I fly VFR for fun (airplane/glider), so it is not my job, and not solely to go from point #A to point #B. I like sightseeing, I like soaring to some extent under certain conditions, I like to go fast between places of interests and then go slow over spectacular areas (for example, there is no point flying slow over ugly areas)
Unfortunately flying fast costs a lot and burns a lot. Sometimes I am wondering why I would deserve to burn 100 gallons of gas in one week-end trip while our children might not even been allowed to burn that much in a year just to commute. Flying fast today still requires dinosaur engines on dinosaur airframes though it’s been demonstrated than newer gas engines cannot really be much more efficient than the older ones. New composite airframes like that of the Pipistrel Panthera promise better efficiency (if indeed they are able to achieve 200KTS on 200HP and 10GPH). Though the Cirrus is composite it’s missing the essential to me: a retractable gear… Don’t tell me it is expensive or complicated, or that pilots forget to lower them. It’s a better way to spend the extra $140K or so the GTS package is asking for. So it seems I might resort to fly slower between places of interests, perhaps I can cope with that since I have always coped with that (except when flying the Concorde years ago So let’s forget about speed. I primarily wanted to try to fly the SR slowly during my first flight and see how it worked.
It is 95F at KLVK and the 2014 SR20 has returned from a previous flight. Really nice interior, with A/C. Just the 10-inch displays though I am wondering if the 12-inch would have been worst, way too much stuff shown out there or blinking, kind of a technological OD. OK, I was never sold on the G1000, taking a class (I think they sell books or CDs for $600+ to master that stuff) had always appear as a nonsense to me, are you making my life simpler or not? I can’t imagine how wealthy Apple would be if it had imposed mandatory classes for any customer to learn using an iPad (I know, Microsoft has been doing that for decades with their Word, Excel, etc., but my benchmark is Apple). My CFI and I are relatively light load (maybe 350#) and we have “tab” fuel. My CFI complains the right fuel tank indicator is pessimistic since it is showing more like half (I am thinking: what, this is a new airplane, how come nobody has figured to make a fuel gauge accurate?). At least the display of the fuel levels looks very nice. What’s blinking is a mismatch between the two AHRS data I believe (would a single AHRS have been better, at least it would not distract me?). We go thru the checklist. OK the checklist is shown on the right display, great I think, except we have to dismiss the checklist to display engine data (kind of defeat the purpose of displaying the checklist?), I suppose the engine data could be shown on the left. With seemingly 100s of buttons there there must be one for that. Actually I already discover -seeing my CFI joggling the panels- there are more than one way to do the same thing. It “hurts” me so bad. Can you imagine three different buttons/menus to turn your wipers on in your car? OK, let me lower my expectations, the G1000 is ten year old so it probably qualifies as a dinosaur, remember your phone back in 2004?
I also notice the side yoke (sorry I call it a yoke in lack of better name) is missing a trim piece until I realize there must have been no trim piece at the first place (you know that cloth/leather soft piece like the one at the base of your old manual car gear stick so you cannot see the connection “inside”, or drop food there). So the entire cockpit looks really nice but seeing the “mechanics” of the yoke spring assembly seems cosmetically odd to me. Anyway my CFI tells me this is the only plane that has neutral controls (spring driven) and I have read a lot about that and still believe the idea to be interesting.
When starting the engine I realize the engine in this plane is a dinosaur, too, if the sight of the mixture control had not been enough. Sorry maybe I have flown too many Rotax powered fuel-injected LSAs. Actually only my CFI is able to start the engine. Earlier there was a 152 on a ramp who spent 10 mins trying to start its engine and that reminded me my good old student days in hot Los Angeles. Well I am kind of getting more nostalgia I have asked for right now. The CFI cycles the mixture and the power lever several times in an apparent unpredictable choreography (but I am sure he knows what he is doing). At least the electrical system is extremely beefed up so no weakness in the starter. The engine fires at the 4th attempt. Granted it is hot outside. But why should I care? I don’t care when I start my car whether it’s hot or not. The good news is that we have A/C, another first to me in a GA plane. Like I had read somewhere on the net it is indeed marginally efficient but blowing 80F air when it’s 95F outside still feels good. OMG, this things sucks like 30+ amps at 28V so my CFI tells me not to linger at low RPM. But wait a minute, isn’t it the whole point of A/C to be cooled when are you mostly on the ground playing with your gizmos? That said, I am glad we have two alternators, two batteries, two everything… except for two AHRS (either they should agree or the one that disagrees should disengage itself and email the A&P instead of showing me a blinking indicator during the entire flight). Finally we are taxing, it feels good, NR headsets on, it’s comfy. I am starting to think I have too much glass in front of me and not enough around, I mean I am missing wide transparent canopies. We taxi and take off. It seems my CFI trusts me, I am at the control but he has to coach me on the correct power levels. Instead of “judging” by the RPM it seems everything works by percentage in the Cirrus and, incredibly enough, one can set 19% instead of 20% easily and that seems to matter, at least to my CFI when he says 20 it is not 19. It is nice there is no lever for the constant-speed prop, so why is there still one for the mixture (I know why, I am just saying if you -Cirrus- remove levers do it all the way and make your engine choice accordingly or ask your engine manufacturer for improvements).
So this is my first contact with the side yoke. The take off is uneventful. The downwind pattern leg is a little bumpy and I ham learning to adapt to this infamous yoke, most of my inputs are overcompensating, it is hard to just no gain or lose 100s of feet quickly. My CFI tells me the autopilot works fantastically in this plane but it is going to be off since I decided I wanted to fly the plane and not the other way around. But wait, we have been flying for less than one minute and I am trying to climb around Vx (like 80KTS) but my CFI is asking me to lower the nose and get air flowing because some CHT/EGT readings are getting off the charts. I was not expecting that. One more reminder the engine is a dinosaur. We are light (28 gals+350#=500# so 400# below gross, density altitude must be like 3 to 4000 ft at worst and I can’t even climb at Vx on a new 2014 plane because it already overheats? I believe more and more I have been spoiled with those Rotax engines. Consequently we climb gently and not at full power (good for GPH) and get to the training area at 3500 ft MSL.
I am quickly learning how to trim to relieve pressures on the side yoke. I am curious about power off or on stalls so we try a couple. Behaves fine. As well as steep turns. It is still hard to adapt to the yoke feeling, or lack of it. It feels like when I make an input I am “forcing” it to do something it does not want to because it feels there is a “force” out there. Steep or shallow turns seem to give the same feedback. I am not fighting against the airflow I am fighting against the springs. I am wondering how the landing is going to be. Otherwise the practice work goes well, when looking outside the left window I wish I could the window was larger though. On the way back I ask my CFI to go full power, hey, I want to see if I could do 155KTS as claimed in the book. My CFI kind of accepts reluctantly, I am wondering if I am going to overheat something again or if he is just trying to save fuel. The SR does manage to reach 155KTAS pretty quickly without me noticing much since, again, any yoke input fights the springs and not the airflows.
My CFI dials in the tower faster than it would take me to figure which best of the two or three different ways I should pick to do that. The traffic warning system (TIS, not ADSB-in) is working very well though it should not talk to me about stuff that’s too irrelevant to me (actually I am wondering it is triggering solely by distance/altitude or by approaching speeds but you guys must know). My CFI just asks me to maintain 75-80 all the way to the fence and that seems not too hard. The micro adjustments I am used to do on any other aircraft on base and final to align correctly and stuff don’t apply here. Or they do. But it feels again I am constantly fighting with the springs and I am so tired of it that my thumb is on the trim button, constantly as well, to relieve pressure as much as I can. Surprisingly the first landing is the best, the three others are good, according to my CFI. From that first experience I would say the Cirrus is not hard to land, perhaps having learned to manage energy while landing gliders might have helped except that here I surely had to make power adjustments along the way as I was not familiar with the plane.
The good news is that my CFI let me fly the entire flight so he could keep his hand on the parachute handle. Just kidding. The bad news, for me, is that I am far from being convinced. Perhaps if I try a SR22 I would be blown away by the exhilarating power (though unlikely as much as the four Concorde afterburners, right?) We will see. My principal take on this discovery flight is that I probably don’t like the side yoke. I came out with my left wrist very tired: I should add that to my gym routine. Anytime I flew the plane other than in neutral or well trimmed position (or, in other words, I was not flying) I felt constant fighting with the springs and more alarmingly I felt disconnected from the airflows. I am starting to believe those who say that you can enter unusually attitudes without feeling it. Any plane I have flown before I could really tell when the controls would get mushy approaching a stall or the difference between a 15 or 30 degree bank. It does seem this plane is best flown by itself, I mean its autopilot, reportedly outstanding, it better be. It does seem this is a place to go from point #A to point #B, after all there are so many buttons that most of the fun must be to play with them all flight long.
Great presentation, beautiful (for a non-retractable)
Very impressive modern interior (I like the position of the rocker buttons facing up or the place of everything)
Parachute recovery system (peace of mind if you get mid-air’ed by some loser without a transponder, or if I “lose” control myself). Sorry to call them losers but anyone flying without a transponder or ADSB-out (after 2020) are as dangerous to others as drunk drivers
Lots of nice options like A/C (though I would rather spend 10s or 100s of additional $K on a more modern engine, lighter frame or RG)
Appear solid and behave accordingly in flight (the weight can really be felt)
Appear a good commute plane
The side-yoke is a mistake and makes all the fun of flying go away. My CFI pointed out I can now have an iPad on my lap. What? I have two big displays in front of me and I need an iPad? Something is really wrong with the G1000 to suggest I need an iPad but we already talked about the G1000)
Why is this running on a 50-year technology engine? A more fuel injected and efficient engine compatible with future fuels should have been introduced years ago (like Diamond is doing)
Why has the airframe seen no evolution in 20 years (a RG option should have been considered, look at Europe, they even make “LSAs” with RG that can do 150KTS on 100HP, albeit for two people)
To no fault of Cirrus, the Garmin G1000 is obsolete. The user interface is terrible. Remove me most buttons. Allow me to learn the system in a couple sunday afternoon playing with it like I do with my iPad, etc. The G3X Touch appears a step in the right direction (but last time I used a Garmin “touch” product it did not feel like “soft touch” like an iPhone)
Thanks for your feedback. I probably will schedule myself in a SR22 to “see the difference”.