I’ve been pretty silent on these boards for a couple of months, but have been monitoring. I thought I’d share some of our problems with the Cirrus. Our airplane an SR20 has had a very large number of problems. However none of them have resulted in a grounding. So we’ve been very tolerant. BUT, we have a service center on our field so when a problem arises, we just call up, they come to the hangar, work on it, and put it back. It’s been into the shop for warranty problems no less than 10 times over the last 6 months. Perhaps more. There are still too many problems that can’t be resolved in the field, so my partner is flying the plane back to the factory tomorrow. Again, none of these have been major, but annoying none the less.
Some examples of problems that I think are safety related:
We have a B model with a STEC 30 where the autopilot has NEVER worked properly. On the FIRST training flight it flew to the right of course in NAV mode, and a couple of degress off in heading mode. They adjusted it and on the second day of training it consistently flew to the right of course in nav mode and correct in heading mode. There was also a pronounced “wing rocking” while on autopilot. They replaced the autopilot. Wing rocking stopped, but the plane still flies to the right of course. It wasn’t noticed there though and got flown home.
Had onshop field shop look at it and even took them up for a test flight and it still flew to the right of course. No one can figure it out. Noticed then that on certain frequencies when transmitting, the plane pitches down. Back into the shop for a replacement part. That problem is fixed but still flies to the right.
On a cross country trip, I made alone (IFR in VMC) I’m head down folding a chart and lookup and realize I’m in a turn! Fly the plane, adjust and realize the plane is not flying the heading bug. Disconnect the autopilot and realize the TURN COORDINATOR HAS FAILED AND IS SHOWING A LEFT TURN with NO FLAG. I switch to battery power for the TC and it still doesn’t work. Cover it up with a post it and fly the rest of the trip without autopilot. Come back home VFR of course and the TC works fine on that flight. This seems like a similar failure that happened to the gents in KY. We have the TC replaced. (Note this is our fourth autopilot component).
Of course you know that the plane STILL FLIES TO THE RIGHT OF COURSE! The avionics shop says that the autopilot is correct during their ground tests. Cirrus decides that the plane may be out of rig. They want us to fly up high, go into a moderate dive and turn the airplane in each direction to measure roll rate. It does turn faster in one direction over the other. So they send a template to the service center who says that the TEMPLATE DOESN’T EVEN FIT SO THEY CAN’T TELL! Frustrated we call Cirrus and they say to bring it back for them to look at. Two months of weather and other delays go by and we are going to the factory tomorrow.
A different autopilot problem occured to my partner last week in which the autopilot disconnected and turned the airplane left while on an approach in IMC. He went missed and came in the second time. Note, there was no failure of the TC but a disconnected autopilot. He’s mentioned that this has happened to him twice.
Other problems include the Sandel didn’t fire up during training. Cirrus sort of blew this off because we couldn’t reproduce it, which I wasn’t happy with, and so luckily it happened again while we were still there and showed them. They then replaced the Sandel software. The Sandel has failed numerous times on intialization which turns out to be a software problem, but the fix isn’t yet available I don’t think.
Our transponder still doesn’t work right. While these problems have been widely reported, they’ve seemed to have died down lately. Ours doesn’t work reliably. The avionics shop says it is a directional problem with the antenna being blocked. I don’t think that is all of the problem. On many occassions, resetting the transponder (either just hitting the ALT key, or turning it off and on) will bring it back on the controllers screen. That seems odd for a solid state device, but experience proves it works much of the time.
We’ve had the ELT just go off while in flight. (no turbulence)
We’ve had the copilot door COME OFF (on the ground) while a passenger got out. We could easily put it right back in the hole, but that’s concerning us of course. The service center couldn’t duplicate it. In fact, they couldn’t even remove the door at all. My supposition in this case - I was flying a long trip at below freezing temperatures (VFR) and the metal pins that hold the door on contracted enough that the door came loose when opened. We told this to Cirrus, but they didn’t seem interested. Obviously, I think this could be a problem.
Our HID light bracket has broken. Although this didn’t result in the light not working, I still consider this a safety issue which is the reason we purchased the HID in the first place.
An alternator wire has broken. This happened a very long way from home for me (IMC) and the service center I took the plane to in Florida said this is a common problem.
Loose exhaust stacks. I noticed this because of a different noise the plane was making. It was much “throatier” the other day. After getting out the exhaust stacks were asymetrical.
There are bunch of little squawks that aren’t safety issues – no big deal. But I thought I would let the rest of you know what was going on with at least our plane.
For the record, I was very pleased with Cirrus’ response to the CAPS problem. I found it refreshing that we got the letter on the Monday after the crash, and the latest one from them.
Of course, I’m not happy with the problem, but I’m sure they didn’t think these would be problems so they are fixing them as best that can be done.
I’ve talked to BRS a couple of times (once before the KY crash and once after) and found them quite knowledgeable about the Cirrus implementation. I’m writing an article for a national firefighter magazine (I’m a volunteer fire chief in VA) on small plane accident response and the CAPS hazard to rescuers and found BRS responsive and correctly concerned. They’ve sent me quite a bit of stuff on their products and how they work and I’ll be presenting a small presentation about the Cirrus’ unique hazard to rescuers at an aircraft rescue and firefighting class next weekend.
My point is that while we all have problems with these airplanes, I’m still very happy about my choice. BUT it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pressure everyone involved to make sure that our families are as safe as they can be and that the respective manufacturers and Cirrus as the integrator, work tirelessely to find the root cause of these problems rather than just fixing the symptoms until they are no longer under warranty.
P.S. For my article, I’m looking for which fire departments responded to the various crashes of Cirrus aircraft (particularly the ones in MN and KY) so I can contact them about their response. If you know of the fire departments (or even crew members within), please let me know. Thanks!