SR-22 Mission Considerations

For the next 2+ years I will be making a trip from KOCH to KSUW (913 nm) 2 to 3 times a month. If I travel commercial it is a 2-1/2 drive to IAH airport to catch a flight with a change of planes to get to DLH. It ends up being around 12 hrs or so door to door.

I’ve rented an SR-20 in the past and have completed the Cirrus transition course for that model. I am considering a pre-owned SR-22 now and expect that for this mission I would require a fuel stop. Having looked at flight plans for the last month it seems that including a fuel stop it would be around a 6-1/2 hr trip. This is finally my justification to buy my plane, something I’ve wanted to do for some time now. I’ve also been looking at the Malibu Mirage based on discussions from a similar thread with one advantage being to be able to travel non-stop. However I have greatly enjoyed the comfort of flying in a Cirrus in the past.

What advice can you offer on my thinking. Is it realistic to make this trip regularly? Anything else I am missing in my thinking?

In my plane (SR22 G2 NA), it would be a 5 hours, 17 minutes (172k TAS). It would take around 74 gallons of fuel. So yes, it would require a fuel stop.

And you would want to stop after 3 to 4 hours anyway.

The real problem will be weather. These planes don’t fly well in ice, at all. Not so bad here in Texas but Duluth is really cold with snow and ice for half a year. Ok maybe 4 to 5 months.

You would need FIKI (which is only available on newer planes). Even then, this is a small plane that even with FIKI, may not handle heavy icing conditions.


If you can delay a day or two (or go a day early), then bad weather can be avoided (somewhat). But if you have to be there on time, go commercial.


Paul has it pretty much correct. The fuel stop issue, to me, is not an advantage of going with the Piper. You are going to find that you want to stop after 4 hours or so. It is not the range of the plane but rather the range of you that suggest a stop for a brief leg stretching and bathroom break is welcome on a trip of that length.

Your real issue on that trek is weather. There is a ton of weather to deal with all year round on that route. You will need to have flexibility to plan for contingencies. If you have to be in DLH on a very specific day, using any single engine piston to get there is not the way to go.

By way of clarification, I will have the ability to delay or even cancel a planned flight. After a couple weeks in Duluth area I’ve found it like most areas, the extreme weather is what makes the news. Large snow storms happen, but a few times a year. The one thing that is a constant is the cold. I’m told there were over 55 days in a row that it never got above 0 F.

What is everyone’s experience in traveling in these extremes?

The other concern is traversing the Midwest. Going right up the middle of the US I may have to cancel or delay more often than travel. The last 2 weeks I’ve seen 3 days I wouldn’t have been able to make the trip.

I am curious why so many pilots think or feel like they have to stop after 3 hours. I never hear this in automobiles. And to me cross country trips in an airplane are way more comfortable and less stressful than an automobile. Heck I’ve ridden a bicycle for 6 hours non stop before…ran a couple marathons…seems like sitting down going from A to B isn’t that big a deal. For me the only thing that gets bothersome is the headset after a while.

Anyway, what am I missing here? Is it just statements we have carried over rom our forefathers flying legacy planes and old headsets/radios that were so uncomfortable?

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I agree with that. I regularly drive 5-1/2 hrs, until I need fuel. So that’s not an issue for me and my wife in traveling.

When you are up high in class A airspace on AP, not a whole lot going on. I read, listen to music, go over emergency procedures, check e-mail, all while dividing attention with the instruments and comms. The only time I just fly is in climb and descent. Now flying an pressurized piston down low, it will beat you up and you have to deal with a lot more weather and traffic. That takes bandwidth and wears you out. I usually do like to fly in class A airspace where everything including traffic separation is controlled. If I am in IMC, I don’t do anything but fly, but it is rarely IMC in cruise. The weather is usually blue above at FL250. I have no trouble with 4,5, 6 hours flights. You can move around, and the seats are comfortable. I also drink plenty, have snacks, and carry those disposable travel Johns if the need arises.

Lightly convective day over the Rockies at FL250 in a Mirage. Would not want to be below FL180 [:P]]

Another thing to consider, is that a Meridian will make that trip easy with a good tailwind in a little over 3 hours. If you need to go non-stop for weather, even against a light headwind like today, you can make it non-stop by pulling the power lever back. Running an intermediate cruise power of 700, giving 210 KTAS to can make it non-stop with a light headwind at FL280 in 4:34 landing with 274 lbs which is adequate reserves for a Day VMC flight as long as ATC doesn’t abuse you. Most people though, will put a fuel stop at a good fueling station and just fly a normal cruise profile, so there is no stress. Quick turning a turbine is so much easier than a piston, because you descend at 2000 fpm, climb at 1500 fpm, it always starts right back up, and the engine doesn’t stain on a climb.

There are physiological needs. To stretch, to use the bathroom, to eat… DVT risks are higher the longer you sit too. Hydration is important and brings the need to use on board “facilities”. The older I get the less my bladder cooperates too. But I agree that 3 hours is not all that long.

Not sure, guessing here but it might come from the days that planes had less fuel on board than we have in our Cirrus. It probably is also influenced by the fact that altitude is something we don’t have to deal with in cars. Cumulative hypoxia can creep in.

I fairly frequently do 4.5 to 5.5 hour legs (5:34 longest). You cannot get anywhere if you don’t spend some time in the seat. OTOH, I have 81 gallon tanks and find no interest in going to 91 gallon ones. I often wear O2 for long flights, well before the regs require it.

I think it’s a great reason to buy a plane. I also think Aviation Tax Consultants could further help you justify the decision.

The fact that your dates are flexible opens up a ton of flying options, and if you’re like me, all that time spent in the air is a positive… not a negative.

PS… KMKC is about 1/2 way and would make a great refuel/rejuvenate point… I’d love to see this new bird when you make this happen.

I loved my SR22TN, and regularly flew it 800 nm from Houston to the Charlotte area to visit my mother (KUZA). With the slightly higher fuel burn of the TN and 92-gallon tanks, that was a 5-hour trip and basically a max range trip if I wanted to land with IFR reserves. Right now, one of my common missions is a comparable trip - Houston/KTME to St. Paul, MN (KSTP), 917 nm direct.

I now fly a Piper turbine (M600) and that’s a nonstop trip - averages just under 4 hours depending on the winds. Would also be a nonstop trip in a Mirage/M350. I prefer nonstop trips if possible - and most of my missions are over 800 miles. Before I found a turbine partner, I was going to get an M350 for these trips but was fortunate to find a good partner so went with the turbine. Having said all that, every time you make fuel stops you have to consider not only en route weather but the weather for the fuel stop. Twice the approaches, twice the landings/takeoffs, twice the risk in my view. Not a big deal and you get proficient with approaches; I don’t mind them but it’s something to consider.

From a FIKI/icing perspective, TKS is great but I think boots are better as my preference. I’m flying back today to Houston from St. Paul and there is an Airmet Zulu for moderate ice below FL180 (fortunately, no icing PIREPs here yet). I’ve got confidence in the airframe to handle it. I used TKS in the Cirrus and it’s fine but I think boots are better (and definitely less messy). I normally would not launch the Cirrus into forecast or reported moderate icing from a risk management perspective.

Two final points: pressurization and winds. Winter winds can really jam you up. The nice thing about the Mirage is that you can fly up to 250 or under 10,000, depending on winds/weather and not worry about having to wear a mask, a cannula and you’ve got the big boots to battle ice as needed. Higher speed up high and no fuel burn penalty down low unlike a turbine. Pressurization makes a big difference to me in physical comfort and less fatigue. I regularly fly 5+ hour legs solo and its no issue for me at 60. Passenger comfort may dictate shorter legs but travel johns are a wonderful thing!

I really don’t mean to be a Piper evangelist and really loved my Cirrus (may wind up back in one when I retire!), but if your mission is over 900 miles, into heavy winter weather, the pressurization, range, altitude flexibility and boots of the piston PA46 is something you should consider seriously. Both aircraft will do the job so it will boil down to the trade offs - chute or no chute, Cirrus entry/cabin versus Piper entry/cabin, TKS vs boots, pressure vs. no pressure, stops vs. no stops. The Piper has more systems so it has a higher MX and operating cost too.

Good luck! Can’t really go wrong with either.

I agree with Paul and Brian about the weather. I do live in the upper Midwest and between Thunderstorms in the summer and ice in the winter, the trip will be challenging on a regular basis. As long as you have the ability to cancel or postpone any given trip you can work around the weather, but understand it will be a recurring issue.

As far as the length of the trip is concerned, you will almost always need to make a fuel stop with the SR22 in order to maintain sufficient reserves. And you will rarely have a strong headwind or tailwind component as the winds aloft are more likely to by from the SW to the NW as opposed to due north or south.

I also agree with Joel that a pressurized, FIKI single would be a better choice than the Cirrus. I say that as a Cirrus owner of >18 years and a big fan of the airplane. But for routine trips in the >900 NM range it is simply too slow and has less than optimal range. It also is not as weather capable as a pressurized aircraft. If I had to make that trip on a regular basis I would strongly prefer a single engine turboprop if you can swing it.

So long as you have a bathroom kit (Travel Johns, etc.) readily available, I never see a need to stop solely to “stretch my legs.” I would MUCH rather go non-stop than make a stop only to get out of the plane for a few minutes and walk around and then go again. Good idea to do occasional DVT exercises though. Given the accident data, avoiding an unnecessary approach-landing-take-off-climbout cycle is also a good risk management approach. But, this all depends on a way to handle the potty issue (of which there are several good options).

For this mission it seems a malibu/mirage is better suited . If you fly both planes and prefer the cirrus , then that should be your pick. I’ve flown 900-1000 NM missions in an NA G2 and a g5. For some reason the seats in the g5 are much more comfortable on 4-5 hour legs.

I not so secretly desire an m350, da62 or a vision jet. Especially when I can’t make a trip non stop.

If you do want to trade a little useful load for fuel, you can do an STC in the Mirage that is not too pricey to add an additional 20 gallons of fuel. That would make your 900 nm trip non-stop even in the worst of conditions, but even with standard tanks should be able to do that non-stop both ways in all but the worst of conditions. I had standard tanks in my Mirage, but could make Salt Lake to Atlanta lean of peak, although there is an economy ROP (actually peak) setting that is POH approved that is similar in efficiency. When I went to the Meridian, that range and the nose baggage compartment were the 2 things I missed the most [:|] But there are a few things that are hard to go back on, so be careful. One is pressurization and the other is turbine power. It ruins you [:|]

Even started out with a headwind on this trip. I think that I hold the long range endurance records in the standard Mirage and the M600, maybe even the Cirrus [^o)]. I have traveled across the US a lot. So if you want any advice on maximizing range, let me know. [:D]