Hard to See

I was flying this past Saturday @ BAK in a 20. The airport was very busy for BAK the controller did a very good job getting everyone in and out, but you could tell that he was pulling his hair out. After my flight I went up to talk to the controller about a couple of things and he said that he likes the Cirrus and all but that it is one of the hardest airplanes to see. He says that of all the aircraft that he has “worked in” that the Cirrus is the most difficult to see. Any one else had a similar situation or conversation with a controller. It stands to reason that the Cirrus would be hard to see. No angular profile, mostly white, and only one light to turn on. Anybody got any suggestions or comments on this issue? I usually fly with the landing light on and the strobes of course.

Being white probably doesn’t help, but the strobes are very bright and can be seen even in daytime, so I don’t think it’s that bad overall.

Probably you were always ahead of where he was looking for you

What is even better is wingtip recognition lights similar to those by RMD but located inboard of the tips The prototype SR20 had them but Bruce Gunter said that , among other things, there were problems with sealing them.
I’ve had pulse lights on the C172 for years and lights go on at takeoff & stay on. I replace a bulb about every four years & hopefully the lights make me more visable.
The fellow in the hanger next to me put pulsing wingtip lights on his Tiger. They make a huge difference and are a LOT easier to pick up than his strobes - and let you know instantly if he’s headed your way. The biggest thing I like about them is you cant tell if a small plane or boig plane is coming at you so you make sure you get out of the way! I’D very much like to see pulsing wing tip lights on the -20 if & when if ever shows up

I’ve been up in the tower and seen an SR20 arrive. From, my perspective, it is not significantly different from most small GA aircraft arriving to an airport. Actually at over 1-2 miles, all are very difficult to see. However, here are some tips, from controllers and CFI’s:

  • In any crowded area, keep as many lights on as possible.

  • In the day, the landing light (of any aircraft) is most visible only when pointed directly at the viewer. A few degrees off and it no longer helps significantly. If you can plan your arrival or alter your course by a few degrees to keep your landing light aimed at the tower, this will help all. (I’m not recommending that you deviate from a clearance, but at most smaller towered airports you will have a significant discretion when the tower tells you to, “enter the left downwind and report abeam the field.” You can adjust your entry to keep your lights aimed at the tower.)

  • Anytime ATC issues you a traffic advisary, turn on all your lights to help the other traffic spot you, especially if they are VFR and not speaking to the controllers. You will know this when ATC uses the phrase, “altitude unverified.”

  • Report positions accurately. While local pilots may know where the 'new park, ‘route 233’ or ‘over the quarry’ are, visiting pilots won’t. Don’t report over some point if it is still over your nose. you are probably at least a mile away from it and pilots trying to sequence themselves in will be looking for you in the wrong place.

  • For pilots in the Naples, Florida area :slight_smile: please don’t report ‘over the golf course’. By last count there were well over 60 in and around the city!

  • IFR pilots remember that may VFR pilots may not understand the meaning of terms like, “on the procedure turn,” “at the outer marker” or “going missed.”

  • VFR Pilots, take an hour or two with an IFR rated pilot or CFI(I) to explain the terms mentioned above. The life you save may be your own.

It costs very little to be extra cautious in this area, but the rewards may be great.

My $0.02


In reply to:

In the day, the landing light (of any aircraft) is most visible only when pointed directly at the viewer.

On the other hand, the WHOLE AIRPLANE is usually most visible in the turn. It’s one reason I prefer to call “Turning base” rather than on base at an uncontrolled airport – it’s a good opportunity for others, especially those in or joining the pattern, to find you.

  • Mike.

I agree with you. In fact the reason I had gone to the tower was to talk to the controller about an aircraft that had misrepresented his position and had not accurately described his position. I had to exit the pattern and left the area for a few minutes due to this pilots inaccurate position reports. I chose to leave the pattern instead of trying to alter my approach for the other pilot because I felt it was safer to do that vs. flying a messed up pattern.

Also is there any talk from Cirrus on more lighting? I know the majority of manufactures now have some type of extra “position” lighting. I know from personal experience that those aircraft equipped with the “pulse light” system are pretty easy to spot.

The big thing that will help make your aircraft easier to see is motion. The human eye sees an object in motion better than static. Even though the aircraft is moving 100 kts (or much faster in the case of a cirrus) it is much easier to see it if the wings are rocking, it is in a turn etc. I have had controllers ask me to rock the wings to help them pick me up. I have even done this at times when I know that other pilots are looking for me such as at non-towered airports and they typically pick me up right away. This controller may want to try this with aircraft he is having trouble seeing.

I agree. A specific location helps. Reporting in the turn generally makes contact a snap. For example, I use the phrase “Wings up, right base, over the breakwater” at a local uncontrolled field.

I worked for a flight school that was a testbed for this type of system. It was put on a couple aircraft to see if it helped and it really did. The flight school has had them put on all of their aircraft. It has an added benefit of prolonging the bulb life as well as making the aircraft more visible. Their website is pulselite.com I believe. It basically fits into the existing space so their is not any real modifications done to the aircraft. They probably don’t have it available for the Cirrus since it is so new but I am sure that if they got enough inquiries the would make it happen!

I had pulse light installed on my previous plane and would like to put it on my Cirrus. I talked to my sales rep about this but I think Cirrus has probably had too many things on the list in front of this. There are very few things that I want to add to My SR22 but this is one of them.

FWIW a few years ago I talked to some people who ran a fleet of pipeline surveillance planes. They said they flew with the landing and taxi lights on all the time and with the pulse lights the bulb life was three to four times longer. They also said that they had no bird strikes while using the pulse lights versus a few a year previously. I can’t comment on the bulb life (never burned out with or without the pulse lights). However, I did notice that birds almost always moved out of my path with the pulse lights on. Switching to the Cirrus the difference in bird behavior was again noticeable. They are not getting out of the way.



Can you put a pulse light on the High Intensity Discharge lamp of the SR22? I didn’t think this was possible since the light operates at a higher voltage generated by the power supply on the firewall.

Chris Nowak

Good question. There are several versions of the pulselite for aircraft ranging from light pistons to jets. I just asked for specifics for Cirrus on there web site (www.preciseflight.com). Will post their response. Also asked if they are working on an STC for the Cirrus for their oxygen system. Another thing I need to add to my SR22, especially after all the posts on service ceiling.

I checked with precise flight. Their pulselite will not work with the HID landing light on the SR22. The problem appears to be heat rather than voltage. There are pulselite systems that will work on SR20s that have incandescent landing lights.

Which are the incadescant lights? Are they ‘the original landing lights’ that came stock and often burned out’?

I believe that any SR20 that does not have the optional (extra cost) HID has an incandescent light. However, I have not followed the SR20 landing light that closely. I understand none of the SR22s have incandescent lights. The pulselite will not work with the HID but will work with incandescent lights according Precise Flight, the manufacturer (www.preciseflight.com).