PIREP - So much for the Cirrus

Well, my vacation plans had a last minute hiccup since the Skylane
was not out of its annual in time for our departure. After a lot of
last minute phone calls, Ourplane arranged for me to have the
PAO Cirrus SR20. This was a squeeze - with all four of us plus
minimal baggage I worked out we could only carry enough fuel for
2 hours with reserves. But what the heck, the Cirrus should
be fun.

Getting over the Sierra Nevada - only three of us but extra fuel
for the 3 hour flight, so maybe 100 pounds under gross - was a challenge.
The final 2000 ft to 13500 was done at 100-200 ft/sec holding the
plane between the stall horn at 75 KIAS and zero VSI at 80.

Two days in Vegas then off to GCN. Now we really were at gross,
a bare 30 gals of fuel. 43 degrees and 2200 ft, so density altitude high
but still well within the POH limits. Looooong takeoff run, at least
4000’ (way beyond the POH) and miserable climb rate. Departure
asked for our best climb rate, my response “This is it, 60P” - maybe
400-500 ft/sec. With this performance at 2200’ and temps high
even at GCN, I’m worrying seriously about departure from GCN
at 6600’ and Bryce at 7700’.

Then 10 mins out, the Oil light comes on, temp
at the redline and pressure in the green but low. First thought
obviously “we’re losing oil” (the oil was dead on full at preflight).
Start a diversion to Boulder City right under the nose, decline
to declare an emergency for now. On final to Boulder City
I see the temp falling, pressure rising, and realise that if
I go in I’m not going to be sure of getting out until winter.

So, diversion #1 cancelled, and diversion #2 under way back
to LAS. LAS Approach were great and got me back in by
the shortest route.

So, so much for the Cirrus. Called Hertz and got a car for
our tour in the West instead, and I’ll fly back on my own, with
the rest of the family (now seriously spooked, as you might
imagine) on Southwest.

Moral: the Cirrus is pretty, but the Skylane is a real airplane.
At least I’ll no longer have to wonder whether I should get a SR22
if/when I can afford it. Cirrus is out for me. I’ll start looking
at those F33s again for when (well, if) the Cisco stock ever
goes up again.



Sorry to hear about your experience. Doesn’t sound like a very fun way to see the west.

Though I’ve never flown in the mountains, my own personal opinion is that the SR20 may not be the best for routine max-gross, 100+ degree F, high airport elevation operations.

I believe that you’d find the SR22 to be a much more capable airplane under those conditions.

(I have a -20 and though I do have some cooling issues, it’s never been THAT much of a problem for me – but then again, I’m an east-coaster.)


I’ve flown the route you described several times myself. In my view the conclusion to draw is that in the following set of circumstances, the SR20 is indeed not the right plane:

– fully loaded
– over high Western mountains
– in the heat

If you change one or more of these variables, the situation improves. I have gone over the Rockies, directly west from Denver, but in winter through thick, cold air. I’ve taken four people on a 100-degree day – but down the eastern seaboard, with no mountains. For routine full-gross travel over the Sierra or the Rockies, in the summer, this is not the airplane to take.

The SR22 is noticeably different from the 20 in cruise, but night-and-day different in climb. The proper conclusion from your experience is: “So much for the SR20.” You may have noticed extensive previous discussion here about the 22 being the sensible choice if you’re planning any cross-mountain flight in the west. (This is a different matter from its cost, of course.)

Of course the price of a new Skylane is also different from a new SR20 (Bit higher than a '22 ?)


Having flown 60P myself, I would recommend that you ask OurPLANE to have their Cirrus Service center (SCK?) check max rpm. Based on the performance of the other SR20s I’ve flown or know about, my guess is that it’s set rather low–2600 maybe. This will have a noticeable effect on cruise as we’ve discussed before, but a much-more-than-noticeable effect on takeoff & climb. Thus, as Jim described, the situation in which you found yourself–fully loaded, high, hot, AND with an engine likely not developing full takeoff rpm–was at or beyond comfortable margins for the SR20.

The SR20 is not an airplane for flying in or through the Rockies/Sierras if you’re fully loaded and it’s hot, but its performance is more agreeable if you’re less high, cooler, and/or fly it as a 2-person-plus-bags plane.

In reply to:

At least I’ll no longer have to wonder whether I should get a SR22 if/when I can afford it. Cirrus is out for me.

John: I don’t know what the best rate of climb is for the SR20, but it’s 101 for the SR22. You may have been flying below it, which would impair your performance. Any SR20 drivers out there?

However, to judge the performance of the SR22 based upon the SR20 is similar to basing you judgement of the Cessna 182 based upon the C-172. I can tell you that in my 172N, a little below gross climbing from 10,000’ to 11,000’ is pretty tentative. The plane just wallows and is lucky to sustain climb rates between 100 - 200 fpm. It sounds like your 182 does considerably better.

I can also tell you that 100-200 lbs below gross, in well above standard conditions (90+ degrees F ground temps) my SR 22 is climbing at 700-900 fpm through 10,000 feet. At 13,000 - 14,000 on the same flight, I easily maintained better than 500 fpm. You will have to follow the leaning chart on the panel as at wide open mixture, it will be running rough.

If you are interested, I strongly encourage you to try the SR22 before you judge it.

Marty SR22 s/n 0017


As others have replied, the SR22 is a completely different animal when it comes to hot and high operations. Climb performance is predicated on the excess horsepower beyond what is required to overcome level-flight drag. The 55% increase in horsepower in the SR22 (310HP vs. 200HP) has a much larger effect on climb performance than just 55%, because the increase in (primarily induced) drag is nowhere near 55%. Most folks report 1000FPM even at 10,000 feet. Try it. You’ll like it!

My Bonanza 36 (IO-520 285HP) doesn’t hold a candle to the SR22 in climb performance.

“maybe 100 pounds under gross”??? Well “maybe” implies that you may have been 100 pounds over gross.


I had a 182P for 7 years prior to owning my SR22. I put about 600 hours in it. I have owned my SR22 since last December and have 260 hours on it, and will probably end the year upwards of 400 hours. THere is just no comparison. I fly it at 17,000 feet all the time…there is NO way that I could have coaxed my 182P up there unless I had an extra two hours to make it. I typically climb at 500fpm from 13-17K. I suspect that the plane will climb much faster than this, but this is just how I set the STEC 55X when I climb at that altitude…would rather keep the forward speed anyway.

As for load, well it is just about a wash. My Skylane was 1814lbs dry and 2950 at gross. THe SR22 is 2307 dry (mine has the Skywatch and WX500) and 3400 gross. THe Skylane held 84 gals, the SR22 holds 81. The Skylane cruised at about 125kts at 12gph (in real life, not the 142 as advertised). I routinely flight plan the SR22 at 170 kts, and can see 180+ at 8-10K at 16gph, and 165 kts at 11-12gph when operating LOP. I have flown non-stop from Dallas TX to York, PA in the SR22 in 5:20. Can’t even imagine in the Skylane, and I would most certainly need a fuel stop.

Of course we haven’t even considered the fatigue factor…4 hours in my Skylane and I was pooped!..I often do 4-5 hours in the SR22 and then head into an 8 hour business meeting.

The one area where the 182P is head and shoulders above Cirrus is in short field operations. Other than that, there is just no comparison.

Been there, done that, know first hand!!


“This was a squeeze” Are you kidding? Yeah, right. Yeah, I was thinking about selling my Cirrus and getting a real plane like the skylane. Geeeeze.

Steve, try climbing at 75 knots with the stall horn sounding. Bet that would allow you to achieve that kind of heat problem too!


You are correct in that Cirrus sets (or at least a year ago when I checked) the 20’s RPM at 2600-2625.
I asked ,“WHY” publish 2700 performance numbers when the plane can’t get there.
ANYWAY…I had my FBO set the RPM to 2700, got 4 more knots and a little better climb rate…of course.
But, not enough to overcome John’s experience.

I agree 100% that you should be comparing the SR22 vs. the Skylane, as the useful loads and prices are similar. The SR22 has 70 more HP though (310 vs 240) and is much faster, but at a similar price to a new Skylane.

I compared a Skylane with an SR22 in test flights to Big Bear City, on a 9000ft density altitude day (~7000ft MSL, ~90F). Two adults aboard, with full fuel in the SR22, fuel to the tabs in the Skylane.

The SR22 climbed at >1000fpm, and I was able to depart directly, with terrain clearance over the 8000ft mountains, while in the Skylane, I had trouble climbing at 500fpm, and had to circle over Big Bear lake once before having enough altitude to depart the area. This is with the SR22 having a larger load (full fuel, vs fuel to the tabs in the Skylane).

Cruise speed was way faster in the SR22, avionics way cooler, passenger compartment way more comfortable in the SR22.

This is why I selected the SR22 vs a Skylane.

The SR20 is more comparable to a Cessna 172SP, and I believe would similarly
beat the 172SP in all of the areas mentioned above.


Vx is 81; vy is 94. No wonder the oil was hot.

Feet per second??

I have 300 hours in an SR20, and I wouldn’t dream of the kind of mission that was depicted here.



What’s wrong with the mission? It’s certainly within the
POH. I thought the POH was supposed to be credible?
Evidently in the case of the SR20 it isn’t (speed off by
10 Kt plus, climb performance similarly) but I distinctly
recall that the POH is supposed to be the definitive
reference for the capability of the airplane.


In reply to:

What’s wrong with the mission? It’s certainly within the

Actually, no. I think what Andy was trying to suggest is that people who have some experience with the airplane were agreeing with your conclusion about the SR20, but suggesting that your conclusion about Cirrus as a whole was too broad. It is too broad because the SR22 would have given you no problems in those same circumstances. I say this based on first-hand experience with both models in exactly these circumstances: full-gross climbs in warm weather over the mountains.
And as for the POH, actually if you’ll look at it you will see that it does not advertise the SR20 for this kind of mission. At least in my POH, page 5-23, on “Enroute Rate of Climb,” shows no authorized values for full gross weight, pressure altitude of 10,000 feet, and temperature of 20C. And you were talking about not 10,000 feet but 13,500, on what you describe as a hotter day. So the POH makes no claim that the plane would even have reached that altitude in those circumstances.

I say this in friendly tone, but also hoping you will notice that everyone who has flown the airplane on more than one mission has reached a different conclusion from what you did on your trip.

In reply to:

I thought the POH was supposed to be credible?
Evidently in the case of the SR20 it isn’t (speed off by
10 Kt plus, climb performance similarly) but I distinctly
recall that the POH is supposed to be the definitive
reference for the capability of the airplane

Given that the POH actually was credible in this instance – indicating that a fully-loaded SR20 would have real trouble climbing above 10,000 feet on a very hot day – just wondering if your view has changed at all. (It’s possible that you were extrapolating from sea-level or cooler-temperature climb-rate and Vy figures, which is easy to do.) At least the official documents weren’t misleading. I guess the main point I’d try to reinforce is that the SR20 is not a hot-weather climbing machine, so it’s a relief that it finally did get you to the altitude you needed to reach.

I say this in friendly tone, but also hoping you will notice that everyone who has flown the airplane on more than one mission has reached a different conclusion from what you did on your trip.

I don’t think that’s fair to say. I’m sure the guy that killed himself flying out of Angel Fire would agree with John. And it sounds like a lot of people agree that the SR-20 isn’t a place to fly when hot and/or high. Well, that’s pretty much half the country half the time, n’est pas? I’d say if you pay over $100,000 for an airplane you should be able to fly the damn thing across the country. And I can’t believe people are just shrugging off the apparent divergence in experience of SR-20 owners. Shouldn’t an airplane manufacturer be able to produce a more consistent product??? I guarantee you don’t hear people on the Cessna owners boards talking about their hugely different experiences with one 172 over another.

When I first came to this board it was as somebody planning to buy a Cirrus in the next few years. Now, I come as somebody watching Cirrus for signs of becoming a real airplane manufacturer so that I can resume my dream of owning an aircraft. Right now, however, I’m starting to look at other options. I just can’t believe the kind of BS you guys on this board are willing to take from Cirrus and still gush about your pretty airplanes.

As many (including myself) have done before, John has mentioned something worth talking seriously about, and yet his post was met largely with evangelism and dismissal.

I wasn’t worried crossing the mountains. Yes, as you say,
this is technically outside the POH, though not very credibly
since climb rates ARE given for equivalent density altitudes.
However I wasn’t worried since I always had the option - which I was very much aware of - to turn back and take the
lower altiude crossing at Tahoe.

However my takeoff from LAS was firmly within the POH and
it was this which caused the problem.

Clearly I agree now that the SR20 is best avoided if you
want to go much above shoulder height. I would certainly
not dispute this point. My return LAS-PAO is already
planned initially SW and over the Tehachapi pass at 10500’
if possible and otherwise at 8500’.


John, I’m not sure what your point is other than to exercise your well developed skills at hyperbole.

The SR20 will perform very well compared to the Cessna 172 or 172SP. It will better the Cessnas in almost all aspects (speed, range, cabin with, comfort, avionics) with the one exception being short field performance.

If your mission is to carry a heavy load in high and hot conditions and looking for aggressive rates of climb, the SR22 will similarly beat the Cessna 182 and 182 TC. I will be happy to put my SR22’s time to 10,000 or 15,000 feet against either the C-182 or C-182TC.

Your opinions may vary, and you are certainly welcome to spend your airplane dollars where you chose. However, if you are really interested in purchasing one of the aircraft and are looking for value and performance, you may want to compare more similar aircraft is similar price ranges.

I looked at all of the options when I made my decision, and in terms of value, the Cirrus aircraft could not be beat. The closest competitor is the Lancair, and if I was more interested in a few knots of extra speed at the expense of a little comfort and price, I would have chosen it. But even though I’ve owned Cessnas for 10 years, in the end when I made my decision, the Cirrus was a better value for my needs.

Times have changed and there are some very exciting lower end aircraft on the horizon, but both Cirrus models remain excellent values. If you don’t believe me, look at the market statistics. Cirrus is now the number 2 single engine piston aircraft manufacturer based upon deliveries. I think it an Lancair are the only two manufacturers whose deliveries have grown significantly over the last year. Cessna, Piper, Raytheon or Mooney can’t say that.

And yes John, I am biased. I love my SR22. It is the most useful, capable plane I have ever owned. It is not for everyone and perhaps not you.

Marty Kent SR22 N191KM