Last Friday (June 16) I was in Duluth for the “Grandma’s Marathon” festivities. I was interested in Cirrus, so I called ahead and arranged a visit to the factory. Cindy Brown gave us a great one-hour tour, Ian Bentley answered some engineering questions, and Gary Black gave us a flight. I hope everyone at Cirrus is as friendly and knowledgeable as they are. Thanks to them and the plane, and I bought position #674.
This is one of the most organized “hand built” operations I’ve seen. In some ways its like Santa’s workshop, with dozens of elves laboring away at molds and benches. But unlike my workshop, it’s amazingly clean, and there are high tech tools and fancy jigs for every step of the process. There’s clearly a lot of opportunity for mechanization if the orders keep coming in the way they have been. Ian said that “1 per day” is only a milestone, and they plan to ramp beyond that. But Steve Lin #668 and Chris #672 have reported June 2002 delivery dates, while #674 was quoted as July 31 2002. I hope that the “31” is boilerplate, and that they are planning to build more than 2 planes in July '02.
I’ve heard a rumor (not from Cirrus) about a training fleet order for 50 SR20s. If that does pan out it would be great for Cirrus, but let’s hope it won’t affect our delivery dates.
The flight in 109CD was an eye opener. I’m an inactive VFR pilot who hasn’t been up for 25 years, and the crosswinds were gusting to 20+ knots, so I declined Gary’s brave offer to let me handle the takeoff. But after spending a few minutes aloft I got some confidence back. This plane handles more like a sports car, compared to the arial pickup trucks I used to drive. It’s smooth and powerful (although more power would be welcome), more responsive to the controls, and more predictable. Something like being glued to the road with rack-and-pinion steering instead of weaving around in an old boat. The stall behavior was almost boring. Mushing along with the horn sounding, Gary batted the control surfaces around with no adverse effects.
I forgot to ask about spins. There was a placard prohibiting them, and the POH says that if you do get into a spin you’ve got to pull the chute. I know that if I ever find myself in a spin I’ll be very tempted to try to recover first, so I’d feel a lot safer in this plane if I could practice.
BTW, in case you missed it in the July Flying magazine, page 36: “Cirrus Design president Alan Klapmeier says that Cirrus will be delivering a more powerful version of its popular SR20 by the end of this year. The new airplane, as yet unnamed but called the SR22 internally, will be powered by a 300-hp Teledyne Continental IO-550 engine. In remarks to journalists at this year’s Sun 'n Fun Fly-in, Klapmeier said the company’s cruise speed goal for the single, which will be equipped with a BRS whole-airplane recovery parachute system, is 180 knots, though he said it would likely be faster than that. Cirrus hasn’t yet established a price for the SR22. Cirrus, which is a member of NASA’s General Aviation Propulsion program, is reportedly also working closely with at least one manufacturer of an aero diesel engine for use in the SR20 by as early as 2001.” Unfortunately I saw this after my visit, so I didn’t get a chance to ask.