ADC-200 air data computer may be offered in the future. This would hook up to the Garmin 430 and provide actual fuel flow, fuel remaining, fuel to destination, TAS, winds aloft, and much more. Has implications in feeding the Mode S transponder information that gets downlinked to ATC.
Cirrus is acutely aware of the high cost and availability of insurance, as they should be because of the potential negative impact on sales. They feel that it is imperative that they educate the insurance underwriters on issues that are misunderstood, such as the relative cost of repairing damaged aluminum vs. composite components. The insurance industry is scared of the unknown and the rates reflect this.
Case in point. At the show, an SR22 clipped a light pole during the “parade of airplanes” as it was taxiing down a street. I was talking to an insurance underwriter and he brought up the incident and expressed concern that the repair “might add weight to that side of the wing and thus possibly result in a dangerous flight characteristic.” (Yeah, and monkeys might fly…) Turns out it is about a 20 minute wingtip end cap replacement. But you can see the paranoia out there. Cirrus and COPA are actively going to work on educating the underwriters.
The accidents to date statistically match the US GA fleet. No better, no worse, and the types of accidents also match up with the typical GA mix. (Mostly pilot-related.) But Alan specifically stated that that was not acceptable to him, and they would work to understand and address any issues in their control to improve the situation and safety. That leads us to…
You all know Wings Aloft was terminated and that Cirrus is providing flight training for now. No specific plan for the future of flight training was announced. COPA is actively pursuing a recurrency training program (al la the Bonanza BPPP) but this doesnÂ’t cover initial training.
Personally, and as a CFI, I think that many flight schools around the country should be utilized, and that training should (or at least could) be conducted prior to traveling to Duluth to pick up the airplane. At the COPA meeting it was brought up that the training you get at the factory is going to be conducted in a poor training atmosphere. IÂ’m not referring to the Duluth weather, which Alan assures us is always lovely (!), but to the fact that the student is distracted by the excitement, looking for squawks, and the ticking timer to get the heck home.
Obviously these FBOs are going to need airplanes to train in and trained CFIs, so this is going to take a while, but I think some strategic creative programs to move in this direction would be wise.
The vanishing transponder syndrome was brought up, with several Cirrus owners at the COPA meeting reporting the same problem (azimuth-specific ATC loss of transponder, typically at the 5 or 7 oÂ’clock position). I think Cirrus thought that the issue was solved but after the meeting I think it will be re-opened. It is not a transponder problem, but likely due to the antenna (cleanliness, type, or location).
The service bulletin regarding the possible loss of the cotter pin, with the resulting possibility of shimmy or loss of the nosewheel, was discussed. Also, it was mentioned that this is a friction-dependent system, and that oil or grease in the wrong place can cause the shimmy. See also…
They are definitely aware of the issue and are working on it. Alan personally noted how smooth the SR20 is in comparison to the 22. The primary suspect is a slight sagging of the engineÂ’s position as hours are accumulated that may result in frame contact and vibration transmission. Not discussed was the possibility that the vibration may account for the many premature avionics head failures, but that was posted here earlier and one can assume it will be noted.
One other possible source of vibration that was brought up by Cirrus was the aforementioned nosewheel shimmy. If it is shimmying on the ground due to the cotter pin missing and movement of the castellated nut, it most likely will be shimmying in the air as well. So get that puppy on the ground and comply with the SB and check that pin! However, if the vibration suddenly ceases while in flight, it may be due to the nosewheel having departed the airplane. The recommended procedure in that case is to NOT LAND until the problem has been corrected. (ItÂ’s late - give me a break here.)
Autopilot altitude hold bobbles when transmitting
According to Cirrus this is a wire routing issue that occasionally occurs and that can easily be fixed at the factory before you depart with your new airplane. So be sure and use COM 2 while the autopilot is in altitude hold mode during your shakedown flight.
SR20 landing light
Cirrus is getting the new brackets from their vendor and the new brackets should be ready to go out within the next few weeks.
I think I got most of this right but allow me to disclaim based on the lateness of the hour and the age of my brain cells. If I have put words in any vendors mouths in error I will gladly be corrected.